Tasty Thursday - Summer Hangouts
I recently recorded an episode of the Family Ministry Podcast with Nick Blevins on our approach to intentional, relationship focused programming throughout the summer. One of the things I mentioned in there was a simple, weekly, predictable gathering we do called Tasty Thursdays (I also shared in the podcast how much I love alliteration.)
Tasty Thursday is an intentional, individualized gathering with a focus on relational connection and friendship. This provides an excellent touch-point for your students and small group leaders while providing an opportunity for you to connect with both of them on a relational level and to share with them about upcoming events.
We do Tasty Thursday every Thursday in the summer, except one, from 12-1:30pm. As we get ready to release our summer calendar we take a few moments to choose the various restaurants we will go to on those Thursdays. We generally look to stay within a 2-mile radius of the church as it is already a pretty central location for most and we've found that most don't mind driving somewhere near the church to meet up for lunch.
We also try to go to locations that have several options so generally we pick a "parking lot plaza" that has a few options like Qdoba, Mod, Dibellas subs, Starbucks...so that students have a variety to choose from and to minimize the excuse of "I'm not going today because I don't like the food at....." One of our staff members or interns will generally stand outside of the restaurants so parents have a visual indicator that they're in the right spot & that we are there and ready for their student. We also pick a centralized location to sit at so regardless of what restaurant students go to we can all sit with one another.
On a campus level, if one of our team members is on vacation they've either had their interns still run a Tasty Thursday or recruit a few well known small group leaders to run it. We generally see a handful of small group leaders at Tasty Thursdays throughout the summer as they join us while on their lunch break or if their just looking for a free lunch (we try to pay for any small group leader who shows up). And I'm just kidding, I know the real incentive is seeing their students, the added bonus is a free burrito.
We do switch it up with a few of our Tasty Thursdays throughout the summer by having a pool party or going to the lake to do some tubing. On those days we have the students bring a few bucks for food as we'll order pizza or cook some burgers for everyone to enjoy. We'll also extend the time of those Tasty Thursdays so we can get more out of the summer sun & fun. I've enjoyed this approach to doing a Tasty Thursday because it becomes a hybrid, low-key event as opposed to what we've done other times of "THIS IS THE MOST HYPE POOL PARTY EVER IMAGINED" when truth be told, it's still just a pretty low-key, good times pool party. Generally, we see about 25-30 students at a restaurant-based Tasty Thursday and around 40-50 at location-based Tasty Thursday.
Ourselves and many of our campuses have also switched up by doing a Bible study immediately following Tasty Thursday whether in the common area they're already sitting at, at the persons house their at for the pool party, or at a nearby park that is within walking distance. Those studies in particular have proven to be better attended than others on a separate day/time.
Tasty Thursdays are an easy, predictable way for you and your SGLs to stay connected to students throughout the summer. This idea is also one that you have time to still implement this summer! Simply take a few moments to pick what restaurants you'll go to and start getting the word out there to your students, leaders, & parents through email & social media. I can send you the source file to our graphic so that you can edit and use it for your first Tasty Thursday of the summer.