I’m typing this blog post through half-opened eyes, partially encrusted with cookie crumbs. Last night was our 3rd annual “Cookie Blowout”; an event our student ministry does each year to celebrate the Christmas season and to give all our students a chance to invite their friends to what ends up being the best Christmas party they’ll attend. We have cookies as far as the eye can see, milk flowing freely, contests, giveaways, and countless opportunities to make a spectacle of yourself. In a word, its fantastic.
So we hosted a couple hundred people here last night and the event (from all indicators) lived up to the buzzing hype that surrounded it weeks prior. We had a great crowd that brought a great vibe to make it a great event. Let me first tell you what made it so great, then tell you from a ministry standpoint where we go from here.
First off, unlike in years past, our Student Leadership Team really took a more active, ownership role in this event. From the conception of the activities, to setting the place up, to overseeing during, to cleaning up after…the student leaders simply rocked. I was proud of each of them!
Second, the atmosphere was one of warmth and connection. We wanted not one person left out, disengaged, or unembraced. And I’d dare say that as I walked and played and talked with students last night, we hit the mark. Its so true that new students come to an event like this with 3 questions: 1) Will anyone know I’m here? 2) Will anyone care I’m here? and 3) Will anyone include me? I challenge our student leaders to relieve any new face of any responsibility to find their way in. We want to make sure every person feels welcomed, no exceptions. If a new student came last night and never returns, we certainly don’t want that to be for our lack of effort to welcome and include them. After all the top 3 most important things to teens are: 1) Friends, 2) Friends, and 3) Friends.
Finally (for this blog anyway), what made the event were the students themselves. This one is closely connected to #2 above, but quite honestly the students that came seemed bound and determined to not only have a great time, but create a great time for others. That’s an important distinction.
That’s a tipping point in any student ministry; when students not only come for what they can get, but for what they can give. It’s a critical difference and its the difference between a student ministry that is self-centered and one that is others-focused. Our Karaoke Jam last night was a prime example. Not only did those who took the stage do so with gusto, but those who watched were thoroughly entertained. Laughter poured out of that room like eggnog. It was infectious. And it was an important reminder that many of our students understand that they don’t simply come to take, but to give.
So, where do we go from here?
First, a nap. I’m pooped.
Second, we communicate to all students and leaders involved, thanking them for coming, sharing some pictures/videos, and give them some next steps. We had plenty of new faces last night; students who had their very first exposure to Southside Students last night. And based on the smiles, they seemed to love what they encountered. What we want to do now is to let them know that they’re welcome at the Mixx this and every weekend, and to tell them when our next Weekend Blitz is happening (Feb. 10th: “Bowl’n’Roll!”). This way there are hands they can hold as they move forward with us. As I told our student leaders, the ultimate goal of the Cookie Blowout isn’t just to eat cookies and have insane fun, but its also to allow more students to come and enjoy the very unique and wonderful group of teens known as “Southside Students”.
Finally, we celebrate the fact that we have an incredible body of believers (of all ages) at Southside Church that get behind efforts to share God’s love on a broader scale like this. Each of them do so in their daily lives for sure, but there’s a different dynamic when we link arms, bake cookies, and fling the doors wide open, inviting community students to come in, test the waters, and find that there’s a place for them with us.