This April I will be speaking at 3 DNows in a row in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. I love these weekends and see their great potential in shaping students families, and student ministries.
I don’t consider myself an expert on Disciple Now weekends or DNows as they are typically called. I have spoken at somewhere around 100 plus of them, but only attended one where I was not the speaker, so my perspective comes more from that of a speaker than from the planning side of things. I have talked to lots of student pastors about the joys and issues with DNows, however. Here are a few Do’s and Do Not’s on DNows. I would love to hear your thoughts. But let’s get the negative out of the way first.
-Do not plan a DNow just because you have done them in the past, because other churches do them, or because it is a trendy thing to do. First of all it is no longer a trendy thing to do, it has become an institution in student ministry, which is not a reason to kill it but neither is it reason alone to continue. Furthermore you should never do anything just because of any of the reasons just cited.
-Do not host a DNow and then plan it to show students you actually had just about anything in mind for the weekend other than the key word: DISCIPLE. If the culture of your students when talking about DNow focuses more about how little sleep students get than how much growth occurs, you are having an GNow, G as in Goofy.
-Do not have a DNow just so you can bring in your buddy and hang out with him and have a time of catching up funded by your church. Bring in a man of God with a word from God. Do not prescribe what he should say, but get someone whose ministry you know will fit yours and will help you to communicate the biblical vision God has given your ministry.
-Do not bring in a band marked by silliness and long on entertainment but short on gospel focus. On the other hand, do not bring in a band that says and sings the right things on stage but then denies them either by being jerks or by snubbing the students when off stage. Do not hire entertainers or professionals, hire gospel ministers who help students worship God corporately.
-Do not have a DNow that is a self-standing event totally separated from the rest of your ministry and your church. Your student ministry is not a parachurch group.
-Do not waste money on cheesy T Shirts and silly themes that normal people outside the Christian bubble would see as cheesy or silly. I have had about 80-100 DNow T shirts. Maybe 10% would I wear in public. Use a nice shirt or give that money to missions instead. I have donated a lot of DNow shirts to the homeless, so if you see someone at a traffic light with a neon shirt that says “REVOLUTIONIZATION” or something like that, he probably got it from me.
-Do have a DNow with a focus that fits your student ministry and will give it a big push for the year. Tie event to process. Events not tied to ongoing, incarnational ministry can actually be counterproductive.
-Do take the students off campus and actually minister. Saturday afternoon get them out serving people, sharing Christ, living out what they talked about in their small groups.
-Do have outstanding small group material that will fit with the speaker. Many organizations produce fine resources, or you can write your own. I am working to develop some related to The Story (www.viewthestory.com). I cannot think of a better way to spend a weekend with teenagers than to immerse them in the gospel narrative and then send them out to witness as part of the weekend. Well there is one: involve the whole church.
-Do use the weekend to focus on a major need in the ministry or major area you hope to see growth. Most student ministries today do not focus on Christ or the gospel well, so I am doing a lot focused on The Story. Yes I just said that, but it bears repeating.
-Do pray. And pray. And pray. Get the whole church praying. Involve everyone you can in prayer.
-Do evaluate the DNow after and be willing to make changes.
-Do use speakers, musicians, and small group leaders who can relate to students AND who get that their purpose for the weekend is not to be hipsters but to be helpful. You will still be there long after they are gone, after all.
-Do make much of Christ regardless the theme. He is bigger than a slogan, even a good one.
-Do tie the weekend into Sunday morning with the whole church. I have mostly preached on Sunday mornings after the weekend as this is best. I do not do so as much now, but you can still give much attention to the students and the theme. Work with your pastor on this closely.
-Do encourage parents to be involved. Invite them to all worship times. Encourage their involvement. I often do a parenting session as part of the weekend. Note: if your speaker is no good with parents why is he standing in front of your students?
-Do encourage small group leaders to speak to EACH STUDENT in their group over the weekend about their personal relationship with Christ. Encourage them to share Christ.
-Do prepare specifically to follow up and build on the DNow the next two to three times you meet as a student ministry.
-Do encourage testimonies by students.
-Do follow up quickly on any students who make decisions.
-Do encourage other churches to be involved. If you are a larger church, it is okay if you bear a bit more of the cost. Be generous and help the smaller churches in your area that cannot host a DNow by themselves. Serve them, help their ministries, and thus be a good steward of what God has given you. Student pastors snub each other and each other’s ministries far too much. Not good. Be a blessing not a silo.
-Do make sure EVERYONE involved clearly understand the Why. If host home leaders do not understand the why they may encourage students not to get any sleep, for instance. Those preparing meals need to know to prepare less sweets and more protein so students can learn.
-Do try to communicate your focus in what you say, how you live, and how the weekend is structured. All these should send the same message. When you send too many messages or mixed messages students, like adults, will default to the familiar, which too often means factory-like, lowest common denominator, assembly line faith long on outward conformity but short on valiant living. If they get ONE BIG IDEA from the weekend (like the greatness of the gospel, yes I said it again), you have had a great weekend.
It is beyond humorous to me that at almost 53 I seem to be doing more student events than ever and I see no sign of that slowing down anytime soon. But I still have a ton to learn and would love to hear some of your ideas as well, so I can pass them on to those I teach.
[Note: this article was first posted at alvinreid.com]