After all the comments from last week’s post about Seven Benefits of Shutting Down Youth Ministry Programs for the Summer, I figured I’d add a little clarification about what my summer schedule does look like, rather than only what it does not look like.
“Programs” does not equal “ministry”
First of all, I didn’t mention this in my previous post, but notice that the title was not, Seven Benefits of Shutting Down Youth Ministry for the Summer, with the absence of the word “programs.” In no way am I advocating that we stop ministry, just that was slow down our programming. Remember, programs do not equal ministry. Programs are tools of ministry. They’re here to help us do ministry, but programs are not the ministry.
Programming slows down, not ministry
Second, notice that I said that we don’t stop ministry programming altogether during the summer, we just slow it down. Putting programs on hold does not mean that we put ministry on hold, too. Ministry takes place in a variety of ways outside of programming, like one-on-one time with kids, hangouts at your house, or just stopping to pray for them. Some would say that this kind of ministry is much more effective than the programming aspect of ministry.
Some critics of my previous post say that Jesus never stopped his ministry and neither should we. I totally agree. If you want to use Jesus as an example, though, I’d also point out that He never ran any programs from his church/synagogue either. That’s not to say that programs are bad or that they’re not found elsewhere in scripture, just that there’s nothing wrong with emphasizing different tools during the summer than the highly programmatic ones. We’ll be going on bike rides, having kids over to play Xbox, spontaneously meeting at the bowling ally, grabbing ice cream at Dairy Queen, playing Ultimate Frisbee, going to the movies, taking road trips, swimming in the lakes, etc. None of it is scheduled, we just wake up one morning, call up a couple people and go for it. And while we’re together, us adults model Christlikeness and speak Truth into teens’ lives through our normal conversations. That kinda sounds more like Jesus’ style of ministry to me anyway.
For the programmatic people…
That said, here’s what the programming side of our youth ministry will look like this summer:
Weekly Jr. High Bible studies at my house: My wife and I lead these together. Attendance is typically pretty low with about 5-8 teens, but that’s the way we like it. The kids who comes are sometimes different kids each week, too, depending on their family’s vacation schedules and what else is going on in their lives. The Bible study is pretty laid-back and relaxed.
Weekly Sr. High Bible studies at someone else’s house: One of the high school groups has opted to continue throughout the summer meeting in someone’s house. The group will be open to any 9th-12th grader who wants to participate.
Monthly Wake ‘n Ski: As I mentioned in a comment on my previous post, our community has a lot of lakes, so many of our church members have boats and big-boy water toys. One Sunday a month our group gets together to spend the afternoon out on a lake water skiing, wake boarding, tubing, wake surfing, etc. We stop for dinner to have burgers while I or another leader shares a short faith story with everyone.
CHIC: This is our denomination’s tri-annual international high school student conference in Knoxville, TN. I won’t be going this year since my wife is due with our first baby two weeks later, but a full busload of our high school kids are attending the week-long conference in July with an outstanding team of adult youth leaders.
MUUUCE: Every August we take a busload of jr. highers away for a three-day retreat. We meet up with many other denominational jr. high youth groups and have a blast together. We go to a baseball game, a water park, amusement park, play on inflatables, and just have an incredible time bonding. It’s perfect for the incoming 7th graders to connect with us, get to know us, feel comfortable with us, and be super energized for the school year of jr. high ministry.
Two Parent Dinners: I blogged about this back in March, so check out that post for more details, but basically we have two open-house dinners planned at my house for parents to come hang out with me and Dana. We get to listen to them, answer questions, and also challenge them.
Monthly Worship Experiences: The youth ministry is not in charge of this, but we do partner with our church’s worship director to pull it off. Every month we have a night of worship at church that’s intended to be highly participatory and experiential. It’s open to the entire church and our community at large, so I really like the inter-generational mix that shows up to worship. Our teens do a fabulous job leading different aspects of the experience.
One Outdoor Movie Night on the BIG screen: We hang a big white sheet on the side of our house and setup a projector and sound system from church in the driveway. Kids to come over at dusk and watch a movie on the BIG screen with their own lawn chairs, blankets, bug spray and snacks. Here’s a picture of my setup I posted on Twitter last year. Always fun!
Canoe Trips: There is also one jr. high canoe trip and one sr. high canoe trip this summer. We all car pool to a river, rent a couple canoes, they drive us upstream and we paddle back. Another great time to bond, talk, and help kids transition into jr. high or high school ministries.
Rock The River Tour: A couple kids and parents thought the Billy Graham’s Rock The River Tour fit well with our strategy to take kids deep and wide, and since one high school student was willing to head it up, I let her go for it. That will happen in August.
One Parent Information Meeting: Before the school year starts up again, we have our big annual parent meeting where we recap last year’s ministry, talk about what we learned, and, based on that, what’s changing for next year. We give an overview of the calendar, answer questions, introduce the other youth leaders, and do a whole lot of vision casting.
Youth Leader meetings: I usually don’t do too many of these during the summer, but a couple years ago we made some significant changes to certain aspects of our ministry and the fruition of that starts next year. So, we need to have a couple youth leader meetings to make sure the train’s momentum keeps moving in the right direction. We also have a mini youth leader training conference with a couple of other churches in our community.
Other summer ideas
Looking for other summer youth event ideas? Check out my blog post from last year on the top 5 summer youth events that cost under $5 total.
Posted on May 25, 2009