By Crystal Chiang
Have you ever noticed how the back-to-school season seems to be a starting point for the entire community? Parents and kids aren’t the only ones preparing for the big day. Schools launch class orientations. Sports teams start conditioning, and nearly every store has a back-to-school ad campaign. It seems like everyone is planning for the next season right now and church is no exception. With all of the activity and all of the items on the to-do list, here are three reminders ministry leaders need to remember as they plan for the back-to-school rush.
Connect with parents.
The beginning of school brings new teachers, new homework, new friends and new expenses that can be as unnerving for the parents as it is for their students. Remind parents that you are there to help them navigate new experiences by hosting a back-to-school event for moms and dads. Use this time to encourage parents and give them a preview of what their student will learn in the upcoming semester. Make it fun by theming it like an old-school pep rally. Borrow some pom-poms and “spirit gear” from students and seat parents from the same school or grade together so they can cheer against one another. Try playing a game from an upcoming series and then talk about how that series will affect their family. This is also a great time to introduce parents to small group leaders and encourage them to get together during the semester. However you choose to communicate it, make sure parents get the message that you are there to support them as they lead their student.
Encourage your leaders.
The new school year is the best time to set up small group leaders for success. Knowing what’s coming up BEYOND next week is key for helping leaders feel equipped and confident as they lead their groups. Instead of inviting them to a typical “leader meeting” with round tables and stapled handouts, try hosting a “big reveal party.” Set up the room theatre-style and stage it like a fancy movie premiere with an actual red carpet and velvet ropes at the entrance. You may even wish to have a few students in prom attire host the event. Offer a “swag bag” of goodies that will help them feel celebrated and get off to a good start. Items could include T-shirts, a coffee mug, their favorite candy, and maybe fridge magnets with each series graphic for the semester. This is a great time to celebrate new leaders and highlight veterans to share their expertise. Once everyone is excited, you can lay out the plan for upcoming series and events as well as encourage them to share their excitement with students.
Locate places where students can serve.
Even the most confident senior can be a little nervous about the first day of school. A great way to help students get past the nerves is to focus their attention somewhere other than themselves. Challenge students to serve their school by:
- Bringing in school supplies for students who can’t afford them.
- Setting up a back-to-school breakfast for the custodial staff.
- Offer to give tours of their school to new students.
- Set up a schedule for older students to tutor a younger student for free.
However you choose to serve the community, making it a priority at the beginning sets the tone for the entire year. If you’re unsure about your community’s needs, contact the school social worker. Most schools have one and they are a great ally as you plan to help your students reach out to the community.
Preparing for the next season in ministry can feel a lot like climbing the first hill on a roller coaster. You know the plunge forward is coming. The excitement is building. Back to school is the time to capitalize on that momentum. It is a fresh start for everyone; so don’t miss your opportunity.
In the comment section below, let us know: What are you doing to leverage the back-to-school momentum in your student community?