You say po-tate-o, I say po-tot-o… All of us in student ministry approach the summer season differently. For some, the summer means a stripped-down schedule with streamlined programming and few events. For others, summer means beefed-up programming, lots of events, and incentives for students to hang out at church all the time.
Whether your church turns into Grand Central Station or a Benedictine Monastery, summer is a great time to give purpose to your summer programming…
We structure all of our summer events using “reach” or “grow” titles.
- Reach events are designed to reach teenagers who don’t already have a relationship with Jesus. We make it easy for kids to connect relationally with others and to invite their friends. At reach events, energy is high, and we want students to have fun. At some reach events, we share the gospel, and we give teenagers an opportunity to respond. At every reach event, we invite them to take their next spiritual step. We want everyone to walk away from our reach events thinking: “I like those people. I want to hang out with them a little more.” The “win” for our reach events: New kids begin attending our weekend gathering, and current students make our weekend gathering more of a priority. Examples of reach events we’ve done include: Dodgeball Tournament, Old School Lock-In/Out, Day Trips (beach, amusement park, etc.).
- Grow events are designed to give teenagers a chance to mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ and others. The target for our grow events is the student who already has a relationship with Jesus. The focus of grow events is on sharing a compelling view of the Kingdom of God and inviting teenagers to grow in their confidence and take the initiative to deepen their relationship with Jesus on their own. At every grow event, we invite kids to take their next spiritual step. We want everyone to walk away from our grow events thinking: “I trust Jesus a little more after that event. I want my life to look more like what Jesus wants.” The “win” for grow events: New students begin attending our weekday small groups, current ones make weekday small groups more of a priority, or potential leaders begin leading a weekday small group. Examples of past grow events we’ve done include: DiscipleNow, Mission Trips, Day of Discipleship (a one-day event where teenagers can select from a variety of one-off Bible studies).
We plan both kinds of summer events using the three “know”s:
- Know what you’re doing. Parents are juggling a lot of stuff, and we can honor them by putting all the right info in the right place. One of our best practices is to use bit.ly links to event-specific pages that we can send out to kids and parents, telling them all they need to know. AND these are easy to share with students who aren’t connected with our ministry.
- Know why you’re doing it. Time is valuable. If you’re going to do something, do it with a clear purpose and communicate it well. One of our best practices is to share with teenagers and parents what our “win” is for each event. Not only does it teach them to approach things with purpose, it also allows us to celebrate together when something great happens.
- Know where you’re going. Most youth leaders I know want their students to grow in their faith. Smart youth ministries tell teenagers exactly what their “next steps” are at the end of each event. You should assume that students won’t know what to do next unless you tell them.
Kids are looking for things to do in the summer. We’re all busy, especially families with multiple kids of multiple ages. So don’t just do stuff for the sake of doing stuff. Plan well, and give purpose to your summer programming.