Went to the AWANA Ministry Conference today in Troy, IL. It was a good opportunity to see how we can take our junior high program (as well as the rest of our AWANA programs) to the “next level”. I got some really good ideas and personal incites on ministry tactics. Here are some of my notes from the sessions.
Session One: TREK – Dale and LeAnne Klein
Theme night and fun activity ideas – May sound cheesy to you but it teaches students how to have a good time. Remember, just because you think something will bomb, doesn’t mean it actually will. Be willing to try out new themes and ideas to keep the interest level high.
- Police night
- Pajama Party
- Wacky burger night
- Blast from the past
- Candle light dinner
- Fast food feast
- Bozo circus
- Indoor beach party
- Old fashion ice cream social
- Stuff a what night
- Winter wonderland
- Noodle mania
- Youth Group birthday party night
- Family feud
- Hallelujah Harvest Outing
- “Who me” is essential to starting a youth ministry.
- Kids like incentives.
- Encourage kids to wear your group t-shirts. This gives them a sense of ownership.
- Marketing ideas – Backpacks, postcards, sticky notes (Whatever you use, make sure your giving it away!)
Session Two: Using High School students as leaders in the Younger Clubs – Dale Klein
Four objectives to Strive for.
- Salvation – Evangelism
- Education – Reason for books and curriculum
- Preparation – Leadership training – the reason for the workshop
- Propagation – Reaching families
Session Three: 10 Reasons Why Clubbers Quit Coming to Club (and what we can do about it!) – Don Estep
NOTE: These pertain to more than just why kids stop going to AWANA clubs. This could be why people stop going to church, youth group in general, etc. (side note: I have a man crush on Don Estep. His is the man!)
- It was too wild – Understand that students need structure and order. Be well organized and disciplined. Remember that students are looking for a safe haven. It is important that you stay on schedule and make sure all staff knows his or her role. Be consistent by treating all students the same. 1 Corinthians 14:40.
- I didn’t have any friends – Friends are important to youth! Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one. One will lift up his companion. How can one be warm alone? A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Help kids connect with others so they can make new friends. Greet new people. Develop a “Spiritual Family” – A place where everyone cares about the spiritual needs of others. (Sounds elematry but it’s amazing how fast we forget that stuff.)
- Mom was too busy to help me learn my verses (If you run AWANA you know what were talking about. In a non AWANA setting it boils down to mom was too busy.) – This could be legitimate or it could be a cop out. We must work on training the parents to raise Godly kids as well. It’s not the churches job to raise students, it’s the parents. Duet. 32:46-47 “You shall command your children.” Give parents a vision for training their children. Give parents the material of expectations you want to see met. Give parents ideas on how they can accomplish this material.
- I didn’t have a way to get there – Bring them to your groups yourself. John 1:42 “and he brought him to Jesus.” Make sure every child has a way to get there and back. Listen to the kids, ask families to bring other students in their neighborhoods, and/or have the church purchase a vehicle (another cry for us to get a church van!).
- I didn’t like Dodge Ball (or insert any game) – Make the experience fun for everyone. Use verity. Let your group be the most exciting thing in the life of the kids. Plan theme nights (see above), plan contests, and use verity. Use game time to teach life lessons )Example: Winners don’t brag and losers don’t complain.).
- I have soccer practice – Put in any practice you want. We have made sports one of our gods in America. We need to work at modeling priorities of Christ. Love Jesus more than you love anything else. Help your students make wise decisions. Matthew 22:37
- Mom said I couldn’t come back – Promote the value of spiritual training. Proverbs 22:6 – Not a guarantee, a principle. Children are accountable for their own decisions after a certain amount of time, but not as a student. We need to work at building a relationship with the parents. Help them see the value in a relationship with God. Help them see the benefit that biblical understanding has on attitude and behavior.
- I couldn’t memorize those bible verses; they were too hard. (Another AWANA thing but still understandable when it comes to scripture memory.). – God’s word is profitable. Get students to desire to fall in love with God’s word. It’s not always about memorization. What’smore important is that we live out what the word says. Remember, it’s not about achievement; it’s about ministry. Have fun with memorization and remember that some students can’t memorize like the next student. Work at their level of capability.
- My leader was mean (or the youth pastor was a jerk.) – Be Nice! Have an attitude of kindness, patience, and gentleness. Check your attitude. Instruct and direct with a gracious attitude
- We don’t know because no one asked them – Ask the student who leaves why they left coming to group. Go after the strays. Have a deep concern for the students. Visit the homes of the students who are not coming to get answers. Ask students why they left.
It was a great morning. Most of the people who did the seminars have little formal education after high school. The majority of them have just done the AWANA program for years. The one thing I kept thinking the whole time was, “I went to bible college and graduated, I’m almost through my master’s work, do I really need this?” The answer is yes! You can always learn something new, espessially from people who have been doing things a lot longer than you. Never forget that.