Is Student Ministry Dying?

Just a few years ago, I was part of a thriving student ministry that was reaching between 120-160 kids every Wednesday night. Now, that same ministry averages around 25 middle and high school students. What’s changed? For one, our student pastor who was leading the ministry transitioned into a very successful campus pastor. Also, in the three years since then, we’ve gone through two student pastors, with myself being the third. Oh, and we stopped running church vans because of lack of volunteers and safety concerns. That’s what has happened within the church, but what’s happening outside of the church seems just as drastic.

  1. More Practices. Sunday and Wednesday evenings used to be designated church nights that were protected for the most part. That’s no longer the case. Sports and extracurricular activities are now invading that space.
  2. More Homework. The pressure for good grades and higher test scores has never been more prevalent. It’s not unheard of anymore for students to have one to two hours of homework each night.
  3. More Social Media. It used to be that if you wanted to hang out with your friends, you actually had to be in the same room. That’s no longer the case. Instagram and SnapChat provide plenty of community for kids who used to have to go outside to find it.
  4. More Jobs. Parents in small rural communities are financially strapped. It’s very hard for them to pay for their teen’s cell phone, insurance, and vehicle. This means more and more students have to find jobs that don’t always work around their church schedule.
  5. More Freedom. It wasn’t that long ago most Christian parents made their teens go to church. As busy as parents are these days and as much as they’re already running their kids from place to place, church has become much more of an option instead of a requirement.

So, how long will student ministry as we currently know it survive? Five years? Ten? Twenty? And is it being effective?

If not, is there a better way to do student ministry? Perhaps, something that’s led by students and works around their schedules. Maybe something online? Or is student ministry even necessary?

I’d love to hear your thoughts because this is something I’m wrestling with and honestly don’t have any answers. Leave a comment and let me know what you think, and if you enjoy the blog, make sure to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Five Ways You Can Make the Most of Easter

It’s hard to believe, but we are now less than four weeks away from Easter Sunday. Easter weekend has always been the biggest weekend of the year for the church I serve, which is probably why it’s also my favorite weekend of the year. I love seeing all the new families chasing their little kids all across our campus as they rush to get checked into class, grab a doughnut, and then race to find a golden egg. Hopefully, you’ve already been planning how to make this your biggest Easter ever, but if not, no worries. There’s still time to get it done. In this post I want to share with you a few ideas I’ve seen work year after year to double our attendance and make a huge kingdom impact.

  1. Add a service. For most churches Easter is going to be the highest attended Sunday of the year, without even doing anything. Here’s why, all the people who normally attend your church once or twice a month all show up on Easter. So, to capitalize on this, you should add another service. More services mean more opportunities for people to attend, more opportunities for people to serve, and more opportunities for people to give their lives to Christ. If you currently have one Sunday morning service, add a second. If you have two, add a third or consider doing a service on Good Friday or even Saturday. We’ve had a lot of success with doing a service on Good Friday. It’s the exact same service as Easter Sunday, which means you don’t have to prepare two messages. The reason it works so well is many families may feel obligated to attend other churches on Easter Sunday. Having a service on Friday or Saturday allows them to attend your church and still meet their family obligations on Easter Sunday.
  2. Have an egg hunt. Put aside your feelings about the Easter bunny and let the kids hunt eggs. Most families want to have the experience of watching their kids hunt eggs. It’s a special moment for them, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sure, you can go elaborate and drop eggs out of a helicopter, but you don’t have to do that. For most small town churches, having an egg hunt is as simple as asking your congregation to bring in filled eggs a few weeks before Easter and asking a few volunteers to place them out in the grass. We’ve done egg hunts before and after services and even on the Saturday before Easter. My recommendation is to keep your egg hunt attached to a service. What about prizes? Glad you asked. You can spend a lot of money on prizes and possibly get more people there, but in my experience they don’t normally come back. For the past couple of years at my church, we have put out a golden egg per age group that they redeem for a $25 Toys R Us gift card.
  3. Do something special. You don’t want to do something completely different than what you would do on a normal Sunday, but you do want to do something special. Now, that could be a variety of things. Maybe you have an ice cream truck come and give away free ice cream to all the kids. Maybe you set up a picture booth with live bunnies. Maybe you do baptisms on that day. People loved being baptized on Easter, and it creates great energy. Maybe you sing a special song that catches everyone by surprise. For example, my church sang “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood during a baptism once, and people talked about it for weeks. What are one or two things you can offer that would really make Easter Sunday memorable?
  4. Keep the message simple, and outsider focused. Easter should be the easiest sermon you preach each year. The story doesn’t need any help. It’s amazing just like it’s written. Don’t try to get fancy, just tell the story of Christ and the resurrection. That’s enough. And tell it in a way that someone who hasn’t grown up in church can understand it. Because there is going to be a lot of those people in the audience that day. So, make sure to give an invitation for them to accept Christ as their Savior.
  5. Invite them back. It doesn’t matter how many people show up on Easter Sunday if they don’t come back. Make sure, as you close the sermon, you invite them back for the following week and give them a reason why they should come back. Either start an attractive series the week after Easter, or if you start a series on Easter, make sure it’s compelling enough to bring them back. You can also take advantage of this in your kids’ ministry. What if you gave each child a “coupon” to draw a toy out of the prize box that could only be redeemed in the weeks following Easter? Kids can be very persuasive when there’s a toy on the line.

These are just a few of the thoughts and ideas that I have, but I’d love to hear yours. What are your plans for Easter? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get my new ebook and a weekly email filled with tips on church growth, leadership, and more.

Four Thoughts on Christmas Services

It’s so hard to believe that it’s already December. Where did the year go? It seems like just a couple months ago we were celebrating Easter and the resurrection, and now we’re getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Before I share with you my thoughts on Christmas services, I want to encourage you to slow down during this season. Spend time with your family. Spend time with your church. And most importantly spend time with Jesus.

Now I would not consider myself a Christmas expert, but I happened to be born on December 22nd, and legend has it, that I was brought home from the hospital in a Christmas stocking just like Jesus was.

Just kidding!

I have to write just kidding because there’s a multitude of people online who have no sense of humor, would take me seriously, and then comment about my terrible theology. I can only hope that they receive coal in their stockings this year and every year hereafter.

But let’s not focus on them. Let’s focus on you. What are you doing this year for Christmas?

Potluck? Special singing? Children’s Christmas play?

The options are endless, and depending on who you ask, what you choose could make or break your church.

Some pastors are saying that Christmas has become a bigger outreach opportunity than Easter.

My children would agree. They get more excited about celebrating Jesus’ birth than His resurrection, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the amount of gifts they get on each occasion.

But, what should you do? I have some thoughts…

  1. Tell the Christmas Story. Not the one with the leg lamp, the one with the virgin birth of the Savior of the world. People never get tired of hearing that story. I understand you’ve preached it every year for the past ten years. Preach it again. Get creative with it. Tell it in a different way. Tell it from the sheep’s standpoint.
  2. Keep it Traditional. If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that I’m not a fan of tradition. Except when it comes to Christmas. I already encouraged you to stick to the Christmas story. I also want to encourage you to sing Christmas music like Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, Little Drummer Boy. Don’t be afraid to play all the hits. This is the one time of year you can get away with it.
  3. Include the Kids. If you’re a smaller church in a small town, find a way to involve the kids in the service. Let them sing a song, read a scripture, dress up like a donkey. Whatever it takes to get their family to invite others to come see them. This is a great way to boost your attendance. Keep in mind, as your church grows larger, it’s going to become harder to do this. So, don’t start something you’re not able to stop. I’ve given you fair warning.
  4. What about the Day? Do what works best for your church. If your people expect and will show up to a Christmas Eve service, offer one. If they won’t, then don’t. Do it on a day they will attend. In the church I serve, we avoid having services on December 24th and 25th. Why? Because people are celebrating Christmas at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s on those days. So, we’ll have church services on the 23rd or the 22nd, or anytime other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But “Church Growth Expert” said we should maximize Christmas Eve. “Church Growth Expert” doesn’t know the culture of your community. You do. So do what works best for you.

What do you have planned for this Christmas? What day will you be having services on? Let us know by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.