Doors Open at _________
Let me paint two pictures for you.
1.) You have an open door policy. You're running around getting things set up for youth. Sally comes to youth earlier than everyone else because it's the only time her mom can bring her. She walks into the youth room, sits on a old torn up couch and buries her head into her cell phone. Another student walks in and sits on a different couch and does the same. A group of students walk in together and play ping pong or foosball.
2.) Your doors open at 6:30. Prior to that, Sally is congregating in the lobby with other students, going to the Community Meal, or standing in the hallway. Meanwhile, you're getting ready for youth group. 6:30PM strikes. You and your leaders open the doors. The music is thumping. You're handing out candy or highfives or glowsticks. Everyone gets greeted. Energy is high and students are all together from the beginning.
Which party would you rather go to? There's a reason lines form outside of clubs. Building expectation is great. Starting with a packed room is great. Greeting everyone at the door is great. Could your youth group benefit from keeping the doors locked until your start time? Set a time for your doors to open and stick to it. Sally will thank you for it.
Nightclubs and bars often use theme nights to attract new customers or entice old ones to come back. We're not suggesting that you have an "Anything but clothes party" or a lingerie night. But try one of these out http://www.youthgroupcollective.com/eventsandthemednights/ Our youth group is having a cereal party next week.
Know Who Walks In the Door
You don't have to check IDs or put black X's on their hands as they walk in (although some youth groups do to choose to use stamps). But you need a system in place so that you know who walks in the door. We use Hey You Cards to collect info from first timers and we take attendance every week (one leader marks off who comes). Don't just write a number down. Knowing who comes also means knowing who isn't coming. Having names allows you to follow up with students who haven't come in a while. We had a students' mother complain that their child wasn't getting much out of youth - we checked her daughter's attendance and she probably came once every 5 weeks. We also send out letters a few times a year saying, "It's been this many weeks since we've seen you and we miss you." Or "we've seen you 15 weeks out of the past 17... and we just want you to know how much we appreciate you!"
Hold Back the Supply
The hottest, hardest-to-get-in nightclubs are only open a few days a week. This is also the same reason that diamonds are so expensive even though rubies are even rarer. When you hold back the supply, people want more. If you want your youth group to be well populated every night, don't open 7 days a week. A lot of big youth groups are actually only doing one event a week. They have HS only on a Wednesday Night but they won't offer anything to HS students on a Sunday morning - they'll tell HS students to serve or go to church. Then, they'll have a MS event on Sunday morning but won't give them anything else any other day of the week. You get to consolidate resources and focus. You're essentially giving them one awesome day rather than 2 or 3 mediocre get togethers.
Take Production Value Seriously
Setting matters. Atmosphere matters. Production value matters. I went to a music venue that had the back seat of a van bolted to the ground, black pipes for railings, dark lighting, permanent marker all over the tables and walls, and industrial light fixtures. Sure, it looked like someone's basement but that's the feel they were going for and they were doing it well enough. I'm not saying you need to spend a fortune or look super modern. Youth pastors should be experts at ballin' on a budget. Don't let your youth room look like the drop off center of a Goodwill. Figure out the right look for your youth group and don't deviate. You shouldn't be "Tidal Wave Youth" all the while sporting a youth room with road signs, traffic lights, and car parts.
Whatever you do, don't go overboard with this line of thinking.
like this "youth group."