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Jonathan's Answers to Tough Questions

QUESTION:

I wonder if you have an input for us regarding a ministry we have called Pizza and Discussion.

Another area pastor and I have had a weekly ministry with our senior high school students that looks like this: We order pizza from the local pizza shop and bring the pizzas over to the high school music room or gym, where we invite our students to join us for 30 minutes. We eat together and then use about 15 minutes for discussion of faith-related topics. Last year we had about 20-22 students participating. It was fairly easy to have a "large group" discussion or break into smaller groups for questions.

This year the group has mushroomed to 40 students every week (out of a high school of 120!). Obviously it is much more challenging to gain and keep the attention of 40 students rather than 20. Because they are on a lunch break and away from class, so there's plenty of talking as they interact with their friends (understandable). It's not easy to focus on a discussion topic or keep their interest.

We think it is valuable to just "hang out" with these students each week but we also hope to offer some spiritual "nourishment." We've used short video clips, discussion starters, small group types of things (they sit around tables of 6-8 people). Do you have any suggestions for us as to how we can enhance this ministry?

Thanks,

Pastor Deborah

ANSWER:

Deborah,

If you've got thick crust double pepperoni's with extra cheese ... I'M THERE! When's the next one?

First, I love the format of your pizza and discussion. I'm always thrilled when someone actually goes on campus. When it comes to "outreach" or "reaching the unchurched," the local school is a great place to start.

AN IMPORTANT UNDERSTANDING
Whether planning a weekly study or a week long camp, we need to realize something. I have yet to have a student come up to me, retreat permission slip in hand, and utter the words, "Jonathan, what will you be speaking on?" They couldn't care less. Their question (and the determining factor concerning their attendance) is always, "Who else is going?" The number one thing that students like to do today is not study the Bible, answer questions, or even play games. The number one thing that they like to do is just "kick it with their friends," or "hang out with their friends." I'M NOT SAYING DON'T STUDY THE BIBLE OR HAVE A DISCUSSION! I'm just saying that we as youth leaders need to realize that one of the key factors to drawing students in is FELLOWSHIP. This affects our program because we need to recognize this need and make sure it is being met.

CONTENT
So is the answer just an empty room for students to "hang out" in? No. Students also want purpose for their life. We have the only answer to the void in their life- the answer is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Programs such as yours can open doors to discussions about God, providing the aswers they need.

As for your specific program, you don't want to change much- because it's working. What you do want to do is put some good effort into ALLOWING SOME SOCIAL TIME, and KEEPING THEIR ATTENTION with relevant material.

Check out my ASK JONATHAN question "Kid's won't shut their big yappers!" This touches on the issue of providing social time and dealing with discipline problems.

Second- find some relative curriculum for this type of outreach event. Hey! I happen to have a whole page devoted to that on my midweek program, CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS page under YOUTH OUTREACH AGENDAS

Keep up the good work.

God Bless,

Jonathan













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