In most churches, events are a critical part of student ministry. There is always another retreat, coffee house, movie night, lock-in, etc. Whether you like it or not, these events are just always going to be a part of student ministry. When done right, these events can generate a great deal of momentum for your ministry, and when done wrong, they can become big, cumbersome, expensive, and taxing obligations that yield little to no fruit at all.
A healthy practice for any ministry leader is to take time at the beginning or end of each year and evaluate all of your events. (If you have debriefed with your team at the end of each event and taken notes on the highs and lows, you should have a nice file to go through and remind yourself of the particulars of each event.) There have been more than a few times that I have chosen either to cancel an event or throw more time and money at it because of the level of effectiveness that I saw in any particular event. In going through this review process it is important that you analyze events first through their gospel orientation.
Youth ministries around the country are having events that are just meant to gather the students and give them a good time, but I would encourage you to make the decision that you can and should always have both an element of fun and gospel intentionality. This question is thought through best when you ask yourself why exactly you are having the event. If your answer is that you just want them to have some time to have fun, you should probably re-evaluate! You are not called to help kids have fun, you are called to make disciples!
If you have a speaker at your event, make sure they give an invitation, and be ready with decision counselors that can talk to students about their response. If you are splitting your kids up into small groups, make sure that the curriculum is going to drive them deep into scripture and highlight why the truths they are learning are critical in regard to the gospel. If it is a game night, you can even just gather the students for 10 minutes and have someone give their testimony followed by an invitation. There are many ways of making sure your events are infused with the gospel but it will take some effort on your part, and of course a great deal of prayer!
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist