Guest Post: Kicking Off Another Student Ministry Year (Part 1)

In this 2 part guest post, Stephanie Riebe and Joe Garrison of Castleton UMC in Castleton, Indiana share ideas on how to launch a great youth ministry year! In this post, Stephanie shares 2 key events to get everyone informed and excited about the ministry year.  In the second post post, Joe shares three things he believes help provide for a successful kickoff to school year ministries within the church.

GUEST POST: Kicking Off Another Ministry Year (Part 1)

The longer I’ve served at Castleton UMC, the more I’m amazed by how God will continually refine us through the gift of teamwork and communication. We’ve learned a lot and have a lot still to learn, but when it comes to kicking off a new school year there are a few key elements that have changed the way we reach students and their families, our adult volunteers, and how we’ve learned to discern God’s timing with programming additions and changes.


One of the things I’ve noticed when taking students on mission trips or retreats is that they always come home excited. It’s important enough to try and give our adult volunteers that same kind of renewal. In 2013, we started our now annual tradition of spending time away with our adult volunteer team in retreat. In the ministry gap between summer and fall, we’ve found it’s important to have that time to fellowship, worship, connect, plan and dream with the adults that make student ministry possible. It’s been amazing to watch the retreat time be a blessing not only to the seasoned volunteers but also a chance to pull in new people God is calling to serve in student ministry.

We’ve taken both approaches, by renting retreat space where our volunteers took 24 hours to be away from home. And this year, we divided the retreat into a Friday fellowship/celebration dinner and then a Saturday retreat/planning day at one of leader’s homes. Both times proved to really unite us as a student ministry team and bring refreshment we all need before diving into another school year.

If your ministry isn’t at the place budget wise or time wise to travel away for a volunteer retreat create your own at a leader’s house or in your own home instead of at the church to really create time and space away.


We’ve also learned throughout our time serving at CUMC that communication can be our best ministry tool. It can also be the hardest link to figure out in how to go about learning the most effective ways to communicate with students and their families.

In a world where email, texts & social media posts are the norm, we have found that starting our fall semester off with a family information brunch to take the time to speak to our families in person and cast a vision for what God has planned for our students in the new school year is key to a successful start to a ministry year. Along with verbally casting a vision, it is important to support it with printed material families can take home and review, as often it becomes a lot of information to digest in one sitting.

Bridging transitions for our tweens, our middle school students and high school students has been helpful through this brunch to give families the information they need for their calendars and family radar as well as an opportunity for new families to get the program overview for the first time.


Our student ministry rarely takes large breaks during the year. We have consistent weekly programming for 5th-12th grade almost all year long but we’ve found that between mid-August-after labor Day this is the best time for our ministry to slow down and re-align before diving into another school year. As a person who thrives off of being busy it was initially hard for me to create this summer to fall transition period, but now I honestly can’t imagine leading a student ministry without it and have gained so much from these times to connect with our ministry volunteers & student ministry families.

ABOUT STEPHANIE: Steph is the Director of Student Ministries at Castleton UMC. An Indiana girl at heart, Stephanie Riebe was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She attended Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan where she double majored in Christian Studies and Journalism. Steph is in the midst of her 8th year in full time youth ministry having worked at churches in Michigan and Mississippi. You can find Steph on Facebook , twitter , or email her at [email protected]



  1. GUEST POST: Kicking Off Another Ministry Year (Part 2) | INUMCconnect - […] UMC in Castleton, Indiana share ideas on how to launch a great youth ministry year! In the first post,…

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