What you do with students after they visit your youth group is just as important as what you do to welcome students when they step into your youth room for the first time. How you follow up with new students (and regulars) will speak volumes into the heart of any teenager.When I started at St. Paul's, there was no set way of knowing who attended any given night of youth group. Students came and went, leaving no record of their visit, or how to contact them for follow up. I learned a long time ago that I needed a strategic and effective plan for how to not only follow up with visiting students, but my regularly attending students, as well. Here's what I do:
Sign In At The Welcome Table
Not new to the youth ministry world, the welcome table is the first stop as you enter our youth building. Student and Adult Leaders rotate as they greet the arriving students. We ask that everyone sign in, giving us a master list of who's in the building. However, we've learned that this is not a fool-proof policy. Often students enter in groups or come in late and don't sign in. But it's a start.
The dGroup Check In
Following the message each week, we break our students into discussion groups (we call them dGroups for short). Our dGroups are divided by grade, and every student must go to a group at the set time. One of the first things that our group leaders do is to record who is in the group. This gives us a more accurate list of the students who were attending that night.
At the start of each school year, we ask every student to fill out a CareCard. The CareCard asks students for their contact information, parents' names, email, and what social network they belong to, i.e., Facebook, Myspace, etc. But the cards also ask for information like, what sports do they play? What school clubs are they in? What hobbies do they like? This gives us a snapshot into the life of the student. And as a pastor, it helps me find opportunities to connect with the students outside of our weekly youth group.
The Follow Up
Follow up begins after the first visit a student makes to youth group. For new students, a welcome letter is sent to the student and parents with a brochure of the ministries our group sponsors. If that student returns, a more personal card is sent. Because we record the weekly attendance, we can track when students miss a week. If a student misses two weeks, a post card with a personal note is sent. Beyond that, the student's group leader is asked to make a call, followed by a call from me if necessary.
Make Use of Social Networking
There is debate on the use of social networking sites and ministry. Pro's and con's make fair arguments for and against the practice. But I find social networking sites to be a useful tool. Students, and their parents are on Facebook or Myspace. Since I, and most of my students, prefer Facebook, I use it as a tool to stay in touch with my students, post announcements, promote events, and email and message my leaders. Used wisely, social networking sites are a wonderful tool. (My only caution is that you understand what the site is for, know the security settings and privacy protections, and that it's a site suitable for your ministry and your students.) Knowing your students is important. This starts when they walk in the door. But following-up is key. With good follow-up practices, your students will know that you care when they see you taking the time to step into their world. Call, text, write, visit, cheer, and love your students!
- What are your best practices for knowing who is attending your ministry events?
- What are your best practices for following up with your students?