Have you ever seen a 48-hour mystery special on TV? Usually they are trying to discover the missing truth and/or find a missing person. Authorities tell us that if someone goes missing, they need to be found within a 48 hour time period or the chances of finding them goes down significantly. This leaves police, detectives and eyewitnesses in a pressure-filled time frame. And just like in these mystery cases where time is a critical factor, follow up in youth ministry is also crucial.
I know most summer youth ministry schedules are filled with mission trips, leadership training and youth conferences. Just as important as your preparation and work during the event are, what happens after the retreat is even more critical – especially in the 48 hour period. Teens come back fired up, excited about their faith and they need to share it.
Below are some simple suggestions to maximize the effectiveness of an event within 48 hours.
The time you spend with teens during the retreat will set you up for later follow up. Retreats are a chance for youth to gain trust in youth ministers and Core Members. If teens make a connection, the more likely they will come back. Everything is worth it! Time waiting in a lunch line, small groups, or just walking across campus – this is all valuable! Invite the teen to share their experience and on the way home create opportunities for teens to express what God did in their life.
End in Mind.
Always be preparing teens for life after the retreat/event, even at the beginning of the retreat. At the beginning, talk with them about how things are going in their life. Walk with them where they are. Then, toward the end of the retreat, start asking about some changes they would like to see made in their own lives, in their families and friends and in the parish.
Be present and pray! The most important resources you have in your ministry are the living witness of adults in your parish, especially those involved in youth ministry.
Teens want to know that you care about them. Send them an email, text, or Facebook message within 48 hours of an event. Ask them how they are doing, invite them to Mass, youth group, and other outings!
Before you leave on the trip, set a date for a reunion. This could be a fun night at the parish that includes a BBQ, kickball and faith sharing.
The youth minister and Core Members will be the connection back to an event where (hopefully) they experienced God in a powerful way. Your presence after an event will remind them of God’s love and their decision to follow Him.
Those 48 hours are a crucial window of opportunity that we can’t afford to pass up. It will show the teens your commitment to them and their walk of faith – which goes way beyond 48 hours.