How to Use Summer as a Slingshot

You just spent a year doing good youth ministry. Now it’s time to take a well-deserved rest.

Don’t fall asleep just yet! Summer can be the slingshot to shoot you toward your best ministry year ever. We all need that one defining year that takes us to the next level. Common sense says, “Rest now. That year will happen on its own.” But honestly, it never will unless you do something to make this coming year different. Now is the time to prepare yourself for the best year of ministry you have ever had. Let me encourage you with five initiatives to turn summer into the powder keg that will blast your next year into the stratosphere of success.

1. Find a ministry mentor. I am often surprised by how many youth workers are trying to make it alone. They don’t have someone to speak truth into their lives (and usually they don’t want it). This is a huge mistake. When I was a youth pastor, I worked at three different churches. Yet one church experience stands out from the other two because I had men who mentored me. They asked me tough questions and worked through my problems. They both had been youth pastors earlier in life, and their experiences made all the difference for me. They encouraged me to take risks. They helped me evaluate the content of my program. They made sure that I was growing and that Christ was at the center of my plans.

Don’t try to walk the road alone. Surround yourself with people who have a desire to mentor and who have a heart for your ministry. Give them permission to ask the hard questions.

Here are three tips to finding a mentor. Look for someone who is:

  • Experienced in your field of ministry.
  • Excited about your potential, not who you are now.
  • Disciplined to discover the things that need to change.

2. Develop a leadership improvement plan. Your leadership determines your influence. The more leadership you show, the more people will follow you. You can improve your leadership by developing a more complete vision and a plan to reach that vision. With a clear vision, you can make solid and timely decisions. With vision comes direction; you will know what to do next. These simple actions will convince followers to believe in your leadership. When you and your team are on the same page, you will build momentum. With momentum, you will gain new adult volunteers—and more volunteers means more students in relationship with mature believers. The end result? More impact in students’ and families’ lives.

3. Change the ministry calendar. Too often, we do the same activities every year because it’s easy. Students and parents like repetition because they know what to expect, but it doesn’t stretch you as a leader. Adding new activities will make you question the “why” behind the activity. You’ll be able to seek greater impact with each activity. New is good. New requires risk. And the greater the risk, the greater the impact. Not every activity should be a risk, but there should be a few good risks in every youth worker’s calendar.

4. Develop a prayer journal. Personal spiritual growth can make your ministry year great. Your group will grow as you grow. How can you lead a group of students before God if you don’t know the way there? A prayer journal is an effective and exciting way to encounter God in a fresh way. Prayer comes alive as we track with God. The best thing about a prayer journal is that it gives you a chance to hang out with God. As you pray and listen for his response, you have a chance to sit in his presence. New things will come to mind. You’ll be encouraged by what he says and by how you can apply it to your life. To linger in God’s presence is to know life at its best.

5. Visit five churches. Take some time this summer to visit five churches that are totally different from your church. See what works for them and what doesn’t. Take the youth worker out for coffee and pick his or her brain. Ask tons of questions and don’t judge. Just learn. After each visit, journal about what you heard and how it could apply to your ministry. Ask God to reveal new ideas to you, and let him give a vision for the coming year.

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Doug Franklin
My name is Doug Franklin and I serve youth workers through a ministry called LeaderTreks. I love youth ministry and the people who serve in it. I work with an incredible team creating tools and resources enabling youth workers to develop students into leaders. I want to influence youth workers to challenge students and prepare them for leadership in the kingdom of God.