In January of this year I traveled from FREED-HARDEMAN-land to a place where there is very little knowledge of the university or it’s traditions. I wanted to get my youth group in GO! Camp this summer, but I was having a difficult time getting them excited about it. So, after much thought, I figured that the best way to get my group to GO! was to bring GO! to them first. I knew that Scott Bond was planning on attending the camp as well, so I approached him about throwing a registration party for both of our groups. I’ll give some details in a second, but I’ll just say that the night was a tremendous success. We had a great turnout and several young people decided to register for camp that night.
Now that the #HASHTAG Youth Series is coming next month, Mr. Bond thought it would be cool if the participating churches threw similar events for the premiere. It has been asked of me to share just a few simple things that I did to make the night memorable. So. . .here we go.
Consider teaming up with other youth groups.
Being a youth minister shouldn’t be about trying to outdo some guy in the next town. It doesn’t matter if you have a group of 10 or a group of 100– always put your heart into it. I realize that this idea is sometimes easier said than done, but you have to remember that we are in this together. If you are struggling with comparison, I’ve got two words of advice for you: QUIT IT. You’ll only drive yourself crazy trying to equate your abilities and talents to someone else’s. (I’m speaking to you from experience.)
Shouldn’t all of us be working toward the same goal? With that in mind, why not team up with another youth group to make something special happen? Getting to team up with Scott Bond on various projects has been a tremendous blessing. Both of us bring different things to the table, yet both of us are working toward the same goal: Helping young people grow closer to Jesus Christ.
Ask people to help you.
If you aren’t very skilled in decorating, don’t kill yourself trying to do it. Ask a parent or two, or maybe even a couple of teenagers to help you out. I stink at a lot of things, and I wouldn’t get anywhere without awesome parents that volunteer to help me. Again. . .you’re not Superman.
Give yourself plenty of time to advertise.
To me, this is the obvious one. Chances are that many of the people in your group aren’t going to hear a simple announcement the first time you make it. Or the second time. Or the third. . .
Anyway, it’s important to try to market your event from several directions. There are a wide range of personalities in your youth group, but many of them will have one thing in common: Facebook and Twitter. If you are not using these, I would encourage you to sign yourself up and then make a ￼“Facebook Group” for your youth group. It may take some warming up to, but utilizing Facebook and Twitter is a great way to distribute various types of content (news, pictures, video, web links, etc.). You can also create an “event” on Facebook, but these days a lot of people ignore them. I wouldn’t invest much energy into one, but that’s just me.
There are also going to be kids like me in your group. These are the kids that benefit from having something they can hold in their hands. I would suggest handing out “invitations” to your event. these are just nicely printed, colorful cards that include a time and location. Be careful with these, though. Some people might take these a little too literally and think they can’t attend if they aren’t invited. I’m including a simple, generic invitation that I made so you can print them off and hand them out. If you would like something slightly different, I would be more than happy to help you out.
If at all possible, keep the space small.
“Better to have too much than not enough” is a general rule that I have heard several times in reference to planning a youth event. This may be true if you are ordering pizza for a group of hungry adolescent males, but it may not apply to your facility.
When I was getting ready for the GO! Party, I had to be completely honest with myself. Since we were teaming up with Spring Meadows, we probably could have just used their super sweet Auditorium / Fellowship Hall / Gymnasium. (I love their building, by the way. You should go check it out.) However, I started to think about how much of a bummer it would have been if we threw this party in a big, open space and only 30 kids showed up.
Instead, Bond and I opted to use the fellowship hall at Millview. This was probably one of the best decisions we could have made. Taking this relatively small area and packing it with 50 teenagers and 20 volunteer adults made the night seem more like a party. If you are planning on having 60 teenagers or less, consider using a smaller space than an activity building. There is a use for this area in the next idea.
Just a few hours before the party, I stopped by Walmart and headed to the party section to get noise makers, balloons and bubbles. As ridiculous and infantile as it may seem, these little items were a special touch to make the event more like “a par ty”.
Try to make your setup nice to look at. Millview has a portable projector screen, but it was too small. . .So I built a screen out of PVC pipe and a king sized bed sheet. It was really easy to do. I also surrounded the “stage area” with large, transparent tupperware containers that I covered with multicolored sheets. If you put lights inside of these it looks really good. Make sure you get the proper bulbs, though. It would be a shame if you burned your church building down because I suggested this.
Another thing that helped make our event more like a party was music. Some congregations seem to be a little more cautious about playing music than others, so I would check to make sure it’s cool before doing it. A lengthy playlist with energetic tunes can be a nice touch, though.
Keep the excitement up with games / activities.
We started off with pizza, the staple of youth ministry. By the time everyone got done eating, the energy in room dramatically increased.
This is where teaming up with someone else came in handy. While I was in the main area of the fellowship hall setting up for the devotional, Scott was with all of the kids playing games. The activities took place in the second half of our fellowship hall that was separated by a big partition. This layout worked great for us, but if you have a gymnasium, this would be the time to utilize it.
Events like this can stress you out if you let it. Don’t let it. These were just a few things that Scott and I did to make the event more like a party. You might have some great ideas that are completely different from mine. I would love to hear them. Another thing to keep in mind is that the kids will make it a party. You can never know for sure what they will say or do. Sometimes some of the most seemingly insignificant things will be a huge hit. So remember to enjoy. After all. . .it is a party. Try to have some fun. At the end of the day, the most important thing will be the message they heard.