Monday, November 22, 2010

So...Cookies vs Coke

At the start of the year we held a parent reception at the launch of a new year of Student Life Groups.
My brief was fairly simple..."Create an environment to allow parents to connect with ministry staff and each other, hear the vision for the year ahead and pray for their students"

My budget was around <$1 per person and I had about 24hrs to pull it together.

Some of my team were convinced that we need to provide a snack (preferably cookies) for parents. My reluctance was that to make cookies or cupckaes look appealing you need a lot (either quantity or budget) and then you are often left with a ton of excess food.

We had hot weather at the time of this event (thanks SoCal) so I landed on a simple soft-drinks reception outside. Attendance for these type of events are difficult to predict but excess drinks can either be returned or stored for future use.

I borrowed some kiddie pools form childrens' ministry, filled them with ice and added bottled soft drinks. We made centerpieces using balloons left over from another event. I bought all those soft drinks that people love but never buy (people went nuts over an ice cold coke in a glass bottle) which made it a pleasant treat for parents on a warm evening.
Add in lots of cheap bottled water, some up-lighters, chilled music and some grade signs made out of photographs of students (frames borrowed from adult ministries) and you have a reception.

The highlight was parents gathering up in groups based on their students grade and praying for our ministry, for their students relationship with God and for the year ahead. It was super powerful.

Here's a few guidelines I loosely stick to for this kind of event...

1. Keep it simple - you don't need to put on an elaborate song and dance just create something that appears professional and thought through.
2. Keep it short - parents are the busiest people I know, acknowledge that and don't keep them longer than they want to stay.
3. Show you care - make it heartfelt, be ready to work the crowd and be available not just for formal questions but be personal.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So...Life Group Retreat

Last Friday we held a Life Group Retreat. "Life Groups" are our version of small groups for high school students named to emphasize the importance of sharing life together.

The retreat was simple. Leaders register their group and each leader really planned the overnighter for their own students (transport, games, dinner, activities, Etc). I provided hotel accommodation that is located close to places to eat and things to do. We ran a very short program at the beginning of the evening to give away a few prizes and to help those newer leaders feel supported and not on their own.

Purpose: To provide an environment for Life Group Leaders to spend quality relational time with their students. Primarily aimed at Freshman or newly formed groups to give them a good head start in relationship building.

Cost: $49 per student (Leader cost covered by student fees)

Accommodation: 4 people to a room, I chose a RedLion hotel where 95% of all the rooms are identical with 2 Queen beds. Pool, fire pits, lounge/lobby area.

Meeting space: Complimentary use of meeting room (I brought my own PA system)

Catering: Groups arranged to meet for dinner on their way to the hotel Friday night, this was not included in the $49. Hot Buffet breakfast included in rooms rate.

Transportation: Groups arranged their own transportation to and from the hotel (30mins drive)

A few thoughts...

1. If we do it again I would rename it "Life Group Overnighter" or "Life Group Hangout" or something that gives a better indication of the low-key nature of the event and doesn't encroach upon our programmed events (like Winter Camp and Summer Camp)

2. It is worth shopping around for hotels and a personal visit will help.

3. Check if the hotel has a rewards program.

4. When you submit the room list, request that girls and guys are on different floors.

5. As trip leader arrive hours earlier than the students/leaders, you will have to reorganize a few rooms around and fix a few errors.

6. Be proactive. I usually check with the front desk during the evening/night to see of there have been any problems. This gives a good impression and helps you head off any potential problems early.

7. Keep the programmed part of the event short. We met together and played a quiz that gave everyone the chance to in something for their group (ranging from a giant bag of popcorn to a deck of cards). Students will be hyped up to stay in a hotel so anything more than that will be tough. It's just a chance to check everyone is ok.

8. Keep your guidelines to minimum. If you are asking leaders to run the show for their group...let them. My only rule was to respect the hotel and follow their leaders direction.

9. Give leaders contact cards. I have a cell phone designated for events so that I can leave the ringtone on LOUD all night.


Thought this was an interesting Guest post by Geoff Stewart (Student Ministries Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church) on (by boss's blog)

GUEST POST: To Subsidize or not to Subsidize

November 6th, 2010

A common challenge we face as youth workers is the decision of whether or not to subsidize an event or trip. The reasons for doing this could include, keeping the cost per student down, allowing more students to come or perhaps paying for a single student that cannot afford to come at all. There are a couple of things we should consider before do so.....

To read more click here