by Scott Bond Jr.
Almost all congregations have a Wednesday night Bible study. But making that night special takes some extra forethought, planning and effort. Throughout the last seven years, I've always tried to go the extra mile to create a unique Wednesday night environment for young people:
- An environment that teenagers enjoy and are excited to attend
- An environment where evangelism and outreach is encouraged - teenagers want to bring their friends
- An environment where teenagers are loved, welcomed, and accepted
- An environment that includes teenagers in the overall life and mission of the church
- An environment where teenagers have opportunities for service, social time with friends, and study of the Word
- An environment where the teaching focuses on the person and work of Jesus, and the power and relevance of the gospel in the life of a young person
This Wednesday night program has taken different shapes and formats and even names. We've called it Secret Service, Mission Possible, Family Meal Night, and our most recent experiment at Spring Meadows is GLOW. While the name has changed, the game hasn't. We believe in inviting, calling, befriending, building, and training young people as disciples of Jesus Christ.
We've seen nights where more "unchurched" students attended than "church" kids. We've talked for hours after each weekly event with students facing issues like divorce, depression, drugs and eating disorders. We've seen Wednesday night classes quadruple in numbers from below 15 attendees to 60+. We've seen students invite, teach, and baptize their own friends. We've seen this program create momentum adding, multiplying and overflowing our classrooms young hearts eager for gospel truth. And that is what this is all about.
So here's how to build this program from the ground up.
- Get excited. Somebody has to be a spark; teens feed off enthusiasm and want to be part of things where an electric buzz of excitement is in the air
- Talk it up. Start planning and announcing plans for your weekly event. Print postcards, Facebook invite, send texts to remind students of start time (5:30, 6:00, etc.)
- Offer rides. Take the church bus to the ball fields, middle schools, local parks and parking lots where kids hang out. Get your teens to call their friends, and then show up outside their house to pick them up. Our all all-time record is 27 kids loaded in a 15-passenger van. Don't tell my elders
- Check them in. A table at the front door helps us to welcome, get contact info for new visitors, and get them familiar with who we are and what we do
- Plan a game or fun activity. Something kids can get engaged quick: dodge ball, ninja, wink, etc.
- Feed them. Have snacks (chips, cookies, little Debbie) and drinks available. If you can afford it, surprise them with food (pizza, chicken strips, etc.)
- Round them up. Encourage them to sit together on the front section of pews for devotional time with the rest of the church. Nothing gets a church more excited than seeing rows and rows jam-packed with young people
- Recruit help. It's a job to set up, clean up, and keep up! Moms and college students who can arrive (15 minutes early) and stick around (15 minutes after) are a tremendous blessing to the success of this program
- Offer creative ways for teens to serve, give, contribute in the work of the church. Skype with a missionary, take flowers to nursing home patients, or adopt a child to support in third-world missions.
- Teach Jesus. The #1 reason we create all this "hoopla" on Wednesday nights is to share the joy and excitement in the gospel message of salvation. We believe in the transforming power of Christ and have seen it make a difference in the lives and eternities of young people
Every now and then somebody will complain about the slice of pizza clogging the toilet or the Twinkie stuck to the ceiling. But nothing compares with the rejoicing when a youth is baptized into Christ on Wednesday night—and later brings their entire family to be baptized as well.
Here is a video we use to invite students on Wednesday nights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE-mAGSWfgA&sns=em
Here is one story about a girl who changed her friend's eternity on a Wednesday night: http://gospelglow.com/2011/11/friends-find-friends/
Scott Bond is the youth minister for the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.