Yearly young adult ministry retreats can serve as “keystone events,” helping to create momentum and rhythms for conference level and local church calendars. The goal is to use these retreats to funnel momentum and energy back to the local church, as well as connect young adults who are currently not plugged in, by giving them a three-day experience of warm loving community. Here Benjamin Lundquist, Young Adult Ministry Director for the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, offers some insights:
I always recommend that local churches use our conference events to supplement their local church young adult ministry calendar building a great bridge between conference level events and the local church. As the local church builds their ministry calendar, let the conference provide them with 3-4 plug and play calendar events right off the bat.
I usually end our retreat events with a visioning session where we talk about our dream for vibrant local church communities and the steps needed to make that happen.
During the retreat there is much intentionality in networking local leaders together through introductions and recognition of common interests. There is also a time given for local leaders to share about what is happening at their church for young adults. We also connect young adults from different regions of the conference to local leaders who happen to be in that same region. Many of these connections happen for the first time at a retreat weekend.
15 Suggestions for Leveraging Big Event Momentum for Local Church Benefit!
Once the big event is done, how can leaders maximize momentum back home, for the benefit of local church ministry? Maybe you can relate to this scenario, you and your team drive away from the “big ministry event” with lots of great stories and memories, the organizers did an incredible job with the planning and the event was awesome, only to see that momentum fade quickly in the weeks to come. Scenarios like this have plagued youth and young adult ministry for decades, so much so that many ministry leaders question the value of big events. If you are a local leader, here are a 15 suggestions on how you can better leverage big ministry events, for local church ministry benefit. Think strategic!
1. Take Pictures – During the event take pictures of your young adults engaging in the weekend, especially a group photo from your local church group, with a background that is unique to the retreat venue. Make sure the photos are quality, if needed, give this responsibility to one of your young adults who has the new I Phone 11 Pro, that’s why they bought the phone in the first place. You will need these photos later.
2. Network the Weekend – Make a list, with contact information, for any young adult or local ministry leader who is in your same region of the conference. Ask your young adults to be part of your networking team in collecting this information throughout the event. Broader networking will take a bigger team that just you.
3. Collect Quotes – On the ride home ask your young adults to text you a single quote about how the weekend was a blessing for them. You will need these quotes later.
4. Connect with the Event Organizer Before Leaving – Let the event organizer know that you will be sending her or him an email with a number of quotes and pictures from the weekend, this will arrive by the end of the following week.
5. Take a day off – After a big ministry event weekend you need to invest in self-care and recovery. If you are exhausted and have nothing left in your tank, you won’t have a healthy strategic mindset to maximize the momentum in your local church. Say no to a few things and rest up.
6. Show Gratitude – Send a message to all volunteers and team leaders who helped make this event possible for your local group, let them know how much their time and energy investment meant to you and your young adults. Don’t burn volunteers out, fill their gratitude cup.
7. Social Media Post – Using the photos that you collected from the event and a few quotes from your young adults, do a high-quality social media post on all your young adult ministry platforms (IG, FB, Twitter…). Adjust the post for effectiveness according to each platform. Your young adults will want to see photos and share photos on their personal platforms, within 48 hours of the event. Make sure you “tag” all your young adults, volunteer staff, and event organizers in the post.
8. Admin Report – Your local administrative team (Pastors, Church Board, Elders…) won’t know what happened at the big event unless you tell them. As you have opportunities, report on what happened over the big event weekend with pictures. You may even want to include one or two of your young adults in these reports. The goal of the reporting is to give God glory for what he did, and highlight the growth and development within your young adult ministry.
9. Send an Email Report – As mentioned earlier, send an email report with quotes and pictures to the event organizer. This does a number of things, it gets your church on the radar, equips the event organizer with content to share and report on with their administration, and it provides gratitude and appreciation to the event organizer for all their work in running the event. I’ll be honest, this rarely ever happens, and is a huge miss for the local church.
10. Follow Up on Leads – Remember that list of names with contact information? Followup on all the networking leads with a simple text message or social media message. When you follow up you need to have something else to invite these contacts to, figure out what would be the best strategic invite for engagement beyond the big event – basketball night, coffee shop met-up, Bible study, or maybe Sabbath School. Don’t forget to follow up with other ministry leaders in your region with the same quick message approach.
11. Carry the Theme – Once your group arrives back to your local context, it can create continuity by carrying the big event theme back into your context through a teaching or study series. If your young adults connected with the theme, keep it going.
12. Invite the Event Organizer – As a followup to the big event, schedule the big event organizer to come and be part of a local ministry effort at your church. Again, this helps build bridges and grows momentum.
13. Debrief the Big Event Over Dinner – Leaders are learners, and hosting a debrief with your young adults over dinner (Please feed your young adults), can help take your young adult ministry to the next level. Keep this debrief positive! The goal here is to apply key learnings from the big event to your local young adult ministry context to make it better.
14. New Worship Song – If you’re young adults connected with a new worship song at the big event, intentionally add that same song to the worship set list back in your local context.
15. Worship Service Spotlight – Take a few moments during the Sabbath morning service after the big event, and do an extremely high-quality report on the weekend for your church family. At the end of the report (5-7min), make sure you share with your church family how they can tap into your young adult ministry calendar (You need a calendar) and upcoming events, have a table in the lobby after service with promotional material for your local young adult ministry. This will be one of the best times to connect with grandparents and parents of young adults.
I hope these suggestions help in creating a strategic approach for ministry life after the big event. Remember, all big events should strengthen local church ministry, and with the right strategic approach they will! –Benjamin Lundquist