Several weeks ago was the NCAA College Football National Signing Day. This was the day that all the top (and not so top) high school football players had to sign their letter of intent to attend certain colleges. It’s a huge day in the life of college football teams and their future players as ESPNU dedicates a whole day of programming around it. If your team signs the right players, they have a great chance to be a top-tiered team. If not, there is a good chance that they are going to be just an average, middle-of-the-road team.
“So what’s the point of this Tom? What does a college football signing day possibly have to do with Youth Ministry?”
Good question. For me, it raises the question: “Who are you signing into your program?” Sure, your youth ministry group is very different from national College Football programs. But, there are some similarities. For instance,
1. Recruiting is key. Football coaches recruit and scout out younger players to attend their schools. As a youth minister, we can and should be recruiting younger students to be attending our youth program when they can. All recruitment begins with relationships. And just as football coaches build relationships with high school players and their families, we can begin relationships with our elementary-age students and their families. I’ve blogged about it before but the children’s ministry program is our “minor league” and we should be building relationships with them.
2. Development is important. Just because they are good before they came to you doesn’t mean they will stay good. High school football players come in with high expectations but not all of them pan out. For various reasons, some of them end up being busts. In the same way, elementary school kids going into middle school and middle school students going into high school will succumb to the temptations of “the world” and fall far from Christ. That is why it is important for us, youth ministers, to make sure they know the truth of Christ and how to live for Him. We cannot just accept that because they were in the children’s ministry that they understand God, the Bible and Christ. We have to continue to develop them.
3. Do your research before. Best on the field doesn’t always mean best fits. Just because they excel on the football field doesn’t mean they are great teammates. In the same way, students coming up to you may be a “key kid” in theory, but they may actually hurt your ministry more than help. That is why you need to do your research on the students. Take them out to lunch or somewhere and get to know them. As you hang with them early on, you’ll be able to find out if they are a great fit or not for your ministry. Regardless, they are going to be coming up to your ministry, but if you get to know them, you will best be able to determine if they are a leaders, follower, distractor or some other kind of student for your program.
These are three similarities between youth ministries and college football programs. Even though these are completely different in a lot of ways, the similarities are striking. The college football coaches who do the three things well year after year, have great times constantly. And, the same could be said about youth ministries. If we do our research, recruit well and develop students, we will continue to have thriving student ministries throughout our time.