See You At the Pole: A Leadership Development Activity
On September 23rd, 2009, at 7 A.M in the morning, students all over the United States will gather at the flag poles of their schools to seek God in prayer, worship, and fellowship. This event, “See You At the Pole”, is a world-wide event where students gather at the flag pole of their local school and pray before classes start. Check out their site at http://www.syatp.com
I don’t know about you, but just the thought of that kind of movement is enough to give me chills. Imagine what God will do with so many young voices being lifted to Him in that moment of Christian solidarity and prayerful seeking of His will. Wow. This is something to be part of.
SYATP is a great event, and the students at our local High School have been doing it for as long as I can remember (even back when I was in school). Students love to participate in this corporate time of prayer, fellowship, and worship. They love it because they are in charge of it. They own it, organize it, and carry it off.
This brings me to my point. At Next In Line, we call opportunities for students to engage in ministry Hand-Offs. We are handing off ministry to students. Handing off ministry to students allows them something they won’t get in any leadership classroom: Real-world experience. This experience is priceless when it comes time for your students to begin their own ministries. SYATP is a perfect opportunity for your students to gain that ministry experience.
SYATP is at its essence a grass-roots movement of students. While churches can help out, they can’t go into the schools and advertise the event, nor can they organize it or execute it (because it is on school grounds). These factors make it a perfect candidate for a hand-off ministry.
Your students can participate by organizing, marketing (for lack of a better term), and administering the event. This is easier said than done, as they won’t have any help from you on the day of the event, and you can have only limited involvement because it is a school event.
Here are a few tips you can follow to help set up the SYATP event as a hand-off ministry for your leadership students.
1. Start off by having your students contact other youth ministries in town to see if they are trying to organize a similar event. If they are, have your students ask if they can help. If they aren’t, ask if the other youth group would like to participate or help get the word out. The more people involved with these events the better. It is also good for your students to take this kind of initiative with other students and youth ministries. This can lead to influence for your students, lasting friendships, and great lessons in leading groups of volunteers.
2. Order your students the church promotional packet from the SYATP website. Have the students look over the material and decide what they’d like to do with the event. There are lots of options. The info portal on SYATP’s website is also a very helpful tool for this. Help guide your students through this process by offering suggestions, playing devil’s advocate with their ideas, and helping them stay on task and on budget.
Next, help the leadership team come up with an event plan. Your students will need to have a loose schedule of events, as well as a list of things to prompt prayer for. It is good at this point to put someone in charge. It is better if the students decide who will be in charge, so this is a good time to remind them of their group dynamic and group strengths. The person in charge will be a coordinator, a director, and will help to bring the individual parts of the plan together on the day of the SYATP event.
4. Put one of your students in charge of coming up with a communications (or marketing) strategy. Again, guide them through this process, but make sure that there is a plan in place and that someone is in charge of it. Make sure that there are dates for the hanging of posters, the handing out of pamphlets, school-wide announcements, etc.
5. A couple of weeks before SYATP, make sure that your students review the plan, and come up with a list of things they’ll need to buy for the event. Put someone in charge of buying them, and make sure that they have the money they need for the supplies.
6. This may seem like a gimme, but pray fervently for each of your leadership students as they plan and administer the event. Pray for each of the students participating, and any student who might see the SYATP event and have questions. Pray that the student’s boldness might help lead someone to Christ. Make sure your students are praying as well, if you have daily communication with them through texting or social media; make sure to prompt them to pray for this event and for each leadership team member as they administer a different part of it.
7. On the day of the event, try and organize a group of people at your church to pray for the students as they lead the event. Pray for them during the event. Provide any sort of logistical help that they might need, but make sure that you don’t interfere with the event, or with your students.
8. The leadership meeting after SYATP, make sure you debrief with your students. Let them know how proud of them you are for pulling off this event. Thoroughly go over everything that your students did; what worked; and what didn’t work. Individually go over each student’s role and coach them on their performance. Don’t be harsh, but be realistic. The goal isn’t to berate the student, but to help them grow in their skills and confidence. After you have debriefed the group and each team member, come up with a tentative plan for next year’s SYATP event based on what they learned from this year’s event.
9. Make plans to do any follow-up that might need to be done, i.e. visiting someone who had questions because of the event; following up on any special prayer requests that were mentioned; and talking with the school administration so they can offer their opinion about how the event came off. This gives more opportunity for your students to participate in ministry, and shows them an often-overlooked aspect of ministry: Follow-Up.
With a lot of prayer and equal amounts of planning and sweat, SYATP can become an event that your leadership team is proud of. They will gain valuable experience and insights into event planning and management as you guide them through the process, and see God at work through them as the event takes place and they see the blessing it is to themselves and others.
These sorts of events are a blessing for both you and your leadership team. The limitations given to your involvement because of the event’s location keeps you from being the center of the event (that doesn’t mean less work, it just means a different kind of work). It gives your leaders a chance to learn about themselves and about ministry, about serving others and giving them a venue for worship, fellowship, and prayer; and that is a lesson that no classroom can teach.