By Jonathan Payne, Youth Worker at South Point Community Church in Leonardtown, Maryland.
As a relatively new volunteer youth worker, I was looking for a way to come up with some kind of meeting or program outside of Sunday mornings.
I knew our students needed more, and this was reinforced by parents asking what else was available and suggesting small groups or a bible study.
At the time, I didn’t have many resources, training, or experience. However, I wanted to create an opportunity to meet with students outside of church where they could invite their friends.
I knew that many parents had more than one kid, and that competition with school or extracurricular activities would exist. Instead of trying to combat the notion of busyness, I found a way work around the busyness. That’s how “Stop, Shop, Pray” came into existence.
I wanted a location that was not only convenient to parents in the area, but a location that would be convenient for them to run errands after dropping off their students. We’d meet once a week (Wednesday night in our case) at a Chick-Fil-A for three hours. It was like an open house, with students being dropped off and picked up anytime during those three hours. The Chick-Fil-A was located in the same parking lot as Target, and very close to Walmart and other grocery stores.
For us, Chick-Fil-A ended up being a prime location, not only geographically, but also because the restaurant shared our values, along with having a welcoming and accommodating staff. When we were there, we’d make sure to pick some tables that would be less likely to interfere with other customers. For us, this meant choosing tables near the restrooms; this kept us clear of the main entrances and exits, and away from the counter and play area (aka teenager temptation zone).
We found this was a great opportunity to connect with students and parents outside of Sunday. We’d talk, eat, review that Sunday’s lesson, celebrate birthdays, promote events, and as the name “Stop, Shop, Pray” suggests, we’d pray at some point during the evening.
If you think this might be something worth trying out in your youth ministry, especially with the holidays quickly approaching, ask yourself these two questions:
- Where is a centrally located shopping area where most families are likely to end up at some point during the week?
- Is that shopping area near a restaurant that can handle your group of teenagers?
If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, here are some helpful tips for your own variation of “Stop, Shop, Pray”:
- Be mindful and respectful of the staff and other customers.
- Form a good relationship with the manager and staff at the restaurant. Make their job fun and easy while your group is there.
- Don’t forget to show appreciation toward the staff at the restaurant.
- Create an inclusive environment for your students and their friends, who may be churched or unchurched. Make everyone feel welcome!
So there you go! We all know that working around the busyness of life can be hard, especially around the holidays. We’ve found that by creating an experience for students to hang out with their friends during the week, and by giving parents a chance to catch up on errands and grocery shopping at the same time, everybody wins. Try it out!