Wacky Weekend: A Backstory

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Time for a little backstory on the Wacky Weekend.

I observed a phenomenon in student ministry. There are certain weekends where some people travel and are out of town due to a holiday, extra day off of school, good weather, or any number of other reasons. On those weekends, attendance is usually down. I had wrongly assumed that a large number of families in our community all took off on these weekends.

Turns out . . . not so much. I discovered that what was really happening was this. Some families were traveling and away from our church for the weekend. Then, many families who were still around had students who thought, “Man, NO ONE is going to be at church this weekend. I’m not going.”

So, I faced a challenge. (not a problem – a challenge. I’m an optimist. All problems are challenges that need to be accepted and conquered. That comes from seeing problems as simply requirements to get your homework done in school. No one said, “Sorry teacher. I can’t finish my homework. It has too many problems!” However, it’s sad how many adults give up on things because there are “problems.” So . . . I see challenges, not problems.)

The challenge was how to get the students who were in town on these various weekends to want to come to church regardless of who was going to be there. Then, once they came, instead of saying, “Man, NO ONE is here.”, they would instead say, “Man, look at EVERYONE who is here.” (Now, I know not EVERYONE would be here. But this is the way students think and express themselves . . . especially in working with preteens and young teens in 5th-8th grade like I do.)

That’s when I came across this article in a blog by my friend Kurt Johnston, who is also a junior high pastor.

Kurt: No Way

I went and wrote a quote from this article on the wall in my office and drew a big speech bubble around it. (Okay, to be fair, part of my office wall was painted with white IdeaPaint so it’s my dry erase board. But technically, I get to write on the wall in my office.)

And then I read a newer, related post Kurt had made.

http://www.juniorhighministry.com/2011/04/12/no-good-ruts/

There was some really good stuff here! Kurt sparked a brainstorm in me that erupted onto my office wall.

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(Yes the image is blurred on purpose. We are only starting to use some of the ideas from this brainstorm. It’s like I’m letting you see the wrapped present but not letting you peek inside.) 😉 (And yes, my painted wall has a wooden border and marker tray. One of our awesome facilities staff members at church added it for me after he painted my wall with the IdeaPaint.)

And then I started to think about Apple. (The technology company based in Cupertino, California. Not the fruit. Although if you are thinking about the fruit, Granny Smith are my favorite kind of those apples.) I’ve been a huge fan of Apple for a long time. Full disclosure: I even worked as a Mac Specialist at the Apple Store in Indianapolis for eight weeks in 2007. Although, it was so much fun, it’s weird to call it work.

Anyway…Apple keynotes are some of the most well-planned events and presentations any business does. I have learned a ton from watching the late Steve Jobs in how he delivered presentations. But before those events and presentations happened, Apple would promote the event. Yet, they only promote the event officially one week out. That’s it. 7 days! Who can plan an event and get a ton of people to show up when you only give them one week’s notice?! Who can get people to wait eagerly online to see the video of the presentation and updates on their website when they’ve only sent digital invite pieces out to a select number of people and done so one week out?! Yeah. Apple. That’s who.

However, that promotion method works because of mystery and expectation. Basically, from the time one presentation/event is done, rumors and speculation circulate all over the internet and social media as to what Apple will do next. People experience wonder and get excited, waiting for the official announcement while carefully studying all the various possibilities the rumor mongers spread around.

What if I could tap into some of that to help build stability, excitement and growth in student ministry? I could! Why not? Now, I couldn’t just announce what we were doing one week out. Let’s be honest. As much as I love the ministries I lead, there’s not a whole lot of buzz on the internet or social media to get the kind of response Apple gets.

However, what if I promoted an event and gave absolutely zero details about it? What if I simply said, “You don’t want to miss it!” Would students respond?

I opened up the thesaurus and searched for words like weird, strange, fun, etc. I came up with “Wacky.” I searched online and was reminded of a classic tv show I used to watch reruns of as a kid: Wacky Races! Jason, our media arts specialist on staff, created a logo inspired by theirs for our now titled, Wacky Weekends!

I picked five weekends with typically low attendance that I believe were more psychological than connected to people physically not being in our community.

The first was Labor Day weekend. We had one of our highest weekend attendances that weekend this year for our first Wacky Weekend! Our second was this past weekend, Thanksgiving weekend. We were at or slightly above normal, much in part, I believe, to Wacky Weekend!

Now, please hear me out on this. I am not taking out what God does. However, in student ministries, we have the freedom to mix things up, to experiment, to include a “no way” factor in ways other ministries can not. So, for five weekends this year, we are abandoning all we normally do on a typical weekend with 5th-8th graders to have these weekends full of fun and surprise. (and honestly, these are turning out to be as fun for me and the volunteers as they are for the students!)

Sidenote: I also realized early on that since we have services Saturday night and Sunday morning, word might get out and spoil the surprise for the Sunday morning crew. So, in our planning, we intentionally include either elements or a whole event plan that is different on the same weekend from Saturday to Sunday. Wacky!

Okay, that’s the backstory to Wacky Weekend.

A Note About Images

(I found some great pictures looking through Flickr using http://compfight.com. Every time I used an image, I included a note somewhere on the image with credit to who took the picture or created the image. On some of our posters, I even contacted the individual if I wasn’t clear what their permissions were for their image. Everyone was very helpful! A little help is never far away! By the way, parents, this can be a great tool to get images for school projects that really stand out in the crowd! Always remember to credit the source and ask for permission.)

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