Let’s be honest. Most rural churches have tight budgets, especially today with skyrocketing gas prices and higher insurance premiums. That means most rural church youth ministries have to get by with less money than more urban or suburban churches.
With that being said, I’ve composed some cost-effective youth events that are particularly useful in a rural setting. All of them are events I either held in the past or currently use in my ministry context.
FALL FEST/BONFIRE – Honestly, who doesn’t love a good bonfire gathering? Students, fire, hotdogs, and marshmallows and if you do it in the fall, it’s just chilly enough for hoodies and blankets. I started doing this one year when the church I was serving in frowned upon a “Halloween” party. So we moved it outside, added a bonfire, a hayride and a football game, and Fall Fest was invented. The beauty of the event is it’s relatively free. I enlist a host home or property and ask them to supply the fire and the food. All I’m responsible for is getting students there, a ball for football and a couple of “flags” for capture the flag. Devotions are an option too.
PROGRESSIVE DINNER – This one is an oldie, but a goodie. (In fact, it’s old enough that when I introduced it to my students at Gracey last year, many of them had never heard of one.) It’s simple. Simply enlist four host homes to cook a portion of a meal – one for appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. Then simply go from house to house eating dinner. For fun, you can do it in reverse or mix it up. Since host homes provide the food and the cooking, all you need to cover is gas for transportation and some thank you cards. As a bonus, I always involve host homes with no ties to the youth ministry and focus on using older church members’ homes as a way to encourage intergenerational interaction.
GAME NIGHT – This one is simple. Open up the church, have cards, board games and someone’s Nintendo Wii set up and let students…play games. If you do it late enough (say 7-9 p.m.) you can get away with just some snacks. It’s a low-cost, low-planning event that’s perfect for getting students and adults together.
Low cost events like these bring students together and make it easy on your church budget. If your budget is small, these can be essential to what you’re doing. If it’s a larger budget, low-cost events like these allow you to splurge later on bigger events, like camp or a mission trip.