We’ve all done it. You hear, see, or read about a great idea that another ministry is doing and you automatically default to:
- Is that in my budget?
- Will my students respond?
If we are being honest, many of us have to immediately rule out some ideas because the resources aren’t realistic for our ministries. The budget is based on what comes out of pocket or what can be fully funded by the admission charged to students.
When we ask, “will students respond?” what really want to know is if this is something that has the possibility of creating momentum. Who is going to show up and will they bring anybody? Are we going to get the return for the investment that I’m about to make, or is this about to be a waste of time? How do I win?
I’ve recently been sent down a journey to clarify what a win means for me. It’s a journey I’m still taking but I was given a different road map than I expected to find. I was having a conversation with a church planter turned youth pastor about some of the strategy he is using.
I asked what was his reason for doing some of the things he does, and his response was like stepping on the gas pedal of my thought life:
“I don’t have very many kids or resources so I have to think like a church planter. Everything is about RELATIONSHIPS. I invest in things that will cause our RELATIONSHIPS to be better.”
See, I was trying to figure out how to remix what we were doing every week. I was trying to figure out what the ROI was for our volunteer structure, our order of service, our small groups, etc. I had tried a couple of different things last semester but I got nowhere, and I was trying to determine what was next. That statement caused me to examine myself and my motive from a different angle. If we were going to be attractional, to what was I attracting students? If I’m going to push toward the deep end of the pool, where were students going to splash down?
I was forced to decide—in a short amount of time—what I believe a real win is in my ministry life. I knew that everything needed to head toward helping students find relationships. Ultimately, we want to see all students step into a life-defining relationship with Jesus. So, I believe, one of the best ways to achieve that is to build a rapport with students in our ministries. We leave room for kids to wrap their heads around the idea of a relationship with Jesus, but in the meantime we create experiences where students come away saying things like, “I like hanging out with these people.” Or, “I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept Jesus, but I know my small group leader cares about me.” I was given a new set of glasses to view everything I do.
At this point, I can’t say that I’ve got everything figured out but I know this: it is a goal of our team to put as many touchpoints in place that we can possibly generate in one night. We are working toward making sure that a new student meets no less than three adults that will follow-up with the students before he leaves that night. That’s just the beginning. We’re trying to develop a system that creates an instant connection with adults and students at the outset of the night, and we are encouraging our SGLs to pursue relational experiences with their groups on a regular basis. Some of our outreaches are solely design to create a relationship with the church and not much else. A big part of the wins, now, are measured by the potential for relationship development and/or the depth to which current relationships can grow.
It’s life in the trenches. It’s trying to provide experience for kids to make a connection that will draw them to the love of God. As we work toward deepening our connection culture in our context, consider what makes a kid want to stay with you. What keeps them coming back? Why would a new student want to come check you guys out again? I’d be willing to bet if a student feels like there is someone who wants to genuinely know them, it’ll be much quicker to build a bridge to the cross.
Nick Cowan is a Christ-follower, husband to Jessica, dad to three sons, friend, teacher, coach, and pulled his hamstring trying to remain an athlete. He serves as one of the student ministers at The Avenue Church in Waxahachie, TX.