Student ministry tends to look different in the summer than it does during the school year. It varies from ministry to ministry, but most student ministries change things up for the summer. Our ministry, both for middle and high school students, looks totally different during the summer than it does during the school year. Our weekly mid-week gatherings stop, our small groups stop meeting, and we only do a few large group events. However, we still do effective ministry. We still build relationships and introduce students to Jesus. During the summer we don’t stop our ministry, we just do it differently. Here are a few things we do during the summer to change things up.
Mission trips are the big thing. The main thing we do during summer is mission trips. My campus, Stow, is only doing one this year. Next year we are planning on doing two, one for high school and one for middle school. Other campuses, such as our Hudson campus, is doing around eight mission trips. Mission trips are a great way to get students out of their normal surrounding and into a new context for a short time to serve others and share with them the Gospel. Do whatever you can to plan some type of mission trip, whether that’s overs seas or in your own community, during the summer.
Building relationships become the focus. The reason I love doing student ministry in the summer is because it makes building relationships with your students super easy. Let’s face it, students are bored during the summer. They just want to get out of the house, hangout with friends, and have a good time. Capitalize on that by meeting up with them a few days each week for lunch, doing a cookout, going to the park, or planning an activity where they can all get together and just hangout. Don’t worry about making it fancy and “programmed,” just hangout with them and build stronger relationships. Also, doing this during the summer is a great way to save money for your ministry. Building relationships with your students is also a great way to save money for your ministry during the summer!
Preparing for the new school year. Another thing we do during the summer months is plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. For example, we are having worship band auditions next month and then starting band practice in August. Not having weekly meetings and a ton of events allows our worship band to practice and get ready for the next school year. Also, the summer gives me time to read and study for upcoming teaching series during the next school year. We have our teaching planned out enough that by the summer I know what topics and books of the Bible (or certain passages) to study and read up on.
Volunteers get the summer off. Another thing we do different during the summer is we don’t rely to heavily on adult volunteers. They have already given us the school year and they deserve a break. I intentionally try and say “thank you” to our volunteers at the end of the school year then tell them they have the summer off. If they want to help and be a part of some of the stuff we do during the summer they can, but they are not expected to. Make sure to go out of your way to let your volunteers know they have been appreciated, but you also expect them to take a step back and enjoy their summer with their friends and family. Then when the next school year starts they will be more likely to come back to volunteer again and be recharged to start serving.
These are just a few ways our student ministry changes during the summer. How does your ministry look different during the summer than it does during the school year?
One topic I think we should continually address in student ministry is sex. Sex is an amazing gift that the enemy has taken and used for evil. Our students live in a culture that is saturated with sex and the pressure to engage in sex before marriage is huge. Our culture sees sex as a recreational activity and our students are buying into that lie. Our students need to understand what sex is and how God has design sex to take place between a man and a woman.
Both our middle and high school ministries did a series on sex and relationships this past month. It was a great series and I believe we communicated God’s truth about sex and relationships well. I hope every student pastor does at least one series a year on the topic of sex. It’s extremely important and our students need it. Here are a few things I believe are important to remember when teaching students about sex.
1. Be bold. Talking to students about sex can be awkward. It’s not only awkward for you, but at times it’s awkward for the students (especially if your teaching middle school students). Break through the awkwardness by being bold. Don’t be afraid to use the word “sex” or other words that come up in a conversation about it. Students have heard all the terms about sex and associated words, you’re not going to say anything they probably have not heard.
2. Keep the Gospel central. When teaching students about sex make sure the Gospel is clear. There are a few reasons this is extremely important. First, you don’t want to teach students that just being a moral person in regards to sex is ok. Many students believe that staying a virgin until marriage is the ultimate Christian teens goal. So instead of striving after Jesus they strive to reach the standard of being a virgin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is not just to be a virgin. A student can still be a technical virgin, but still commit sexual immorality according to the Bible (more on that in a minute). Second, many students in your group will have already lost their virginity or have messed up sexually in some other way. These students need to hear the Gospel! They need to hear Jesus still loves them and He wants to forgive them. They may feel dirty, used, and broken, but God restores and wants to redeem their failure. One last thing, please be careful with the “dirty rose” illustration. Watch this video for more on that from Matt Chandler.
3. Define sex Biblically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people define sex as just intercourse. According to Scripture sex is more than just intercourse. In Ephesians 5:3 the Greek word for sexual immorality is pornea, which covers all sexual activity outside of marriage. This includes heavy making out, oral sex, friends with benefits, and masturbation. Those are things that most students don’t consider sex. So if they do all of those things, but stay a virgin they think they are fine, but that’s a lie! God says sex is any form of sexual activity outside of marriage. Define sex Biblically when teaching students about it.
4. Have a time for genders to be both together and separate. Don’t be afraid to teach about sex in a mixed group. In fact, it may be a healthy thing to address sex with a mixed group of students. However, it’s also good to have a time where guys get with guys and girls get with girls to talk in more detail about sex. Have a balance and try and do both.
5. Address current trends. Make sure you relate the topic of sex to current trends in students culture. Help students see what God says about sex relates to how they use their bodies, social media, and other things. Hit things like sexting and Snapchat. Talk about how sex relates to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Take the truth of Scripture and help students apply it to their current culture.
6. Lastly, equip the parents. As good as it is for us to talk about sex with our students, the parents talking about it to them is more important. Encourage parents to have conversations with their student about sex. Help them do this by giving them whatever resources you can. Tap into things like CPYU and Focus on the Family for great resources on this topic. One of the things we did was offer a parent seminar for our parents about technology and how it’s being used by our students (click here to listen to the audio of that seminar).
Again, teaching students about sex is important. I hope these simple reminders will help you next time you address this issue with your students. If you have more additional thoughts, feel free to leave them in a comment below.
A few weeks ago we finished a series in our middle school ministry called “Made to Crave.” The whole idea of the series was to explain to students that we all have a desire for intimacy and we try and fulfill that craving through sex and relationships. What we find is those things still leave us feeling empty. The reason we are left feeling empty is because that craving can only be fulfilled by a intimate relationship with Jesus. God created us to crave Him and only He can truly fulfill us. I finished off the series by talking about three things students look for in sex and relationships that can only truly be found in Jesus. I want to share those three things and a few thoughts I shared with our students. So here are three things students crave that can only be found in Jesus.
1. Love. The most obvious thing students are looking for in sex and relationships is love. They want to find someone that will love them unconditionally. They crave that type of love. Unfortunately, the unconditional love they are craving cannot be found within human relationships. Sure, two humans can love each other, but it is still stained by sin. The unconditional love students crave is love that can only be found in Jesus. The Bible uses the Greek word agape, which is unconditional love that can only come from God. It’s a love that’s deeper and more real than any love two humans could ever have between for each other. Paul shares about this incredible love in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2. Acceptance. Not only are students looking for love, but they are also looking for acceptance. So they run to sex or a relationship because they want to feel accpeted. They want someone to love them and accept them for who they are. But because they fear someone will not like them for who they are, they change. They change their looks, what they wear, how they talk, who they hang around, and sometimes abandon their Christian faith, all for the sake of being accepted by someone of the opposite sex. They also will go to extreme lengths to cover their flaws and mistakes. Deep down they just want to find acceptance. This acceptance they are looking for can only be found in Jesus. Sadly, even when people get married acceptance is still at stake. That’s why some many couples get divorced, even Christian couples! One of them does something wrong or starts to act differently and the other person no longer accepts them.
In John 8 we read about a woman who was in adultery that Jesus accepted. The Pharisees brought her to Jesus and pointed out her sin. But what did Jesus do? He accepted her, the flaws and all. He didn’t condemn her, but accepted her and told her to go and sin no more. He didn’t make her change who she was or clean up her act before He accepted her. Students crave this kind of radical, real acceptance and it can only be found in Jesus.
3. Security. This is a big one. Students crave security and they try to find it in sex or a relationship. But what they find out is that even in those things there isn’t real security. If anything, their is a false security. Again, divorce is proof that security cannot even be found in most marriages. Students want to feel safe and secure so they give their bodies to someone else thinking that will make them feel safe. As if that person will love them and nothing can change that. Or they enter a relationship and find their security in that, but that all changes when the other person decides to end the relationship. Jesus offers total security within a relationship with Him. Jesus said in John 10:28-29, ““I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Students are craving love, acceptance, and security. The bad news is they are running to sex and relationships to try and find these three things, but at the end of the day they are left empty and still searching. Jesus offers students love, acceptance, and security in a personal relationship with Him. The Gospel reminds us that we sinners and entered this world separated from God. But God sacrificed His own Son so our sins can be forgiven and the wrath of God absorbed. Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness so we can be loved, accepted, and secure in a relationship with the One who created us. Point students towards Jesus!
Click here to listen to the audio of this entire message.
Building relationships with students is one of the most important things we do as student pastors and youth workers. Even though it’s an important part of our ministry it’s hard to do. Why? Because we are busy. Student ministry demands much more than just relationships with students. There are talks to prepare, events to plan, leaders to train, parents to partner with, and meetings to attend. Unfortunately we cannot sacrifice these things and hangout with students all day. So on top of our already busy schedules we try and build relationships with students. There has to be a better way and I believe there is.
We need to start building relationships with students by having them join us on our day to day activities. Instead of planning something to go do with a students (which is still a good, effective thing to do) we can invite them to join us for something we already have planned. It keeps us from adding another thing on our calendar and gives them a glimpse into our daily life.
For an example, I planned to go hiking this weekend. It was really nice out and I wanted to enjoy the outdoors by going on a hike at one of our local parks. So I texted a student and called another to invite them to join me. It ended up being one of the most successful relational connections I have ever had with students. It allowed me to do something I had already had planned and also gave me a chance to hangout with students. It was a casual day doing something I enjoy and hanging out with some of my students. Also, this helped those guys get a glimpse into my daily life. They got to hangout with me while doing something I enjoy. Also, it made them feel important that I would contact them and ask them to join me in doing something I had planned.
Student ministry is busy, especially if you are in a full-time position. Making relational connections with students is hard and takes time. So start having students join you while your doing things you already had planned. Have them ride along with you as you run errands. Ask them to join you while you do something you enjoy. Let them get a glimpse into your daily life.
Build relationships with your students while you live your day to day life. Let them be a part of that. It will help you build a stronger relationship with them and may impact them in ways you never know.