The Summer Youth Ministry Battle… If your church is like ours, and most that I talk to are, summertime is the ever-constant battle of how much time and effort we put into our programing for maybe little to zero engagement. Let’s face it families are heading off on vacations; students are getting summer jobs; summer sports are a real thing; hangouts and pool parties are last-minute decisions. This leaves the church or hanging out with their small group leaders; the last thing they put on their schedule is if they schedule it at all over the summer. So the question comes up every spring, how do we, or do we even battle the summer monster? I have been leading ministry for close to 10 years now, from preteen ministry to middle school ministry and high school ministry, and the answers are constantly changing because the world we live in is always changing. However, there are a few things that I believe we can ask ourselves to evaluate what’s the best battle plan for the summer.
What’s your goal over the summer?
Let me let you in on something; it cannot be your numbers; it shouldn’t number even during the school year. I know we can all get caught up in having these large groups of kids and students showing up. But that does not necessarily mean you have a healthy ministry. So over the summer, don’t get caught up in numbers. Have a vision of what you want to get out of your summer.
We use summer to transition kids and students into our church’s next grade and ministry, especially the significant transition events. Elementary to preteen, preteen to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to no longer in youth group. We get to look at how we want to program our summer intentionally. We use these few months or weeks to set up environments to allow kids to get to know the new ministry they are going into and their new small group leaders if they are changing.
Make Summer relational and fun but don’t forget Jesus.
We all hear summer programing and run down the rabbit hole of super awesome and fun and crazy events all summer long. Water Wars, Paint Wars, Scavengers Hunts, Summer Camps, Camp Outs, Breakfast Cereal Sunday Mornings, Movie Morning, Poptarts and Pjs, and the list can go on and on. These are great and awesome and should happen in some way or form. However, make sure Jesus is involved somehow. For example, suppose a student comes to your ministry all summer long, and you NEVER talk about Jesus. Then, when you kick off regular programming and start hitting them with Jesus’ talk, you may overwhelm them and have difficulty getting comfortable in your ministry.
Take some time over the summer to introduce them to what the new year will look and sound like. This does not have to be a 20-minute talk and carefully crafted small group time. Instead, it can simply be a small devotional for 5-10 minutes and a few questions to spark conversation with a small group of leaders. Then, maybe once or twice a summer, have a worship night and introduce the new students to what worship will be like in their new ministry.
Make sure you have leaders that are going to show up.
Ok, so I know this one may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t get those commitments early, leaders may check out as quickly as the students do. This has nothing to do with their commitment to the students, but it’s summer, and they love to vacation and take breaks. The hard part is our leaders are dedicated and all in, but they need breaks also. Summer can be an excellent time for them to take breaks, and we need to allow that to happen, or they will burn out and never come back.
Please communicate with your leaders and get them the summer schedule AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Also, let them know it’s ok to take time off but stay in touch with them over the summer. One of the best things you can do is when a leader needs to talk the summer off, double down and connect with them more over the summer than usual. Not to pursue them to come back but to make sure they take time to slow down and re-connect with Jesus. I find most time, a leader says they need to step away. They are not taking time for themselves because they pour into students and kids as much as possible. If you want leaders to be around over the summer, let them know you are there for them and plan some leader-only hangouts or BBQs. Leaders need to feel invested in just as much as our kids and students.
Plan Family Stuff.
If you want your ministry over the summer to be intentional, you need to make families the priority. One way to battle the summer is to plan family events around times they can be a family together. You accomplish a few different things; it takes the number of leaders you need and cuts it down because families are there. It gives you time to get to know your kid’s entire family. It also partners with the family by giving them something to do that is fun and for the whole family.
However, you approach the summer in your ministry and don’t make it a battle. Because summer should be fun, energizing, and momentum building for your fall kickoff.
Robert Quinn On Staff as the Preteen Ministry, Director at Hopevale Church in Saginaw Michigan Part of the FourFiveSix.org LeadershipTeam Interactive Worship Encounter Jedi Master, Have a Love for smoking my BBQ and watching all things Marvel and Super Hero movies and TV. My wife and daughter are my everything, second only to living for Jesus as he leads me.