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3 mins

Scaling Back or Scaling Up for the Summer?

You need a break, right?

Of course you do. The struggle is real.

Ministry is hard and demanding. You’re running a church-within-the-church that likely has its own worship team, small group ministry, administrative needs, and teaching cycle. Toss in the larger church calendar, and you’re one busy youth worker.

You need a break, right?

So, the summer is calling your name. You’re not the only one who feels it—your teenagers and parents and leaders all are craving a slow-down respite by the pool or at “the cabin.” What we’re all truly craving is “Sabbath.”

So, does that mean we cancel our “regular” youth group activities during the summer?

A friend of mine shuts down his youth ministry every June, July, and August. He pastors near Lake Michigan where “everyone” plays on the water, so his weekly attendance slows to a trickle. Rather than force a culture change, he does relational get-togethers with kids and builds into his adult leaders.

About 90 minutes away from him, another youth ministry friend has discovered summer is the time when kids come out in droves. Because they’re no longer tied down by homework or extracurricular activities, they eagerly jump into whatever he plans. His summer calendar barely has any breathing room in it and his attendance doubles.

So, which one of these models is “right?” I think these are better questions:

  • How is my own journey with Jesus right now? It’s actually a challenge to your relationship with Jesus with you “get good” at ministry. When you and I feel confident in our skills, we treat the Bible like a workbook we use for other people instead of ourselves. Soon we fall into routines and ruts instead of abiding in Jesus. So, what would help you to grow the most—ramping up on or ramping down in the summer?
  • What other factors are playing into my decision? The busyness at the end of the school year prompts me to be snippy when I get random text messages or phone calls. “Ugh!” I just can’t keep up. I’ve realized April and May are not ideal months for me personally, nor strategically. It’s why I don’t make huge decisions about the summer within (or because of) this window but instead ask our team to think ahead in the late winter and early spring about our summer format and outreach. It’s a question of overflow versus obligation.
  • Is my team capable of pulling off a quality ministry? I live in Minnesota (and yes, I’ve heard all the jokes about the temperature). Summer weather is amazing, though, in a way unlike anywhere I’ve ever lived. Since every paid and unpaid leader seizes time with their family, we’ve found it best to sit down and compare calendars. That doesn’t mean we don’t meet for the summer, but that we’re strategic about our planning. It’s the difference between a big “ask” versus a big easy.
  • Am I being Jesus-centered AND outward-focused? I’m inspired when teenagers ask for extra summer campfires or Bible studies to tighten our relationships and deepen our roots, but not at the expense of the strategic window summer affords us to enlarge who we’re reaching and why. For example, we’re doing outreach during a local summer festival where we’ll hand out papers with online links to a contest for a major video game system—that will give us a pool of new teenagers we’ll reach out to for future events. Discipleship and evangelism are roommates. It’s a question of seeing the value in both.
  • What is the ideal preferred future? You know the drill on this—pause, pray, and whiteboard-out with your team where your ministry could ideally be in the next few years. Then reverse engineer that dream back to today, and consider the opportunities before you. In our situation, we know that our school-year leaders give themselves so faithfully all year and want some summer to claim for themselves. Instead of resenting that, we’re casting a vision for a “summer crew” of parents and volunteers who step into our youth ministry during this season. This short-term solution is linked to a larger value of us having a quality ministry all year round. It’s a question of advancement versus maintenance.

What we’re really wrestling with here is the temptation of summer to turn recreation into “God” and God into “recreation.”

You need a break, right? So are you asking the right questions?

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Scaling Back or Scaling Up for the Su...

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