Before you leave the Gathering, or on your journey home, have a conversation with your group and have each person write down three things about themselves that they want to change based on what they heard/learned here. They can tuck these away to look at later, or they can give them to you to mail to them in 3 months as a reminder.
Within two weeks of the Gathering, pull your group together for a reunion. Gather for a meal, look at photos, tell stories, and then ask "how can we share what we've learned with the congregation?" and ask them "What are ways that you've shared your experiences in your life apart from church?" That conversation itself will help with the continuity of the event.
Arrange for your group to lead an adult education session/forum within a month of the beginning of the fall programming year. Don't do it before then. It needs to be a part of the congregation's regular programming cycle. Meet with members of your group every two weeks between your reunion (see #1 above) to plan it. Make sure it is led by the young people. Let them tell the stories. Assign it so different young people are responsible for sharing from each day of the Gathering, plus someone to talk about the travel, another to talk about any side-trips you might have done, etc...
Organize your group to meet every two weeks (or at least monthly) in the fall to continue getting together. Organize your topics around the seven faith practices. You can organize it this way: September - Just get together to meet, to pray and to organize October - Topic: Encourage November - Topic: Invite (An outcome: have them invite someone to join your group in December for the Christmas party) December - Do a Christmas party this month January - Topic: Welcome February - Topic: Pray March - Topic: Give April - Topic: Study May - Topic: Serve
Have your young people experience and take Peer Ministry Training. There is some cost to it, but it is excellent leadership training, and training in how young people can do ministry. More information is available here.
Twice a year, tell the group that the next time they meet you are all going to focus on faith questions. Have them text you faith questions in advance. Invite a panel of different people (graduates? parents? a pastor?) to come and be a part of the conversation.
Create a closed conversation on a social media platform for your group, where people can ask and post their questions in a safe place and invite responses from others in the group.
Have your group adopt a care center or memory unit and make regular visits to build relationships. (While most care centers will let groups come to visit, they really prefer an ongoing relationship instead of a "one-off" event)
Create a church youth group Instagram account and assign 2-3 of your young people to manage it. Set clear expectations and a goal for it. Is it to communicate with each other? With the broader congregation? Ask your group specific questions about the way they see God in the world, and post images that reflect that.
Have your young people sponsor a breakfast, or a picnic for the congregation, not for the purpose of fundraising. Do it as a "break even" event. Do it just because it's a good thing to do and it shows how young people can lead.
Have a young person on your congregational council. But do not have a designated "youth position." That feels like tokenism. Rather, just nominate someone to serve and make sure there is always at least one serving on council. Add their wisdom to your conversations and it's great leadership experience.
When your group gathers, have them text their friends with words of encouragement.
Train and then rotate young people serving as worship assistants.
When your group gathers, invite an adult to come and talk about how their faith affects their daily life.
Create a prayer chain (maybe with a text group) within your group.
Every time your group meets, have a different young person lead devotions. But meet with them in a coffee shop or other public space the week prior to the meeting to talk through the devotion with them, and help coach them. It's great prep and training for them, but it's also a great excuse to meet with them one-on-one and build a relationship with them.
Have your senior high young people lead Vacation Bible School. Do the prep work, but put them in public roles...leading prayers, doing skits, leading music.
Take your group on a prayer walk. Walk through parts of your community and pause to pray together for the people who live or work there.
Have your group pick one of the ministries your congregation supports. Have them do a fundraiser, not for their own trips or events, but to support that ministry.
As a group, identify a problem or a cause in the world that they have some passion about. Find a ministry that addresses that problem and contact them. Ask how your group could help and then get involved.
Pick a faith practice and try it with their family. Example: Invite your family to pray before a meal. Serve together at a food shelf. Buy a devotional book and share responsibility with everyone, leading a devotion, at least once a week.
Teach your young people to lead "highs and lows" at dinner meals. (For more on this, go to faith5.org)
Create in your group members the habit of doing a random act of kindness, and then write that down in a journal to keep yourself accountable.
Teach your group members that every time they brush their teeth, they should think of something they are grateful for and pray for that. "Prayer triggers" like this are practices that can become powerful habits.
Whenever your group meets, in devotion or worship time, ask the question, "where did you see God this week?" Begin with something that you saw or experienced, and expect that the first couple of times you do it, there will be silence. But continue. Gradually, over time, the group will learn what it is that you are looking for, and they will begin to participate. Later, you may even find them initiating the conversation with things they saw. (But it takes time and patience.)
As a group, read the scripture that is coming up for the next week, and then ask them "if you were preaching on this piece of scripture, what would you say in that sermon?" and what would you want to know more about?
Have the youth group serve as hosts for a major congregational event. A dinner, or maybe the annual meeting. Have them create a new template for the name tags that people wear. Have two lines: One for their name, and one for the name of the city in which they were baptized. It will create lots of conversations. People will be surprised by who was baptized where. Have members of the youth group lead the opening devotion (maybe based on a good "identity" scripture, like the story of Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:13-17). At the end of the devotion, have them give the congregation new nametags to put over the old ones. The new ones could say something like "Child of God, Loved Beyond Measure."
Have your youth create and lead a worship service with the whole congregation.
Have your group create a Spotify playlist of their favorite contemporary Christian/worship music and share that list amongst themselves.
Have your group create a Spotify playlist of any songs that they find brings meaning and joy to their lives. When you gather, have them talk about why those songs are meaningful.
Create a blessing ritual that helps young people remember and claim their shared identity as God's children. One example is at the end of each time your group gathers have students go to another student and make the sign of the cross on their forehead and say, "You are a beloved child of God" or "God loves you and I love you."
Do an inventory of the needs in your community and make it accessible to the youth in your ministry. One idea is to take a month to explore the needs of people within your congregation, ask people at your local schools, invite community service organizations to come talk with your group, and/or interview community leaders. Make a list and make it available (with contact information) on your website. Then challenge youth to pick one and get involved in the next two months and then have a celebration night where each student shares what they did and what it was like.
Have a retreat where young people complete a gifts inventory (LikeKeys has one, but there are others.) Have students take the inventory then engage in activities that bring to life how different gifts serve the body of Christ and the world.
Got a question, or need help or support?
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network strengthens and empowers adult leaders of children, youth and family ministry in service to Christ.