Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why I Don't Shut Down For the Summer!


Summer time is an opportunity to do ministry in a whole new way!  It is a fresh, fun and full-time season to connect with students and their families.  It may seem like a waste of time or counter-cultural, but you just may be surprised....







Recently I have been talking and virtually interacting with a wide variety of youth ministry workers.  It seems the growing trend is to shut down a majority if not all  ministry for the summer.  Further as I have talked to those from the wider ministry perspective it seem the same is true as well.  Being completely honest and fair even inside my own church much of the ministries have almost completely shutdown.  The rationale is of course the circular argument of "we don't do anything because no one comes...no one comes because we don't do anything".   We in the youth ministries world of course do a few things like a week or 2 of camp, a week or so for a mission trip, and a the obligatory Sunday morning, but overall the almost 3 months (1/4 year) of summer is pretty much at a stand still until fall.

I have am not trying to be old fashion or even legalistic.  I am also not here to take shots or criticize anyone or their ministry, just simply would like suggest a few things to think about?  Here is why I don't shut down for summer...

Temption..The final lesson in our ministry before we transitioned into summertime was on the "battle grounds of summer temptation": People, Places, and Patterns.  Each of these are different than during the school year.  May I suggest that our ministry need be the consistent pattern, place, and people/person even during summer. Our students are going to be hanging out with different people or the same people a lot more during the summer.  They are going to be going different places and new place this summer some of which they should not be at.  Most of all they are going to have new patterns of life during the summer- sleeping in, having more freedoms, less scheduled time....  All of these lead easily to spiritual crash and burn.  We need to be the constant in our student's lives.

Relationships ... We all talk about relational ministry and read books about connecting better with students.  Summer is the time of "hanging out".  I can't think of a better time for myself, my wife, and my leaders to build strong relationships.  We in our ministry are of course more casual in the summer and change it up, but some of the reason behind that is to build connection and relationships.  Those obviously happen during camp or on missions trips, but what about before and after that week or 2 you spend together.
Also with no school going on, you have more opportunities to do the "quick call" to go grab lunch or just do something with a couple of students.  The stuff that usually has to wait until after school or on the weekends to do, you have more freedom to do it during summer.  Why not make summer a time every year where student look forward to getting to know you, your spouse, and your leaders a bit better?

Spiritual Growth...  Why do school teachers spend the first month of school reteaching and reviewing last year's material, because students haven't even thought out reading, history, math,...all summer. The same thing happens with our youth group kids.  You put in 9 strong months of consistent teaching and spiritually maturing students and then 3 months of nothing?   Maybe instead you could continue to "practice" and offer to keep them spiritually sharp.  I am not saying teach new things, create all kinds of super deep studies, but why not continue through out the summer "reviewing" and "practicing" what you taught all year. You don't have to be repeating lesson, but teaching things that continue to build on what you have spend the year focusing on.  Also create activities, events, and service opportunities that "practice what you have been preaching". What might even happen is a spiritual growing spurt? You know how it is the short little guy in May shows back up in September and he is 5 inches taller.  The same could be true spiritually if we kept feeding him? If nothing else you might end up with a bunch of your kids who start the youth group year off ready to go, not spiritually stunted?

Calling...I don't want to step on toes, but here it goes anyway.  Let me preface this with a simple...Yes Biblically there is a time of rest, sabbath, and "getting away from the crowds".  I am not arguing that at all.  I am also not saying that summer is not a great time to take vacation.  I do it myself, but should we take all 3 weeks right in a row. I know of some people who literally will disappear for 2-3 straight weeks with zero or little contact with their church or ministry.  You tack that on to a week or 2 more of camp and a mission trip and suddenly you haven't been around the church and your ministry for a LONG time.  You then add on the fact that you have shut down pretty much all of your ministries!?

We are called to work, serve, minister and love on students.  It is a deep and personal calling.  We need to take it very serious and look at in light of eternity.  We only have so much time on earth to live out this call in our lives.  We also have to look at it in light of the 3 years of middle school years.  We could literally be adding on or missing out on 9 months more  (*3 months x's 3 summers) of ministry time with the people we are called to serve.   Christ's earthly ministry was only 3 years (*coincidence?  I don't think so...).  Imagine Christ looking at this disciples after the first 9 months of ministry saying "well these summers in Israel are really hot let's take the summer off?!! See you guys in 3 months!??? "

We are have a high holy calling to the a very special age group.  Middle School and Jr. High summers honestly can make or break the lives our students. Why would we not want to take a 3 month break from our calling and the spiritual lives of students? Think back about your summers growing up when you were in 6th, 7th, 8th grade.  Those were the moments of life that create the memories and in many ways defined us as adults.

Just some personal thoughts and reflections....