First, we try and partner with a lot of other local churches for events and camps. This gives students the chance to see and meet other students from their own school.
Second, small groups are a high priority for our ministry. We actually have more students in small groups than attend our weekly gathering. Around 80-90% of students know who their small group leaders are. We believe this helps students feel a sense of community when they come to a youth event. They know someone is going to know them. To help build community within the small group we ask our leaders to plan quarterly events with their students and make contact with at least three students regularly.
Third, we schedule around our own youth ministry calendar. We don't worry about all the different spring breaks or when the first of last day of school is. We simply start the first of September and end the third week of June. This way, no one worries about being left out or feels like another district is the priority.
Fourth, we build our ministry heavily on our leaders. We have around 45 volunteers who work purposefully to build relationships with students. Our vision is that every student in the ministry has a mentor and a small group leader, and is also know by two to three other adults on our ministry team.
Our long-term goal is to build ministries that will continue to become more localized. One youth ministry for every high school in our area is our vision. Until then, we continue to build on what we have established and trust that God is forming a strong faith community that will be an encouragement for students.
What ways are you building community in your youth ministry?