Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, conference speaker, author, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

Do you remember what it was like to trade when you were younger?

Maybe you grew up negotiating with other school kids, hoping to get something more desirable for lunch than what your mom packed for you. Perhaps you traded collectable cards, random toys or video games you didn’t want for ones that you did.

“Got it, got it, need it…”

Sometimes a trade brings you great joy. Other times you take a hit, hoping something positive might come your way the next time you trade with that person for something you care about more.

You’re still taking part in a form of trading. It happens every summer with your student ministry.

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My church’s youth group has done something different every summer as our “big thing” for the year. Last summer, we took part in a week-long camp that was full of games, teaching and a great dorm experience on a Christian college campus. The year before that involved a mystery trip that we took students on from one part of the Midwest to another. Other years had further variety, from things we did locally to other things that took place further away.

I’ve noticed that each experience had its advantages and disadvantages. For example, our students had a great time at the camp last year and the worship experiences were incredible. There was a lot of emphasis on keeping the students moving from one thing to the next, though. It felt like we missed out on some downtime and introspection.

The trip we created the year earlier also had some strengths and challenges to it. While we factored in more opportunities for serving and relationships, we missed out on the benefit of experiencing Christianity beyond our own circle of students.

This isn’t the type of trading I’m talking about, though.

Are you aware of what you’ve got? Are you aware of what you need?

There is no such thing as a perfect summer experience. What you can do is find one that is “right” for your group. It requires a few trades going in:

  • Trade in your desire for control: You care about your students and want to expose them to God in a way that will help them grow. That has some sense of control attached to it, because you probably assume you know how that should look. To receive what the Holy Spirit really wants to do, you’ll have to surrender what you really want to do. Might the real “ministry” mean happen when your group signs up with an organization that does the planning for you?
  • Trade in your demand for accomplishment: Everyone likes a before-and-after story, but what if the next work project you take part in shouldn’t be completed? Could God use the frustration of your team not finishing more effectively than he could use the satisfaction everyone would have if you did?
  • Trade in your group’s agenda for your partner’s interests: Whomever you serve will still be there after you leave. What would it look like to go into a situation to minister without feeling you can justify it with “results?”

Summer is a great block of time to do something significant with your students. What I’m offering is it may be less about you micromanaging every detail and more about making space for God to work however he wants to. There’s a need everywhere… maybe the greatest thing that will happen on your road trip to Mexico is a moment at a gas station you couldn’t plan if you tried.

Jesus said planning is important (Luke 14:28). He also said that we are to live according to the Spirit (John 14:26). Our students won’t typically experience that tension unless we embrace it first.

This year my youth group is doing a Week of Hope for the first time ever. Maybe I’ll see you there? (Unless, of course, we have an amazing experience at a gas station on the drive over.)

Thank you for loving students!



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