Back to School Kick-off Events for Your Youth Ministry

What’s the first step to writing a good paragraph? You need a hook! A hook is what is going to draw in your audience. Creating the hook was my favorite part of writing in school. I loved picturing my readers (my mom and my teacher…huge fan base) picking up my paper and not wanting to put it down. Authors do the same thing! They create a captivating first sentence to draw you in! In "A Tale of Two Cities," Charles Dickens pulls out all the stops to make you want to keep reading. Charles writes:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Charles is setting the stage for the ENTIRE book with this one sentence! We, youth leaders, get to do the same thing. After a long summer filled with student trips in smelly vans, hosting service projects, building your volunteer teams and so much more, it’s time to start planning another year of ministry. How do you merge summer and the school year? Let’s talk about creating a killer kick-off event that is going to draw students into your mission! This event will help set the stage for your year of youth ministry. So, let’s dive into some questions that you’ll want to ask yourself as you begin to frame your kick-off.

Who is invited? Determine who you want in the room.

  • What’s your age range? Are you planning to create different programs for junior high students and high school students or keep them together? If you have separate meeting times, then start your year with a specific event designed specifically for the age groups. An outdoor movie event modeled like a drive-in might be more appealing to a high school student than a junior high student just like how water wars may draw in more junior high kids. You know your students!
  • If you are working alone in ministry, now is the time to recruit! Find people who can help make the night go as smooth as possible. Look for the unique talents of people in your church. Is there someone who loves to grill? Recruit that person to cook out for you. Is there someone who always has a smile on their face? Recruit that person to greet students as they walk in. Building a kick-off event is a great time to get people to buy into your vision and mission! Parents are a great first ask.

What’s your draw?

Include an element that will get kids in the doors! Our ultimate draw is Jesus, but sometimes we have to get the kids in the doors to introduce Jesus to them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Paint Wars: We did this last year with over 200 students, and it was a blast! We created large group organized games and then let kids break out and play other things like 9-square, paint dodgeball, and more! There was paint everywhere, and the pink paint may have given blondes a free color dye…but it was so worth it! About one-third of those students that attended had never been to church before.
  • Tailgate: Grab some people and do a massive cookout in the parking lot with games that leaders are running to connect with students. Free food is always a draw!
  • Inflatables: Never underestimate a good inflatable!

What’s your ask back?

Communicate well. The most important part when creating an event is to have an end goal in mind. For our team, we always have something we are pushing our students towards after an event. When it comes to the kick-off event, you’ll want to make sure that you are communicating clearly what the next steps are to stay connected and give the why. State why it’s important that students come regularly. Here are some tools that we use because not everyone listens to announcements.

  • Pass out cards with the next meeting date and time on it.
  • Email parents some highlights of the event with information about the next time you meet.
  • Have sign-ups for small groups available that night.
  • Secure volunteer roles asking them how the night went and ask them to come back!

The best part of creating your hook is that you get to make it your own. Take some time and plan out how you want to kick-off your year. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, your volunteers, your staff, and some students to generate some ideas. Get the right people in the room, plan some fun, and determine the next step for your event. You know your people more than anyone else, so get creative and have fun planning!