the ys middle school ministry summit took place at spring hill camp in evart, michigan, in mid-september. 45 paid junior high or middle school-only youth workers attended. these are the mostly unedited notes. remember, they’re notes on a dialogue of 45 voices, not a refined set of ideas…
FOLLOW UP ON STUDENTS
Areas of follow-up. How do you follow up with guests, how do you track students, what programs are you using, students that make decisions for Christ (spiritual commitments), etc.
1. First time visitors – send a letter out, free snack bar when you return, volunteers going out and hitting 5 students each week. Go to their house with a student from the same school. Then ask if the parents are home and use that as an initial connection to the parents. They don’t call before about going, but if not home they drop it off at the door and it has all of the information in it. They do this every week on a certain day – they have ministry teams on Sunday, one team is outreach and that is what they do. The problem is, after that step, they don’t have anything in place to do anything more. When kids show up at the front door, they have a check in system and first time kids get some free stuff. They mark off their name on a paper, then they fill out a new person card, and get a coupon for free stuff.
2. Everyone gets a letter from a girl or guy intern, and a welcome, and a coupon for a free thing when they return.
3. Some Parents in certain areas would be very suspect about the adult visiting the home.
4. Starting with HELLO:
a. Welcome them
b. Have them fill out a card
c. Put them in the database
d. Send them a letter of Welcome
5. We track attendance through our small groups and ask them to make the follow up calls, letters, emails, etc. We don’t hound them to return.
6. We have a welcome table headed up by a leader and students. They welcome everyone. It is not computerized check-in, but just paper check in. Have them fill out a card. If they come with a friend, we let them go with the friend. If they come alone, we have student greeters (first friends) who will show them around, sit with them and be their friend for the week. That student will get their information, call them, email them, and follow up. We sit at tables during our program and most are age and gender, with a leader for each table. Check in through ACS for tracking of attendance. We try to contact everyone who doesn’t show up for 2 weeks in a row.
7. SOFTWARE for tracking attendance and follow-up:
b. Fellowship one (web based)
c. Arena (web based)
d. Shelby (pc)
e. Highrise (web based) – database. You pay per person on a hierarchy. You can track phone calls with them, etc.
f. NSpire (pc based)
g. Youthtrack (pc)
8. We follow up on commitments, but we don’t follow up on weekend kids. Kids often don’t sign in. Also there are a lot of errors – if you want to turn a kid off, call a kid who was there and say “boy we missed you this week.” And they say “I was there.”
9. What about the security factor of verifying what kids are there.
10. One thing that we did to help us is using nametags. They loved it so much so they started doing it in Jr. High. Nametags are a big deal to the kids. If they come and don’t have a nametag, they are very disappointed. Use the nametags for the roster and to track attendance.
11. How much is too much follow-up? When do you stop? Call 2 times? Send 2 letters? Do we try harder? Is that enough? How much do we do? What is “harassment” and what is “enough”?
12. We do a 3-month rotation. If we have not heard from them in 3 months we send a letter out to them to let them know that we are sorry we have not heard from you and we are removing you from our database. Then more them into the “deadwood” folder, because they might show back up, and you still have all of their information. We never delete Deadwood.
13. New kids are sent mail “to the parents of”, but regular kids are sent to the student.
14. Guy/Guy contact and Girl/Girl contact is what we keep to, so that a 30-year old guy is not calling a teenage girl.
15. We give students a chance to respond to the gospel message every single week. I believe that this should happen weekly. I don’t always have an altar call, but I present the gospel every week and give the students a chance to respond.
16. Everyone comes in and signs in from an excel spreadsheet. We print that so the small group leaders have that information that night. We ask the small group leaders to contact the student during that week. We then send out a letter to the student. The leader makes the phone call. It is easier since the small group leader met them too and spent time with them.
17. One step after that is to put the follow-up information of the kid into some information and send to some elderly prayer warriors to pray for the kids.
SUMMER PROGRAMMING AND OFFSITE PROGRAMMING:
What are some of the questions or issues that come under this:
1. Does summer camp still work? Is it still worth it?
2. Cost to families?
3. Purpose of Summer Camp?
4. What does work in summer? What is worth it?
5. Value of shutting down?
6. How much is too much?
7. Should you continue the stuff that you are doing during the school year?
8. How can you turn the summer into a positive?
9. Relationship with camp?
10. Alternative to retreats?
Let’s start with Summer Camp. Is it still worth it the way you are doing it?
1. Size is an issue because for the large churches they have to turn a lot of kids away because there is not enough room at the camp to house them.
2. Is the cost to the family worth it? It costs so much money, is it worth it for the family? Are the benefits worth it?
3. Tony – I’ll never go back to a regular camp that does everything for them. Especially for Jr. High. You can do some creativity with them, but having serving be a focus of the week is more important. I’ll never go back to doing a pure camp again.
4. Consider a camp/mission trip combo.
5. Social Justice is very trendy for teenagers right now. We need to be careful about getting caught up in that and abandoning everything else. (dissenting voice: whether or not justice is “trendy” has nothing to do with the fact that it’s biblical and close the heart of god. don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. let’s celebrate that it’s trendy.)
What is the value of a really good camp?
1. Summer camp is the number 1 thing that we do in terms of the return on our investment. Kids go because they know they will connect with God in a unique way. We try and make everything we do purposeful and community building.
2. Relationships are a key and so important. Relationship building is amazing at summer camp.
3. There is some great value in partnering with other churches for a camp as well. Many small churches wouldn’t be able to do camp without this partnership.
4. Ropes course as part of the curriculum is powerful and life-changing. It is very building and has great value. If you are trying to do it all by yourself, it can be easy to get frustrated.
5. Building community. Our kids talk about camp throughout the rest of the year. We focus on building authentic biblical community. We are very purposeful in our camp. Our kids expect to meet with God at camp.
A lot of the things we have talked about in the last 24 hours may not be universal, but most of us would agree with a lot of what has been discussed. This issue sounds very different than that. It is very cultural to your church and your community as to the best way to approach this issue and benefits.
For some, camp is the sustaining factor for the ministry, for others it is killing their ministry.
We are always competing for attention from so many other things in our students’ lives.
For many churches, camp is the starting place where they are building their youth group. To have new kids come and have a unique and powerful experience. It is where the youth pastor gets to know more kids and more deeply and the students get more plugged in. Also, many of these kids are very deprived of God’s creation – which is awesome and lets you know how real He is. A lot of these kids have never seen the “real” nature in their lives. If it is possible to have an experience like that, I think it is irreplaceable.
Kurt – If I could provide the environment and benefits of camp without providing “camp” – I would do so in a moment.
You have to figure out the goal or mission of your summer camp and it’s purpose.
Can we do a camp experience throughout the entire summer? For us, we broke it down and it is discipleship, community, pain, etc. and did it all summer long, not just a weekly thing.
About ½ of us seem absolutely passionate about our camp and about the other ½ are not that passionate about it because they are not sure that it works in their context.
The majority of the people here get less busy in the summer rather than more busy. But, this also effects the perspective and ability to enjoy and view camp as worthwhile.
There is a lot of passion on this, but it appears this is a contextual issue primarily, so we are moving on.
SUMMER STUFF OTHER THAN CAMP. WHAT DO YOU DO?
1. We don’t do small groups in the summer, so we give the small group leaders a break during the summer. Most volunteer small group leaders prefer to be off for the summer and have that break. This is very valuable.
2. We recruit new leaders just for the summer to help us out.
3. We shut down all of our small groups, kick off the summer, do camp, then do something in July big, then shut down in August other than Sunday School, then start back up in September.
4. Summer is a good time to do community service project.
5. We do big group every other week during the summer.