For many student ministries, the summer is a crazy, schedule filled season of trips, camps and missions. Planning now will help maximize the energy, the attendance, the momentum, the memories, and the connections as you enter the fall. But planning ahead also brings balance in life and allows you time to find the needed volunteers for the ministry. The summer doesn’t have to drop off – it can be a great opportunity for growth and ministry! And of course, you make one of two or these ideas fit your context and mission – don’t just try all of them.
1) Put down the summer schedule in print – that will help a ton toward having a clear goal. We don’t want to fill up the schedule for filling up sake, but we want to have a balance. Will students have the opportunity for growth through missions? Through relationships? Through service? Through worship? Through study? Through prayer? What about the students who are unable to participate in a weeklong camp or trip – are there other outlets for them?
2) Have an informal lunch / devotion day during the week. While visiting a church once, during the summer, I was invited to go with their youth group to their Friday Lunch. Friday Lunch was a simple concept. They picked and publicized a restaurant, and everyone was responsible for getting themselves there and paying for their own meal. They had lunch, visited and read a scripture devotion.
3) Plan a special Summer Sunday school series – think about bringing in a guest teacher or a series of guest teachers from your congregation.
4) What can you do to help connect the new rising grades into the group for the fall? Is there a tradition? Something that you can help connect them early? At the very least, set up a special night for them to come connect. Prep the older students. Have a celebration and include the new students intentionally.
5) Think about a break for your current leaders. I’ve seen churches give a two week break the first two weeks of August for their Sunday school teachers and ministry leaders. It’s a refreshing Sabbath to have an intentional break before fall comes in full swing.
6) Invest time intergenerationally – line up students to work along side older adults to help with a portion of VBS or another ministry in your church. Prayerfully consider which adults you might invite to help with some of the summer or fall youth ministry?
7) Think about living life in missions – not just a mission trip for six days. I’m not saying get rid of the mission trip, but don’t count out day long service projects, opportunities around your community and around the church. Find lots of ways to connect kids (and adults) to a life of mission and service.
8 ) Invite your group (or break up your group into segments if needed) into your home for hotdogs, chips and games some evening. Nothing fancy, short notice works too… just have them over. Also, invite a few adults who might be interested in helping with the youth ministry in the fall. It’s a great way for them to connect.
9) The summer is a great time for memories and stories. Almost every story, tradition or crazy nickname I hear when I visit youth ministries is from a trip or event the group had in the summer.
10) Maybe you can’t make it to a week of camp with your group this year, but what about hosting a two-four day event on your own or with another church. Find a place to meet (a tent camping site, a local church campground, another local church within an hours drive or a motel) and set up a time focused on hearing God’s voice with your students. Set up a schedule centered around the theme of carving out time for fellowship and communion with God. Include things like individual morning devotions and quiet reflection, group devotions or message, worship time (either bringing in people to lead in worship with your group or utilizing a worship leader from your church or community) and time to pray. One of the highlights of our youth ministry was also an official youth group camp out. Maybe this could done as a guys event at your church?
11) Summer Sundays are a great time for fun… after youth group some night go out for ice cream or for miniature golf. Not having school on Monday will make this a fun filled night. Doesn’t really matter what you do or what night it is, it’s just a framework for one of the students biggest needs – connections, friendships and belonging. It’s also a great way to include friends of the students!
12) Host an ice cream social or watermelon fest for your entire congregation. Meet at the park, sing some songs (optional), do a couple skits from the youth group (purely for entertainment value), and sit around and have fun with the church!
13) Do some praying, planning and marketing for the fall. Summer time is a great few weeks to get the fall in high gear. Have postcards ready with major school year dates. Have registration information and other details about weekend conferences and ministry schedule. Plan some of the topics and teaching times. Get your students phone numbers for texting, get your facebook groups spruced up and be ready to start the job of clear, concise and consistent communication.
14) Host a back to school event in your church or community. With a large vision, secure some money from your church board or individual givers and make a splash in the community.
The summer is still a great time for ministry. Build a team now; invite volunteers to help take a portion of the load of helping to connect students and kids. Much like a famer has a busy harvest season, a fertile youth ministry season is in the summer! Plan ahead and be ready to work hard! It will be worth it!