3 Tangible Practices to Engage Students for the Easter Season

Spring can be an awkward time in youth ministry. The build-up from the beginning of the school year in August until winter break in December is gone. It’s typical to see a downward trend in attendance and participation. Schedules are overloaded with sports practices, theater rehearsals, and cramming for end-of-year exams. It is easy to see spring as a time to lament such things. But what if we shifted our focus? What if we looked at spring as a time to grow deeper and to offer a richness in teaching and spiritual discipline? What if we took what we were given and ran with it?

Here are a few ways to engage your students this Easter, help them to grow deeper in their faith, and take their next step toward Jesus.

  1. Expand community.

Too often, we encourage our students—sometimes subtly, other times not so subtly—to live Wednesday to Wednesday (or whatever night your weekly program is). As we get to the spring, we have lived through the year’s significant events—back to school, homecoming, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year—and now an opportunity presents itself to us. What if we give more opportunities for community and relationships instead of large events and programming? Duffy Robbins says in his book Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples (a powerful, faith-instilling resource): “We mustn’t forget that discipleship happens in relationship, and relationships won’t happen if we don’t meet kids on their terms.” Let’s meet students where they are instead of insisting that they join in on our thing. This spring, let’s give our small group leaders and students the ability to be adaptable and agile in uncertain schedules and the busyness of life. Let’s have Bible study at Starbucks before school and over a milkshake after tutoring. Let’s give more opportunities to build authentic community and offer invitations so that we can challenge students to dive deeper into their faith.

Let’s have Bible study at Starbucks before school and over a milkshake after tutoring. Let’s give more opportunities to build authentic community and offer invitations so that we can challenge students to dive deeper into their faith.

  1. Explore Scripture together.

The debate has circulated through youth ministry circles for decades: do we start with Scripture or begin with a topic that students are dealing with? There are probably ardent supporters for both sides of this argument, but what I’m suggesting doesn’t necessarily pick a side. However, the weeks leading up to Easter seem like a perfect opportunity to allow Scripture to carve the path for our discipling conversations. Check out what Andrew Root says in Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry. “Youth ministry is about inviting young people to participate in the action of God, who is found moving from nothingness to possibility. But, if the youth are going to participate in the dynamic action of this God, if we are going to invite them to discern where and how God is moving, we must invite them to reflect deeply on the biblical text.” But don’t just have them read it; read it together. Think about the Ethiopian eunuch found in Acts 8. He is reading Scripture and is frustrated. He doesn’t get it. But when reading with Phillip, he finds meaning and freedom in what he reads and, in turn, experiences life transformation! Need some ideas? Check out the many reading plans on YouVersion, or start reading the book of John. But whatever you do, do it together.

  1. Embrace serving.

One of the purposes of youth ministry is to help students find themselves in the person of Christ—to identify with Jesus and become more like him. I love the quote from Nancy Leigh DeMoss where she says, “We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving Him or others. There is no higher calling than to be a servant.” Walking toward Easter and focusing on community and Scripture, it’s hard to ignore the call to servanthood in the Kingdom of God. Find places for your group(s) to serve together. Perhaps it’s at the local food bank or even in your church’s children’s ministry on Sundays. Every time we help students serve, we unleash hope. Students get a sneak peek at how the world is supposed to be. They get to see a glimpse of what servanthood looks like when they brighten the day of the broken and hurting, when they get on the floor and build blocks with a child. They see the world through the cross and the resurrection all at once.

Every time we help students serve, we unleash hope. Students get a sneak peek at how the world is supposed to be. They get to see a glimpse of what servanthood looks like when they brighten the day of the broken and hurting, when they get on the floor and build blocks with a child. They see the world through the cross and the resurrection all at once.

Expand, explore, and embrace—three simple yet tangible ways to engage students this Easter in your youth ministry. I pray that you’ll be able to find the opportunities to impact the lives of students and that these will be fruitful days for teenagers to come to faith, bringing God’s kingdom in the lives of the people they interact with every day.

Joey Bocook
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