What do you do all summer?
That is a legitimate thing to ask a youth pastor. Some youth pastors fill up their summers and make them as busy as the school year even though numbers dip. In my 10 years of youth ministry experience I have noticed that summer programming doesn’t work. Students don’t want it, leaders don’t want it, and you probably don’t want it.
About 5 years ago we started to slowly cut back on what my youth ministry did over the summer. It went from 6 events/gatherings to 2, to nothing. It took a ton of work, and vision casting to get to a place where the youth ministry didn’t do formal events over the summer.
Instead of running solo events for students we try to incorporate our students into events already happening in the church. This summer we are going to run a movie in the park with the children’s ministry for families. Summer is all about doing different things so that when fall hits, you can have a ministry like no other.
Here are the three things I do all summer:
Pray over everything. Tim Keller states, “Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.” We don’t pray for the work, prayer is the work. I love spending signifiant time over the summer praying for where God wants to take the ministry this year in this season.
I pray over leaders, students, student leaders, and families. We also pray over the students through our Facebook page, and we wrote a post on this called: developing a Facebook prayer strategy.
It’s also refreshing to renew some old or new habits. It could be praying through the Psalms. It could be journalling every day. During the craziness of the year spiritual formation can lack, or end up the back seat. Summer time is a season to get back to the centre, and to focus on the most important thing, God. Prayer is a big part of my summer. It sets up the whole ministry year.
Each summer as we plan everything, we are getting better at what we need to have planned out and what doesn’t need to be fully planned by the fall. One of the things that needs to be planned by the fall is the calendar. If you don’t have a calendar here are some options. We have our events on the calendar and teaching series. All the crucial information needs to go out to parents in the fall or your youth ministry won’t be a priority. You can’t complain when students can’t show up to something because you only gave them two weeks notice. This way everything is planned in the fall.
This year we are going to have the whole year calendar planned out. We have a missions trip coming up next march, and we need all the key events on the calendar with the prices so that parents can plan and budget for their student in the youth ministry.
I also want the missions trip bundle out by August 1. This is a way that gives parents 9 months to pray, plan, and pay for the trip. The goal of my youth ministry is that every student would get on shot at a short term missions trip in their youth ministry life.
Another thing we plan out is our teaching series. I usually trie to have the series, passages and main idea all ready to go for the fall. The hardest part for me with sermon prep is figuring out the main idea of a passage. If I can exegete a passage to get the main idea before, that will save hours off my week during the school year. You can get all the sermon templates in our printable youth pastor series for free here.
When I tell people that I am planning during the summer, and what all is going to get done, there are not complaints. People are understanding that my leaders need a break, and mentally I need one too. If you go this route, make sure that you actually deliver in the fall. You need to have all promotional material to go the first week.
Each summer I try to schedule my time so that I am in the office in the morning, and out in the afternoon. I am at the skatepark, beach, or starbucks. It’s nice to be out of my office and in the community. It’s the part I love about summer. Hanging out with students and getting to know them on their turf. Some of the best conversations have been had during these summer times with students from my community.
This year we purchased a go pro and we will bring it down to the park and let students use it. Each week we will publish a skate video that will go to our Facebook page that will promote the youth ministry in the community. It’s also a digital business card for students to search out and find the video to see their part.
Those are the three things I do during the summer. My ministry shifts gears why? Because leaders and students need the break. Craig Groeschel at catalyst west coast stated, “I can because I don’t.” Being busy during the summer won’t justify your job, it won’t make you feel more valuable or irreplaceable. Being busy all year will drain you and eventually burn you out. I found out that I needed a rhythm that was different. In the summer, I need to say no to a lot of things so that my ministry can function in a high capacity during the rest of the year. As Groeschel says, “I can because I don’t.”
What is your summer like? What do you do all summer?