7 Great Fall Kickoff Ideas (now with super heroes!)

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It’s time to brainstorm ideas for how you will kickoff your fall programming.  If you don’t have a ready-made brainstorming partner or just need some ideas to get things rolling, here are several ideas to get your planning off the ground.

Cosmicon Information Kickoff (now with great photos!)

A couple of years ago, our Student Leadership Team had the brilliant idea of transforming our typical back-to-school event into, “COSMIC CON”.  They encouraged everyone to dress up as their favorite character and we had a couple of Harry Potters, Minnie Mouse, a Jedi Knight,  Tinkerbell, and even a student named Michael dress up as an angel.  We even rented  a photobooth that instantly printed copies, but also sent us a digital copy of each picture to use for publicity and name tags for the school year.

In our gym area we set up manned display booths where students and parents could get information and sign up for our weekly events, retreats, mission trips, and volunteer opportunities.  Instead of a staff member getting up and trying to talk through programs and procedures, we pretended to host a panel discussion to convey all pertinent information.

The BIG Event

This is the over-the-top (and over-the-budget) option.  Rent a whole bunch of interactive, inflatable items making sure to man them with volunteers.  For food, call  several food trucks and make sure they are ready with teen-pried options. While you’re at it bring in a big name band to put on a concert. If you do the concert make sure to secure rights to coordinate opening acts so that you can book local high school bands.  Local bands do an incredible job promoting your event for free!

The Tailgate

In the football frenzied cities that I’ve served, hosting a tailgate kickoff would be a great way to build a sense of community and shared enjoyment.  If you can schedule it around a big game, try renting an inflatable screen (or just buy one from Target for $130) to show the game.  If you are close enough to the local stadium you might decide to host the tailgate for the opening game of their season.

Mud Night

It’s pretty simple.  Order a load of dirt.  Add water. Release the teens.  To make the event successful and safe, make sure you have plenty of goggles on hand, lock the doors to the church, have portable restrooms delivered (and picked up later), and if you are feeding them, make sure you do that before they are coated with mud.  Finally, plan where and how you will clean up that doesn’t turn into a wet T-shirt contest on the church’s front lawn.

Back to School Luau

Rent out a local pool or invade a gracious church member’s backyard.  Make sure to scavenge a bunch of those tiki torches for decorations or just release a couple moms to go Pinterest crazy. For invitations, what about writing the details on a beachball and dropping it off at your students house (you can buy moustache beach balls in bulk for about $0.40 each… just sayin’).

The Minimalist

Our group has started to scale back.  While we still have free food, hand out a calendar, and encourage students to come check things out in the near future, we make sure that we do not have any programing on the night before school starts.  Colleagues have even worried that hosting huge kick-off events can give the feeling of a bait and switch when students show up the next week and the mechanical bull is no longer there.

Super Small Group Sunday

If small groups are the keystone of your ministry, what would it look like if you gave each group a budget and let them decide on their own event and invite their own friends to join them?  It could be as simple as pizza at a home pool, bowling, or meeting for caffeinated beverages at your local chain coffee shop, as long as it fosters conversation and connections.

Hope that got the ideas rolling!  Before you go, here are some questions to think about for your Fall Kick-off and would love to hear some responses in the comments below!

  • What are you most excited about in your ministry this year?
  • Is there something that you can decrease now to increase the long term results?
  • What has worked well for you in the past?
  • While we like to be “superheroes” for our students, what do you need to do to share your ministry?
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Eddie grew up in Houston,Texas, graduated from the University of Oklahoma, and has his Certification in Youth Ministry through Perkins. He has been involved in student ministries for over 20 years, serving at Lakewood United Methodist Church in Houston, since 2004, currently as Director of Student Ministries. Eddie and his wife Emily met at the OU Wesley Foundation and have been blessed with 3 beautiful children. You can follow Eddie on Twitter: @ELE_IV

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