In a ministry context, summer is a serial liar. I mean, summer is NOT a slower time for youth ministry, and it’s NOT chock-full of margin.
We won’t have a more relaxed schedule, and we won’t have time to catch our breath. Whatever promises summer is whispering to you right now, just remember: IT’S A TRAP! Summer is a liar…
Teenagers have more available hours to spend in ministry activities during the summer months, but the reality is that nothing else stops in our life... That means we actually spend more hours working over the summer than any other season. Even if your regular programming changes, the relational time we spend with kids eats up our calendar margins. So all the same stuff we do during the school year (when kids AREN’T available) we’re now trying to fit into a cramped space because we’re doing more relational ministry (because they ARE available).
Jesus reminds us that real love is defined by the way we love our enemies, so I guess we need to honor summer back. She means well. Here are a few tips we use to maximize our time during the summer months, without driving us insane.
1. Relational Days/Hours: Whether it’s Taco Tuesday, Wake-Up Wednesday, or Escargot and Eschatology, pick an intentionally relational day every week with your teenagers. It doesn’t mean your kids won’t be dropping by the church throughout the week, and you’ll still have “pop-up” opportunities to connect with them—a ball game in the city or some kid’s aunt’s bakery grand opening. But we need to set aside intentionally relational days to give them opportunities for focused growth.
2. Plan Your Week-to-Week Activities: With your leadership team, strategize over your weekly programming (keep it going or stop?), one-off events (pure fun or service-focused), and “away” experiences (camps or “mission” weeks). Consider two half-days to nail down your plan—this gives you margin to consider and re-consider your ideas.
3. Personal Health: The change in our summer schedule creates more freedom in our schedule, but the rigidity of the school year actually helps us to fit in the things we need to stay healthy. We head to the office later or maybe work from a coffee shop because we’re going to meet teenagers there later. Before we know it, we’ve blown past our normal exercise time, eat more junk food, and morph our focused time with Jesus into a kiss to the double fingers and a hand raised to heaven. We’re quickly depleted. Summer gives us a flex schedule, so make sure your self-care is not flexed out of the picture. Your most important ministry tool is your own centered, well-fed soul.
4. Family Time: No matter what size your family, your youth group kids aren’t the only ones who have more relational time available in the summer. So, stop reading this right now and make sure you’ve scheduled a minimum of three random one-day-off dates, at least a three-day mini-vacation, and a few half-days you can throw in to come home early and surprise the dog (or whoever else might live with you). Sabbath moments and mini-vacations aren’t just mission critical to your own faith walk—your family needs your presence and investment this Summer, and you need their influence and embrace to remind you that you’re more than a slave to ministry.
5. Strategic Fall/Future Planning: In a minute, it’s going to be October. If summer is a liar, then October is a chameleon. October is telling us we have time to get to our fall priorities. It’s far off, distant, but available. We’re reassured that October isn’t going anywhere, and we can always come back to it when we need to. And then October is on us like a panther on…whatever it is they like to eat. So set aside a few days, preferably in a row and out of the office, to work on fall kick-off ideas and strategic planning. Make October feel noticed and supported—it’ll be much kinder to you when September rolls around.
Summer offers us phenomenal opportunities for influence and impact in kids’ lives. Control your calendar. Make the most of every opportunity. Be strategic. Plan ahead. Enjoy!