NEW STUDENT MINISTRY PROGRAM ’17-’18

As Nate and I approach our one year anniversary of working together at GEBC, we look back on a year of craziness grateful for what God has done in our respective ministries and more excited than ever for what God has for us in years to come!

From my first day on the job, we got right to work evaluating and reevaluating the effectiveness of our programs to accomplish our goal of helping students in DuPage County find, follow, and share Jesus. I remain as convinced as ever that when students see Jesus for who he really is, understanding the adventure he has invited them into and experiencing the fullness of life he offers they’ll be compelled to follow Jesus wherever he calls and share Him with everyone they know.

We began collecting data, perspectives, feedback, and insight from a variety of sources. We surveyed the previous three years of GEBC SM graduates, talked with the GEBC pastoral and program staff, listened to students, leaders and parents, talked with other local youth workers, and observed what other student ministries are doing around the country. While it was a lot of information and perspectives to sift through, a few things became clear to us:

  1. We are not alone! It became very evident that GEBC SM has a wide base of supporters who want to see this ministry thrive. We feel very supported and believed in by our GEBC family which has been empowering for us.
  2. There is no one “right way” to do this. There is no one-size-fits-all, and just cause a program worked effectively in the past, doesn’t guarantee it will continue to do so in the future. With almost an unlimited amount of programming options for us to leverage, we needed to find one that worked best for our specific time, place, and group of students

We believe we have landed on a program that will more effectively help us accomplish our hopes and dreams for this ministry. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this conversation during the last 12 months. We did our very best to incorporate all of it. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions and concerns. We’d love to hear from you!

Please click on the headings below to find a brief explanation of the limitations of our current programming and an outline of the new SM program that will help alleviate those limitations for years to come.

 

Evaluation

To begin the ’16-’17 school year, High School Ministry was running two programmed nights: Small Groups in local homes on Sunday nights and Large Group at GEBC on Wednesday nights. While Sunday night small group time was thriving with upwards of 60 students and consistent leaders, Large Group struggled to even get 25 of those students to engage on a Wednesday night largely because of schedule conflicts and a lack of volunteer leaders presence. We made some tweaks to try and address the disparity and saw a dramatic increase not only in attendance, but also student engagement and excitement on those large group nights.

However, upon getting to the end of the year with two thriving programmed nights, we still felt concerned about two issues in particular:

  1. Students and leaders who were only available one night/week were forced to pick and choose which programming to be a part of and therefore, a large number of students were unable to participate in the larger high school ministry community, worship, and messages. 
  2. Because we schedule 4+ hours of programming every week, students and leaders had no time for anything outside of small and large group. There was a lack of margin in our ministry to accommodate for significant discipleship opportunities outside of weekly programming. This would include opportunities like:
    1. Student Leadership team
    2. Student Worship Team practice
    3. Partnership with local parachurch ministries (YoungLife, FCA, FFH, Illinois School Project, etc.)
    4. Service Opportunities (Caregiving, Mission Trip Training, FMSC)
    5. Mentoring (leaders meeting one-on-one for coffee, lunch, ice cream with a student)
    6. Contact work (leaders visiting students extracurriculars)
    7. Leader meetings
    8. Outreach events

The changes we made reflect our desire for  (1) increased student and leader engagement in regular weekly programming (large and small group) (2) and to create margin for deeper discipleship opportunities for students.

TENTATIVE HSM PROGRAM

Weekly

Weeks 1,2,4, (5) | Sunday nights @ 5:30-8:30p

  • Food                                                                (30 min)    5:30-6:00p
  • Fun/Games (gym/outside)                     (30 min)    6:00-6:30p
  • Announcements/Upfront games         (15 min)     6:30-6:45p
  • Message                                                         (15 min)     6:45-7:00p
  • Worship                                                         (10 min)    7:00-7:10p
  • Transition to SG (@ GEBC)                    (5 min)      7:10-7:15p
  • Small groups                                              (75 min)    7:15-8:30p

Monthly

  • Student Leadership | Wednesday night (Week 1)
    • This is a chance for students to take a step of faith and make a deeper commitment to their walk with Jesus. Students will be developed as leaders and given opportunities to discover and leverage their unique gifting, passions, and skillsets for the Kingdom.
  • Leader Meetings | Sunday night 5-6:30p (Week 3)
    • October-December, February-April
    • These meetings would be utilized to equip our volunteer leaders, build community within the leadership team, develop friendships, and pray for the ministry and students.
  • Small Group Hangout | Sunday night 6:30-8:30p (Week 3)
    • This night gives small groups the ability for deeper connection and special events/curriculum. It would allow for life stories to be shared, more intense conversations, panel discussions, and even special small group/gender specific events (e.g. Laser tag, movie nights, Ultimate Frisbee, etc.)
  • Caregiving Center/AfterParty | Wednesday night 5:30-8/8-9 (Week 3)
    • This night gives our students and leaders a chance to serve alongside each other AND the larger body of Christ at GEBC. We’re always looking to give our students chances to take ownership of their faith and step out in faith.

Quarterly

Large-scale Outreach Events
One large outreach specific event every season during the school year, rather than once/month. Our hope is to do less, for more. With less events, we will be able to focus more intentionally to make one event more effective. Examples include: Party @ the Y, Winter Retreat, Paintball, FMSC

Evaluation

This year concluded my third year heading up Crossroads Middle School Ministry. We’ve seen students grow in their walks with God, get plugged into a Christ-centered community, and continue on in their journeys graduating into our High School ministry. As we evaluated our ministries and received feedback from leaders, our biggest desire was for increased and intentional relational time with the students. The program changes for ’17-‘18 reflect that desire.

Volunteer Leadership

Volunteer leaders are the backbone of the ministry, providing every student with attention, care, and a safe place to have fun. This past year, Crossroads began with two returning volunteer leaders which meant recruiting new quality leaders was a high priority for us. Throughout the year, we were able to add seven new leaders to the squad! However, because this happened over several months, we were unable to form consistent gender/grade based small groups, which traditionally has been the case. Moving into next year, we will form set grade/gender based groups to foster consistent intimate discussion settings. This will also help our leaders have smaller, more specific groups of students to pour into relationally.

Midweek Connection

We are excited to shift our main middle school night to Wednesdays. Unlike high schoolers, middle schoolers cannot drive themselves to spontaneous hangouts and activities, are not as equipped with mobile devices, and don’t have as many extracurricular activities. By scheduling Crossroads on Wednesday night, we provide a way for a midweek connection on a consistent basis rather than all our ministry happening on the same day. We’ll continue to rotate leaders serving in Crossroads Sunday School as well.

Timing Changes

We’ve extended the timeslot for Crossroads an additional 15 minutes. In feedback received about programming, we affirmed the need for more time in small groups. This portion of the evening yields the vital aspects of building community, processing the lesson, and praying and sharing life updates. Our students need a solid opportunity to connect with their peers and leader, and we want to give them the space to do so.

Worship

We encourage our middle schoolers to worship God in a variety of ways: reading God’s Word, prayer, and learning how we can serve God in our daily lives. However, both students and leaders expressed a desire to sing as a body of Christ so this next year we will add a time of worship through music. This is a grassroots effort, as we’ll be starting from scratch. So while the execution is still being developed, we have leaders who are excited to incorporate students’ musical abilities and provide them an outlet to use their gifts to lead their peers in worship.

 Conclusion

This year was a blast! We are excited to continue providing middle school students with programming that helps them find, follow, and share Jesus in their lives.

TENTATIVE MSM PROGRAM

Weekly

Sunday School | Sunday 10:30-11:30a | Large Group Bible Study

Midweek Connection | Wednesday 6:15-8:30p |Weeks 1,2,4,(5)

  • Sign in/Gym Chaos                                                   (20 min)           6:30-6:50p
  • Large Group Game (gym/outside)                      (20 min)           6:50-7:10p
  • Announcements/Upfront games                        (10 min)           7:10-7:20p
  • Message                                                                        (15 min)           7:20-7:35p
  • Worship                                                                        (10 min)           7:35-7:45p
  • Transition to SG (GEBC rooms)                           (5min)              7:45-7:50p
  • Small groups + Prayer                                            (35 min)           7:50-8:25p
  • Return to gym/leave                                               (5 min)             8:25-8:30p

Monthly

  • Crossroads Home Edition (Week 3)
    • These nights will give students and leaders the opportunity to connect in more intimate settings. Guys head to one home, gals to another, providing students time with their leaders in a unique setting, furthering trust and relatability.
  • Holiday Parties on Regular Scheduled Events
    • “Themed Nights” such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. offer a built-in framework for dressing up, games, and putting a fun twist on gathering at a time already built into our schedules.

Quarterly

Large-scale Outreach Events

  • Once a season we’ll direct all our energies to a big event aimed at getting everyone together. It gives students an easy opportunity to invite friends to an activity they would enjoy and get acclimated to those involved with Crossroads ministry (e.g. All Night Rager, Fundo Fridays, Winter Retreat, etc.)
Inherent to all change is some degree of loss. Even under the best circumstances and most necessary changes of life, a certain amount of loss is inevitable. Nate and I are certainly aware that changing a program that has been operating and, at many times, thriving for several years is not always easy to get on board with. Naturally, we develop deep appreciation and loyalty for programs that have been so central to our, and our family’s, spiritual development over the years. I have no doubt that many of you have been blessed by the current student ministry programming.
However, change, as I’m sure you are aware, is a necessary and significant part of life. Our world and culture are continually changing. I believe God’s hope is that His Church, and GEBC specifically would similarly adapt and change its model and method in order to find new, compelling, and relevant ways to meet the lost people of our world where they are and invite them into fullness of life with Him. We are committed to our God’s mission and message of hope and believe there is a more effective model and method for communicating it to as many teenagers in Dupage County as possible.