(The Top 5 is our quick list of resources, recommendations, or reasons that we feel you should know).
Finding ways to encourage students to bring their friends can be a constant struggle. There are a lot of different ways a youth ministry could do outreach and many are successful. With this post, however, we won’t be going into theology or how to create a culture that is having youth constantly bringing their unchurched friends. Rather it’s sharing five out-of-the-box ideas I have seen work in various ministries around the US. This list does not include events as I think that is a totally separate list. I am sure there is many more. Please leave a comment if you have any ideas we could add to this list?
ONE – Get on the fringe social media platforms
Are you or your youth ministry on SnapChat or TikTok… because your students and their friends are? 65% of SnapChat users are teenagers and Snapchat now has over 301 million active users a month. TikTok is getting even bigger with 450 million active users monthly (world wide). Posting on Instagram and other social media platforms is fine but if you want to reach a completely new audience go where the teenagers are heading. Yes, there are inappropriate things on SnapChat and TikTok so so do all other social media platforms. Going on these platforms are like going to their schools 20 years ago. It’s their world and sometimes it’s good to see a positive influence on it. Several youth workers have already jumped on board and one of the best ones I have seen on TikTok is @tejaymac. His #1minutemessages are a good way to spread the Word of Jesus in a new way.
Brady Shearer from Pro Church Tools has a great podcase explaining about what church’s need to know about TikTok CLICK HERE.
TWO – The High 5 Hoodie Drive
This is from a church called GracePoint.Youth. Basically it’s an attendance drive. Each student is challenged to bring 5 new friends to youth group during a certain period and if they do they earn a free hoodie. They share why they do it as from their motto “names not numbers” which means “we want to be an outward-focused youth group where students are always thinking of ways to help their friends meet, know, and follow Jesus.”
THREE – Walking S’mores Wagon
This was seen from a new church plant up in South Dakota. Renewal church walked around with wagons full of s’more stuff and little candles inviting people on the street to roast a marshmallow and then have a s’more. From the THIS VIDEO it seems like a very easy thing to do and who would pass up on making a s’more without getting all of their own camping gear out! A great way to meet people and hear their stories because roasting a marshmallow takes a few minutes which gives you an opportunity to share the gospel!
FOUR – Meet Offsite
Take your youth group to the streets! The summertime is a great time for you to switch things up. Basically, all you have to do is do your normal (or what you call normal) youth group but in a public space. Set up in a park or even in a parking lot of a busy intersection. Have lots of signs inviting people and program the night where people can stop by and join it at any time. Bring a small sound system with you and have worship, speaking, even some games. You will have to adjust a few things since you want it to be visual and inviting but it’s one of the easier ideas to pull off. I have seen this work several times at coffee shops or donut places.
FIVE – Go & Tell Ping Pong Drive
This was seen from a fellow youth worker Jared Menard. He would have each guest that comes to his youth group write their name on a ping pong ball and put it in a clear case. It’s a good visual to inspire his youth to pray and invite friends. It also helps with building an outreach culture in his group. Sometimes having a weekly reminder to invite sets an expectation that students rise to once reminded. Plus it’s a great way for new students to make their mark and feel special (being new is hard).
From Kyle Goings – national director of USMB Youth and full-time Student Ministry Pastor at First MB Church in Wichita, KS.
FaithFront (USMB’s teenage leadership program) is creating a documentary on Mennonite Brethren Youth Spirituality. We have created a survey to help us in the research process of this project. We need your help to distribute this survey to students. Please forward the link below on to your students, we would appreciate it so much! Our goal is to reach 280 students by the end of 2019. As a youth worker if you would like to receive the results please contact FaithFront. A video documentary will also be filmed after the survey has been completed that will coordinate with the survey.
If 5 students from your youth group complete the survey, we’ll buy the pizza for your next party! Just send FaithFront the receipt and we’ll cover the cost!
What students will see:
Mennonite Brethren Youth Spirituality Survey
Our purpose is to better understand your attitudes and feelings about faith, life, and church. We also want to know more about where you are on your spiritual journey.
Our hope is that the results of this survey will help your church and youth group know you and serve you better.
Please answer as honestly as you can. Your answers will be completely anonymous. None of your responses will be attached to your name.
The survey should take between 20-30 minutes. There will be instructions for a thank you gift at the end of the survey.
Dear YouthCon Students,
First, I want to thank you all from the deepest part of my heart, for allowing me space and time to be with you and share my story. When I say I was deeply humbled to be in your presence, it is, by far, a true understatement.
Secondly, I have been to several youth events in my time of ministry, and never once have I witnessed such an outstanding group of young adults as I did at YouthCon. You are all so very special, and I feel the hand of God strongly on each of you. Also, I realize my story was heavy, and my Say It – Slay It Challenge may have been trying for some of you – I understand that believe me, I do. I want you to know that my husband and I prayed over it a lot, and after watching you from the sidelines Thursday and Friday, I knew that if any group could crush that challenge… YOU COULD. And you did.
So many of you shared your stories with me, and you inspired me significantly!
I am so proud of each of you.
Know that God sees you, hears you, loves you beyond measure, and He is proud to call you his sons and daughters.
I hope to meet you again someday. Please feel free to find me online – I would love to stay updated on your lives.
God bless each of you richly and guard and guide every step you take.
With love, Tam.
INCREDIBLE. That is the only word that can even come close to what I feel after YouthCon 2019. It is now three days after YouthCon and I am still overwhelmed with emotion; joy, exhaustion, and more. It has taken this long just to start to process my experience but God is refueling me through it.
During YouthCon and afterwards my social media feeds were filled with pictures, thank yous and hashtags that it was too overwhelming for me to process. After reading and seeing all the posts I wanted to share my experience but it was difficult to into words. But now that some time has passed here are my thoughts.
A pastor friend of mine shared a devotional. He said, “All of us need ‘remember when’ moments.” He talked about how in the Old Testament when God did something amazing, an altar was built. A physical marker to help people remember what God did for them. So now we are living in a digital age and I can see how our social media pages will be a “remember when” alter on what God did at YouthCon. And this post is my “remember when moment.”
For those of you who might not know, I was part of the planning team that brought YouthCon 2019 to life. I was part of a handful of other people with my co-director Neil Bontrager who prayed, planned, and prepared to make YouthCon a reality. Neil has a unique ability to dream and plan events exactly like YouthCon. His optimism is infectious and that helps is natural recruiting ability. Then we have Byron Funk, who is the hidden gem of the planning team. He was always behind the scenes making sure kept moving forward. His servant heart and love for the M.B. world was crucial. Below is a list of names (mostly pictured above) of everyone who served at YouthCon.
I have served on what is now called USMB Youth since 2008 and have been the director since 2012. A lot has changed over the years and our dreams and plans have gotten bigger. But so has our faith in God. I remember sitting down with Neil and the planning team processing where and when we should even have the next convention–which eventually came to be YouthCon 2019 in Glorieta, New Mexico. The planning started on the ride home from NAMED2015. I remember contemplating over so many details: the length of YouthCon, the time of year we held it, the location we held it at, the cost it would take to pull it off and everything else. Very few decisions came easy or without discussion. Except for one… The importance of being together. The importance of having a shared experience; of being inspired by God with youth ministries from all over the country. That was at the forefront of every decision we made.
It is a surreal moment when you see something come to life that only months or even years ago, was just ideas scribbled on a page. Planning a big event like this where hundreds of people rely on your planning takes tons of prayer, hours of planning, and some faith that it will all come together. And every time I plan an event like this, I am surprised by God. And God surprised me every day at YouthCon 2019. So here are some of my “Remember When” Moments:
INCREDIBLE. As I said before. This experience was simply incredible. When you are on a team planning for an event like this it’s not always easy, but I can tell you it’s fulfilling. And now I understand why events like YouthCon and the stress, the work, the blood, sweat, and tears of it all is worth it…
Because being together matters. Youth conventions remind everyone who attends that they are part of something bigger than themselves. YouthCon and other events like it remind the adult youth workers and the youth themselves that they are not alone. We need to be reminded of that because too easily we can fall into the trap of thinking that we are the only one who have these struggles, doubts, or fears. And when you get to connect to other people who are pursuing God like you, it’s easier because you get to bear each other’s burdens.
Events like YouthCon matter because it builds momentum like very few things we as youth workers provide. By having students leave the comfort of their daily routine and thrusted into an environment where every minute was designed to have them connect with God and others, positive change occurs. They start to see the world differently because they have put down the blinders of life. They start to get inspired hearing stories of how others are impacting the world for God and they start to believe they can do that too.
When older Christians look back on their life and map out their spiritual journeys I have heard countless stories of how events like YouthCon became a spiritual marker in their lives. This is something we must never take for granted, never question if it’s worth it, never regret what it costs, because the stories are too great, the impact too big, and the change too wide to ignore.
I want to finish by saying thank you. An event like YouthCon cannot be planned or run by any one individual or even a small group. It takes an army of willing volunteers just to make it happen! Below (and most of them are pictured) is a list of names of everyone who helped out in some way. The impact these people below made will never be measured and will ripple on like waves on a pond. Thank you to everyone who prayed, supported, gave, or served before, during, or after YouthCon. You have blessed me and countless others more than you will ever know.