Youth ministry in the summer has always been a struggle for me. Ministry momentum slows way down because my teenagers re-focus their time on…
- Summer jobs
- Family vacations
- Trips to grandma’s house
Attendance is frustratingly inconsistent—without warning, we can go from 24 kids to 87 kids any given week. And that drives me a little crazy. If I’m honest, I’m often tempted to give summer ministry my C+ effort. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just how I feel. Maybe my ego plays a role here, but it’s not driving my frustration—I promise. When our numbers are down we have fewer musicians for the student band, fewer student leaders to help with the “meat and potatoes” of our ministry, and fewer adult leaders I can count on. I can schedule and plan with my “A” game, but if something always happens to screw it up, it’s de-motivating.
Is this making sense?
If not, just ask your senior pastor to explain it to you—they face similar frustrations during the summer. By the way, this “attendance uncertainty dynamic” is why we have “National Youth Pastor Preaching Sundays”—Spring Break weekend, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, the Sunday after Christmas, and Fourth of July weekend.
Here’s the problem, I (we) can’t settle for a C+ half-hearted ministry. Summer ministry is critical.Click to tweet
Here’s the problem, I (we) can’t settle for a C+ half-hearted ministry. Summer ministry is critical. We “move up” all our kids (birth through college) at the end of the school year, and summers help these “new to us” kids stick to these “new to them” ministries. Moving from Children’s Ministry to Middle School Ministry and Middle School Ministry to High School Ministry is significant—it’s easy to lose kids in the transition, so summers need to be great. (Side Note: If your “move up” time is after summer, you probably feel pressure from kids who feel like they’ve outgrown your ministry. You need ways to keep them engaged until you move them to the next stage.)
What does a great summer ministry look like?
This is the key brainstorming question we need when we consider our summer strategy. Alone or with a few leaders from your ministry team, dream a little. Before I share the outcome of our “dreaming time,” let’s take the pressure off—“great” is not shorthand for “bigger and better.” Just don’t waste your summer with a C+ effort. Summer for us is not bigger and better, it’s just different. It’s more relational, more immersive, and intentionally surprising.
1. When we decide to not meet over the summer, we host “Drop-Ins” and we double our events. A “Drop In” is just what it sounds like. We host a hangout during the time we usually meet, but we meet in a home. This is not a programmed gathering—it’s just a time and place where kids can “drop in.” What happens? What do you do when you drop into someone’s home? We play games, eat, talk, and hang out. It’s an easy environment to connect with kids and for them to bring friends.
2. When we decide to meet over the summer, we change things up…dramatically. Instead of doing our typical program we leverage the strengths of Summer. We change venues, we meet and play outside, we use water games. We change the feel of our flow and our agenda. Our band uses fewer musicians and plays “unplugged.” The teaching time is a 10-15 minute devotional, not full-blown. We shift from a 90-minute gathering to an hour. When the night is over, we have a cookout or go out for ice cream.
Maybe your summer ministry already crushes—if so, keep the momentum! If not, change things up so don’t cave into the C+ temptation.