Planning a fall kickoff



Many youth ministries do a fall kickoff of some sort. Some are big budget busting affairs with bands, speakers, lights, giveaways…the whole nine yards. Others are more casual get-togethers, like a cookout at someone’s house or a lock-in. However you do it, I encourage you to have some sort of kickoff for your ministry this fall. There are lots of reasons why, but here are a few of the most important ones…

  • Gives you a definitive start to the year
  • Provides an opportunity to build community right off the bat
  • Allows you a forum to promote the direction of your ministry in the upcoming year
  • Gets students and adults excited about the upcoming year
  • Introduces new students to your ministry
  • Gives your teens a great opening to invite friends

Kickoffs, when done right, can be a great jump start to your ministry. Its a day that gets people excited about what you’re doing. How long that excitement lasts is a measure of the strength of your ministry.

So, how do you plan a good Fall Kickoff? When I first got into ministry, I had no idea how to effectively do it. It was not something that we did in my ministry growing up, and its not something that they teach you in college (or I slept through “Fall Kickoff 101”, I’m not sure). So everything I have learned I’ve learned through much trial and much error.  If you’re planning something low key like a cookout, you probably don’t need much help. But if you’re trying to plan a big blow out, you might need a little guidance. I think I’ve gleaned a few helpful tips that can help you in your planning.

First of all, you need to figure out what your fall kickoff will look like. What you do depends on the culture of your group, your church, and your community. You don’t want to try to bring “Skillet” to your church if you only have 10 kids in your youth group (although…THAT. WOULD. BE. EPIC! I’ll buy a ticket to that!). Do you want a band? A speaker? Wild and crazy games? Awesome giveaways? Tons of food? Likely, it will be a combination of those things. What you do is totally up to you, but try to think about what would interest your students.

If you are looking to book a band, you can find them in a myriad of ways. You can hit up some local bands or do a google search for the type of band you want. You can find a band from just a few bucks to several thousand (or more if you’re going to actually book Skillet). If you want a speaker, it works the same way. Just try to think of someone that might be a draw for students. For example, one year I brought in a former player from the UK Basketball team (a HUGE draw in big blue country). He shared a great testimony and the students loved it. (Or, you could just book me! I’d love to speak at your events, just click on the speaker button above) If you’re looking to do a giveaway, try to have a few big prizes and a lot of smaller ones. It would be really smart to have Tshirts, water battles, or something with your ministry name on it so that when they look at it they are reminded of your ministry. If you want to try something wild and crazy, there are plenty of resources online where you can find great stuff. Food, well, pizza or hot dogs always works great. I doubt you’ll be serving filet mignon so just go basic, easy, and cheap.  Whatever you do, make sure it is something that will appeal to your students. Don’t just bring in a band because thats what you think you’re supposed to do, or do something wild and crazy because thats what youth ministers do. Do what fits your ministry context.

You also don’t want to bust your budget with one event. I have been guilty of spending over half my yearly budget on a fall kickoff event (although to be fair I did take good care of my budget just to do that big event, and I didn’t have a big budget to begin with). You can find plenty of ways to effectively spend the money without sacrificing cost. Book a local band as opposed to a bigger name. Be creative with your giveaways.

A few other tips – be sure to get names and addresses of all those who attend, so you can keep in touch with them later. Recruit enough volunteers. Get your students excited about the event many weeks before, and challenge them to bring their friends. Promote your ministry during the event and encourage students to check out your weekly programs.

A word of warning – Sometimes we get in a “feedback loop” where each year we have to try to top the previous year. Break that habit because it can only damage your ministry. This isn’t about entertainment, but about setting the tone for your ministry. This might mean one year you do the big blow out to emphasis outreach, but the next year have a laid back lock-in to develop group identity, and then the next year a day at the beach for discipleship. When it becomes about topping the previous year, you’ve lost the message and its all about entertainment at that point.


I hope your kickoff is a big success. I’d love to hear what you’ve done for your kickoffs in the past. 

Bill Nance

Founder and President at Student Ministry Stuff
Bill Nance is a 15 year veteran of youth ministry, having served in churches across the midwest. He currently works at a non-profit organization that works with churches and other agencies that serve hungry people. He also spends time writing, training, and speaking to help youth ministries across the country. If you are looking for a talented speaker for your next youth ministry event, consider booking him today!

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