If you went to Church when you were in elementary school, do you remember when your Sunday School teacher would give you all handouts to give to your parents that highlighted what you learned in class? I remember them because now, as a father, I am getting them from my daughters.
What are the main purposes of those handouts? Carolyn Covert, the Children’s Ministry Director at my Church said that the purpose of those handouts are “to enforce the lesson they learned that day.” Different teachers may expect different things for the students to do with those handouts, but hopefully two actions will become of it:
- The children will look at it throughout the week as a way to reinforce what they learned on Sunday
- Parents will sit down with their children and go over it together. What a great way for parents and children to do together! Parents get to know what their children are learning and it is an activity they can do together as a family.
If reinforcement is the key, then why, when students reach the middle and high school grades, do we stop giving out these handouts? Most likely it is because they are no longer age appropriate. If Youth Pastors handed out papers to their youth, odds are that most youth will probably trash them before they even reach their parents. So, does that mean that there are no effective ways to follow up with the youth to reinforce what they learned on Sunday? Of course not! But, it does mean that we have to be creative in how we do follow up. Handouts that talk about little Jimmy and the Toaster that talks probably wouldn’t work well with middle and high school students.
Follow up and reinforcing with students is important for a variety of reason. Most importantly, if we are in the business of life transformation (which is what I think we do, right?), then we cannot expect life transformation to happen just on Sundays. Life transformation happens when we help them process and apply what they learn on Sundays throughout the week. In addition, when we follow up and pursue the students, it shows them that we care about them and their well being. In a world where students go through a roller coaster of emotional relationships with their peers, it is great for them to have a steady adult-friend relationship in which they know we care about them and who they are. As Youth Pastors we have to find ways to take what they hear and follow up with them throughout the week. But, how do we do that?
I use 4 different ways to follow up with students and reinforce throughout the week. The first way is a devotional blog I do each week. Each Sunday morning, I will cover a topical series (currently, we are focusing on the Sermon on the Mount and challenges Christ had for us in his sermon). Then, on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, I post a devotional based on the message so that the youth can rediscover the principle again, just in a different format. This way, the message and application are reinforced when they do this online devotional. I believe this works because we live in a digital world where students spend countless hours on the internet. By creating this devotional blog, my hope is that instead of looking up scores on ESPN or Youtube videos, they can do something more productive by being challenged in Christ and review what they learned earlier in the week.
The second way I follow up and reinforce is similar. I record my messages and upload them as podcasts on iTunes. As with the blog, I am taking a media platform that the students are very familiar with – iTunes/podcasting and put our weekly messages on it. Unless you have been living in an underground layer for years, it is hard to walk by any number of students and not see a variety of iPods or mp3 players. Students love them and practically everyone has them. If they do not have an iPod, most people have computers that they can easily download your message to their computer and listen to it from there. This way, they can review what they heard on Sunday and the application/challenge can be reinforced.
Setting up a blog and/or podcast for FREE are easy to do. For a free blog, you can go to either http://www.blogspot.com or http://www.wordpress.com. For a free podcast host site, go to http://www.podomatic.com. If you want your messages on iTunes for easy downloads, you will then have to go iTunes and submit your podcast. It takes a few days for them to approve it. Do not be intimated about setting these up. They are fast and easy to do!
The third way is to have students share how God is impacting their life. At the end of each message, we discuss a challenge for students to take with them and apply to their life. As our leaders follow up with students throughout the week, we are challenging them to apply what they heard and to see if someone would like to share about their experience to the other students the following week. What we are looking for is someone who earnestly sought the Lord that week and be able to share how it went. When you have students share about experiencing God in their lives, it inspires others to do likewise. As Rick Beckwith, the Senior Director of Field Initiatives for Young Life said to me, “if we are constantly having kids share what they are learning, how they are being changed, so that becomes ‘normal’, then those who are just letting it go in one ear and out the other will start to feel left out.” Having students share is a great way to reinforce what they learned the week before as it shows that students are doing something about it and desire to be impacted and changed.
The last way is to encourage leaders to be following up with students throughout the week. I believe that this is the most effective way as it promotes the incarnational ministry style that Christ modeled. As much as I love these other ideas, you cannot process with another student or get that great face-to-face time that is needed through a blog, podcast or even someone sharing. It is only through this valuable personal time with a student that real ministry can get done. This can happen through regular contact work or in small groups. What is important is leaders getting together with students to help reinforce teachings and to walk through life with the students. When we are able to do this, life transformation begins to happen.
These are four ways that I have found to be successful in following up with students and reinforcing what they are learning.
TAKE A MINUTE and…
1. Brainstorm different ways you can follow up regularly with students. Although some ways may be better and more effective than others, think outside the box and look for new ways to follow up with students. Then, try them out to see how effective they can be.
2. Try a blog! Again, it’s quick and easy. If you want to look at my examples, goto:
What are ways you all are using to follow up with youth? Post them so we can all benefit and try them out.