Because of the things I just listed, the fall is a great time to gain momentum in ministry. If you plan well, you can use the next month or two to take advantage of opportunities to better connect with "fringe" families and students and to help people who are visiting your church but perhaps don't know Jesus to understand the free grace that is available to them through a relationship with him. Here are a few things you can do:
Make sure EVERYONE feels welcome. Hopefully, this is a no-brainer no matter the season. It's especially crucial during the fall when you'll likely be meeting lots of people you don't know, whether it's students who have just "graduated" into your youth ministry from younger ministries, or new families or students checking out your church. Make it a point for your team to be on the lookout for how to connect with new students, and make sure you're available on Sunday mornings to meet new families and talk with parents.
Build relationships. Whether you've got a handful or a hundred new students this fall, don't forget that they don't know you yet. Make sure you take some time to build relationships with students and their parents.
Plan a momentum-building event. Personally, I've never been a big fan of a huge "fall kick-off" event in youth ministry. In the ten years I've been leading a youth ministry, the starting date for school has varied among the school districts always by at least 2-3 weeks, and sometimes by over a month! Currently, our big fall event is a retreat near the beginning of October. It's our best-attended event of the year, it creates a lot of excitement in our ministry, and it gives a big boost to our small group ministry as well. Plan at least one event that will help cast the vision for what you believe God is doing in your ministry, church, and community.
Entrust students with ministry. Whether teenagers like school or not, most students I know have at least some level of excitement about the school year starting up. Harness that excitement and identify some students who can take some more ownership and leadership in the youth ministry. You might be surprised at how much teenagers can mature over the summer months and be ready for new responsibilities.
Pick up a few new leaders. I usually do most of my recruiting of new leaders during the late spring and summer months, but the fall is a great time to invite some new parents to serve or fill in some of the "gaps" that you have in leadership. Fall's certainly not the time to be building the bulk of your team, but don't let the business of the season keep you from spotting some folks who would make a great addition to the team.
Have fun. There's nothing like this time of year to remind me how much I love what I do, and how grateful I am to be a youth pastor. Going into this year, I feel just as excited as I was ten years ago when I someone convinced a small church to hire me right out of college to lead their youth ministry. Don't forget that leading is a blessing, and have some fun with it!
How's your fall starting off? Is there anything you'd add to the list?