A couple weeks ago we had our third annual ‘incoming sixth graders cookout’ at our home. What a blast! We ended up having over 30 of us crammed into our house and yard over the course of the cookout. It was actually an experiment Heather and I tried a few years ago because it seemed like there was no other way to effectively get to know families of kids graduating into the student ministry at our church. I had tried parent meetings, invitations to get together at my office, informational mailings, etc., which all translated to time consuming ineffectiveness. Then we tried the cookout and it totally changed.
It’s a simple enough idea. Any family with any child finishing fifth grade is invited to our house for a cookout. It doesn’t matter if they have older children in the youth group or not, the whole family is invited. We do it after church so it’s easy to remember, schedule it for a few hours, and have the simplest of agendas:
- Food (I grill a bunch of burgers and hot dogs, people can bring a side if they want, but there’s no obligation)
- Kids can play in the yard or in our family room
- Parents can hang out and ask any questions they want about student ministry
- People can come and go any time between 12:30-3:00
It’s been GREAT. I love it because it gives me a chance to connect with families and new students that I might otherwise not. Parents love it because they can find out about student ministry, and kids love it because it removes the intimidation factor that comes with walking into our big group time on Sunday mornings for the first time – it’s a big crowd when you’re eleven or twelve years old coming for the first time! It also gives parents with kids at a similar age a great opportunity to hang out or even meet for the first time.
Regardless, it’s one of those events I look forward to every year even though it comes at a crazy time. We typically do it in May since we let the kids move up towards the beginning of summer and I want to connect with them in a couple ways before that happens (I also send letters to parents and students, as well as speak at their fifth grade Sunday School graduation party).