An age-old debate in youth ministry is whether to take the summer off. I’ve always landed on the side of NO! The caveat is that you need to carefully consider your youth ministry summer strategy.
For example, when I recently asked some students if they’d like to have an intentional “leadership” group over the summer, it was crickets. Then came the typical excuses of impending vacations, family reunions, sports, camps and, of course, summer jobs. But when I asked who might like to help with some elementary day camps we run, they all clamored to be included.
This triggered an important realization: The decision isn’t if you should offer activities during the summer; it’s what you do for the summer.
Be intentional with your youth ministry summer strategy by considering these four factors:
1. Take a Breath
What I love most about summer is that fewer stressors compete for teenagers’ energy. While scheduling still may 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 trip. However, we also find other ways to give to our community as well. Amid all of the projects, we talk about the Bible, life lessons and accountability.
2. Reinforce and Build
Over the course of the school year, we focus on some key themes during our Bible lessons. Then in the summer I come at those same ideas but from a new fresh angle. I love planning activities that back up lessons we’ve been talking about. Then at the end we sit down and discuss what kids keep learning. As we strengthen the learning, it provides building blocks to new lessons about the Lord.
3. Stop the Fun
Here’s what I mean: Saying that summertime activities should be more “fun” is like saying the youth program is boring the rest of the year. Yet summer does offer some space to be more creative in some instances. During these months, 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. But make efforts to include kids not only in brainstorming but in taking ownership of the program.
4. 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 all your relational time. Focus on ways you can get to know young people deeply, and also allow them to get to know you.
To be honest, I still have a love/hate relationship with summer programming. Maybe that’s because what I always think will be the “easiest” time of the year inevitably turns out to be the busiest. However, the “lazy” days of summer are ideal for helping kids know Jesus better than ever before. Having a youth ministry summer strategy is essential for making that happen.