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Whether you take a break from youth ministry for the summer or not, the back to school season can be such a great catalyst for your youth ministry if you plan ahead. One of the things I love about fall is it gives such a great opportunity to establish momentum in your youth group that you can build on all year, and a great thing that many youth groups do is have a big fall kick off event.
In an upcoming blog post that we’ll link here when it’s out, we share a few ideas to consider as you plan your youth ministry fall kick off event, but today, we wanted to share 10 ideas for back to school launch events that just about any youth ministry can pull off with any size budget.
We’ve got a whole guide for how to pull off one of these events, including how to make your own color powder. We’ve done this event to kick off summer before, but it’s just as great of an event to do in the fall for your youth ministry, as well.
This one can be modified based on your ministry make up. We’ve had youth groups that drew students from several high schools, and we’d do this event as a giant school vs. school competition. If you’ve got one main high school you draw from, then do it as the clash of classes. Host 2 hours of competitions, give points for how many from that school (or class) show up as an incentive to invite. If I was doing this again this year, we’d have 1.5-2 hours of free roam of events that earn points ranging from fortnite contests to baggo, to even doing a canned food drive, before ending with a few minutes of worship and a short message before unveiling the champions. Give each member of the winning team some swag (doesn’t have to be expensive) or a discount on the fall retreat.
Glow nights are a ton of fun and fairly easy to set up. You can rent some heavy duty backlights online, or you can purchase some on amazon. We bought 4 of these blacklights for our youth ministry and they filled our half gym size room pretty decent, but I’d probably go for 30w and a few more lights next time. At our glow nights, we set up 9 square and wrap it with fluorescent field tape, one year we built one out of PVC so we wouldn’t mess up the real one and spray painted it fluorescent and it didn’t work as great as we hoped, but it wasn’t black light spray paint), we’ve had art stations for students to make black light art, we’ve done glow in the dark dodgeball. We always theme it with foods to glow, if nothing else, get a clear drink dispenser and put some glow sticks underneath, or in the bottom if you clean them, to make the drinks glow.
We try and plan events that come with built in bonding for small groups, and so scavenger hunts are a great way to cross off several purposes in one event. Come up with a great list for students to do in groups, make it a photo/video scavenger hunt and have groups post it on instagram while tagging your ministry and using a special hashtag. These are easy events, can still be a ton of fun even for Gen Z, and don’t cost a lot of money.
Taking your whole group to an escape room can be extremely expensive. I don’t know about where you are, but ours here are typically about $40 per person, which is unfeasible for a ministry to cover, or to charge for an outreach event. So we started designing our own escape rooms and we’ll use different rooms in our church to set them up. We typically have 3 or more rooms set up, which each take up to 10 students, and will give each group 60 minutes to complete it. We have leaders rotate but one will always be in the room to offer 4 hints (so they need to understand the puzzles) and make sure they don’t break anything. We’ve done it where we had other things set up in our large room (such as 9-square, gaga, other games) and had pizza so that those who weren’t in an escape room still had something to do, and then groups switched.
We’ve got several escape room set up guides for youth ministry available with more coming later this summer!
This is an event idea from download youth ministry that is a ton of fun. They have the full guide on their site that you can check out, but this is an awesome event for kicking off the school year and being something for students to invite their friends to.
Set up giant versions of popular board games for students to take turns playing. Make giant Uno cards or buy some online, create a big version of battleship, go crazy with it.
Host a game show, have your team create something with a similar format to price is right with great prizes that multiple people can win, with an ultimate grand prize on the table, as well. With an energetic host and good promotion, this can be a huge event for your ministry.
Set up your own American ninja warrior type challenges for everyone to participate in, have an awesome grand prize and crown a winner as part of this Ultimate competition.
We combined these because they are kind of the same. Depending on the size of your building and it’s layout, you can fairly easily build a putt putt course down the halls and in classrooms. Goodwill’s usually have golf balls and putters you can grab on the cheap, and if you wanted to go crazy with the putt putt, make it a round robin best score tournament for groups of 4. Recently, Duane Reimer shared some videos on how to do this with how he set it up that are a great resource. The tennis ball impossible shot is another awesome idea from a facebook group. Geoff Stewart set it up and has this video explaining what it is, and I love this idea, and it’s a great one for launching your student ministry with.
So these are our 10 favorite ideas for your back to school youth ministry event. What has been your favorite idea you’ve done or seen?