How To Effectively Change Up Your Summer Youth Ministry Schedule by (youthworktalk.com)
One of the age-old debates in youth ministry is, “Do we take the summer off?” I have always landed on the side of NO! As a matter of fact just last week I asked some of my students if they would like to have an intentional “leadership” group over the summer. Crickets. Then came the excuses of impending vacations, family reunions, sports camps and of course summer jobs. Ironically, when I asked which of them might like to help out with some of the elementary aged day camps we run, they all clamored to be included. This triggered a realization for me that it isn’t about IF we do something during the summer, it’s WHAT we do for the summer.
Here are the key elements I take into account:
Take A Breath:What I love most about summer is there are less stressors competing for my student’s energy. While scheduling may still be an issue, I feel like I get a more laid back version of my youth. This is why I love to take the time to teach life lessons in action. Rather than simply sitting for a study, we serve together. Yes, we do take a mission’s trip, however, we find other ways to give to the community as well. In the midst of our projects we talk about the Bible, life lessons, and accountability.
Reinforce & Build: Over the course of the school year I have some key themes we focus on. Summer is when I come at those same ideas from a new fresh angle. I love to come up with activities that back up lessons we have been talking about, then at the end sit down and discuss what they keep learning. As we strengthen the learning, it provides building blocks to new lessons about the Lord.
Stop the Fun: Here’s what I mean. Saying that our summertime activities should be more “fun” is like saying that we are boring the rest of the year. There is space however, to be more creative in some instances. Summer is the perfect venue to ask parents to host a dessert or open their home. Ask students to “plan the summer.” This is the time when they have the bandwidth to try. Could they come up with games, activities or ideas? It will take some guidance, however, try including them not only in what they want, but taking ownership.
Focus Down: Many times we talk about how we want summer to deepen our relationships with students. Yet, merely “hanging out” doesn’t always make that happen. Be purposeful in your relational time. Focus on ways you can get to know youth deeply, and allow them to get to know you.
I’ll be honest. Yearly I have a love/hate relationship with summer youth programming. I think the reason is I always think it will be the “easiest” time of the year and inevitably it turns out to be the busiest. However, there is nothing like the “lazy days of summer” to allow time to get to know Jesus better than ever before.