Things to Focus on this Summer

dan-chung-4106If you’re in student ministry the next few weeks brings a major shift for you and your ministry. The school year is coming to a close and your program is probably about to change a bit. In our ministry we take a break from weekly gatherings and just do a handful of events and activities where the priority is building relationships with our students and their friends. With this change of pace brings the opportunity to focus on a few things that may have been pushed to the side during the busy school year. Below are a few things students pastors should focus on this summer. They are broken into two categories: ministry and personal.

In regards to your ministry, focus on…
Getting out of your office and spend time with students. Let’s face it, spending time with students during the school year outside of your programs isn’t easy. Their in school most of the day and your busy writing talks and planning the next big event. Now that summer is here you and your students should be more free to hangout. Take advantage of it. One of things we are doing this summer is having a weekly time for girls to get together and a time for guys to get together. The girls are going to meet at a local park for a picnic and to go hiking while the guys will meet at the church to play basketball. Here is a deeper look into what our ministry looks like during the summer months. Spend less time in the office this summer (be sure you tell your pastor you’re not just sleeping in or taking the summer off) and more time hanging out with students.

Planning for next school year. By now you should have a rough idea of what your student ministry calendar looks like for next school year. The summer is when you want to nail that calendar down. Get dates and major details for your events locked in. In addition to events be sure to plan out your teaching schedule as well. Strive to put together a solid teaching schedule that will get you through the upcoming school year.

Recruiting new leaders. The summer gives you some extra time to find new leaders. You probably will loose some after the school year so every summer comes the challenge of finding a few new ones. Spend time recruiting new leaders and meeting with them. Find out what their skills and passions are. Strive to get them plugged in and ready to go for the upcoming school year. I recently wrote a post about some things to remember when you recruit new volunteers.

In regards to yourself personally, focus on…
Reading. Hopefully you find time to read even during the busy school year. However, the summer months should open up some extra time for reading. As a side note, I put this under the “personal” section but don’t forget reading should be a part of your job as a pastor too. Either way, find some time this summer to read. Read ministry books. Read theology books. Read fiction books. Read biographies. Read books by people you agree with. Read books by people you disagree with. Read for your growth as a follower of Christ. Read for your growth as a leader. Just read as much as you can.

Getting a good vacation. Don’t let the summer go by without getting in a solid vacation. If you have a family, plan a family vacation that allows you and your family time to kick back and relax. You need this more than you probably realize. Wayne Cordeiro says, “Those who’s vocation is all about giving out are wearing out.” As student pastors we “give out” a lot. Throughout the school year we are constantly giving. That’s why we need to take a break and rest. Summer is a great time for this. Be sure to take a summer vacation and get some much needed rest. By the way, take some books on your vacation. Vacation is a great time for reading.

I’d like to end this post with making a statement some may agree with while others may not – your summer months should look different than the months during the school year. That doesn’t mean your job as a student pastors gets easier and you all of a sudden get extra hours you somehow lost during the school year. However, it does mean you don’t have to have a weekly program. You don’t have to be writing talks. You don’t have to be planning event after event. Take a break from the programs and talks. Spend time with students and build relationships. Plan for the upcoming year. Most of all, focus on growing as a person and a leader while getting some extra time to refresh yourself before the busyness hits again in late August.

 

Recruiting Student Ministry Volunteers

For a church to have a healthy student ministry it needs more than just a student pastor or director. A good student ministry should certainly be led by a gifted, passionate pastor or director but that person will need a solid team of volunteers working alongside them. It’s important student pastors understand this and make recruiting volunteers a priority in their ministry.

Recruiting volunteers seems like a never ending task in student ministry. One of the big things I do every summer is recruit new volunteers. It’s part of the job of being in charge of a student ministry. I want to suggest a few tips that have helped me in regards to recruiting volunteers.

Don’t make a desperate call, instead, personally recruit volunteers. The easiest way to recruit volunteers for your ministry is to put something in the bulletin or say something from upfront during announcements. This isn’t the worst thing you can do but it certainly makes it difficult as you will have many people “sign up” and you may have to turn some of them down because they are not a good fit. However, if you’re willing to just let anyone serve in your student ministry you can go this route. I’d caution anyone on this and encourage them instead to personally recruit volunteers rather than just make a massive call. This will allow you to find the right people for your ministry. This takes much more time and energy but I believe it’s the best way to recruit volunteers for your ministry. Before moving on, let me just add this – if you are going to make a call for volunteers (whether that’s online, in the bulletin, or from upfront) be sure to have a application process so you can find the right volunteers. More on this process next.

Have a process. Don’t just let people sign up and become a volunteer without you having them go through a short process. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Our process for bringing new volunteers on board is pretty simple. First, I meet with them one on one to share with them what our ministry looks like and explain to them the areas they can serve. During this meeting I usually try and find out where they best fit within our ministry based on their passions and gifts. Second, they fill out a short application. This allows me to get to know them a bit more and gives them the opportunity to share their faith story. Sometimes people will fill the application out before I meet with them. Third, we background check the potential volunteer. Everyone that serves in our ministry must have a background check. Whatever your process is, please don’t skip this! This is important for your church and for the safety of your students. Once these three steps have happened I bring the volunteer on board and they start to serve.

Look for young and old. Strive to not have a volunteer team that is made up of people of the same age. It’s easy for student pastors to fall into the trap of thinking the best volunteers are college students and young adults. There are many valuable things this age group brings to the table so by all means recruit them! However, realize some of the best student ministry volunteers in your church may be older individuals. Strive to build your volunteer team with people from all age groups and seasons of life. This will bring excitement, balance, and maturity to your team.

This is just a few tips to help you recruit volunteers for your student ministry. Here are a few resources that may help you in this area: Everyone’s Called to Youth Ministry by Darren Sutton, The New Breed by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee, and Youth Pastor (chapter 9) by Houston Heflin.

How To Pull Off An Amazing Student Mission Trip

11539570_790252937762379_9192139287700663945_nEvery summer we take our students on mission trips. For the past few summers we have been taking two trips. One trip is for middle school students and the other one if for high school students. These trips are always the highlight of my summer as I get to see God work in and through our students. I want to share a few tips on how to pull off an amazing mission trip with your students. I hope this will be a help to any student pastors or youth workers out there who may have the opportunity to take students on mission trips.

First, partner with a missions organization, ministry, or a missionary for your trip. Don’t try to pull off a mission trip on your own. It’s not worth it. You will just make it harder on yourself and will keep your students from experiencing the most out of the trip. Instead of going on your own partner with either a missions organization, ministry, or a missionary. For example, for the past few years we have been doing our student mission trips through LeaderTreks. LeaderTreks does a lot of different things but one of the things they do is short-term student mission trips. When you go through LeaderTreks you have the opportunity to partner with an organization that knows the area where you are going, has a few staff people there to help lead your trip, and are trained in the work projects you will do on the trip. By partnering with LeaderTreks we have been able to take our students on mission trips to Dayton, OH, Memphis, TN, Pawley’s Island, SC, Manchester, Kentucky, and Chicago, IL. I’d encourage you to check LeaderTreks out and think about using them for your next student ministry trip. Also, instead of partnering with an organization like LeaderTreks, you can partner with a local ministry or missionary in the area where you are going. Find a ministry or missionary your church supports and have the host and help lead your trip. Serve along side them for the trip and let them lead your group in serving Jesus in that area. They are already doing ministry there and know what is working and what isn’t working. Also, they will be there to continue doing ministry when your team leaves. Whatever you do, don’t do a mission trip on your own. That’s the first step in pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Second, have pre-trip meetings with your team. Don’t have students sign up, pay, and then a few months later jump in a van or on a plane to head off for your mission trip. Spend time as a team months before the trip to get to know each other better, learn how to work together,  and plan for the trip. We always have four pre-trip meetings with our student teams where we do a Bible study, learn about the area where we will be serving, and planning ministry things we will be doing on the trip. These meetings are key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Third, take enough leaders. Recruit a few good adult leaders to go on your mission trip. The number of students you have going will determine how many leaders you will need. However, don’t be afraid of taking too many leaders. More leaders will help with things like driving (if you are driving to your location), keeping students safe, building relationships with students, and allowing other leaders to take a few breaks from the craziness of leading teenagers on a mission trip. Make sure you include the trip leaders in your pre-trip meetings and things like that. They are not just chaperones they are a vital part of your team. Taking enough leaders is key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

11200803_1137477229599673_2704302959920021548_nFourth, do a variety of ministry. Plan to do a variety of different ministry things on your trip. You want to expose your students to as many types of ministry as you can. For an example, our Chicago mission trip this summer with our middle school students had a variety of ministry. For the first part of everyday we did construction. It was hard work and very physical. Then in the afternoon we would do different things each day. We did things like a prayer walk in the neighbor where we were staying, VBS in a local park, and a community outreach cookout. This is one of the benefits of going through an organization like LeaderTreks. They plan and allow your students to be a part of different types of ministry throughout the trip. Doing a variety of ministry is always key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Fifth, have fun! Student mission trips should be fun. Don’t get so focused on “getting work done” that you forget you are leading a mission trip for teenagers. Have them work hard but also play hard. When there is free time let them be crazy! Take some time on the trip to explore the area you are staying and do some sightseeing if you are in a major city or out in the mountains. Spend some time on the beach if you are on the coast. Have some fun with your students. They will appreciate it. Having fun is key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

These are a few things I have seen work for us over the past few years as God has blessed us with some amazing mission trips. I hope they help you lead students on amazing mission trips in the future.

What Our Student Ministry Looks Like During The Summer

31When it comes to the summer our student ministry looks a little different than it does during the school year. We don’t have our weekly gatherings, we don’t have small groups, and we don’t rely on volunteer leaders too much. However, even though it looks different, we still do great ministry in the summer. So here is what our student ministry looks like in the summer.

Community building events. Each summer we plan a few events that could be called “social events” or better yet “community building events.” These are events where students and their friends are invited to come and just hangout. We do things like house parties, pool parties, giant slip n’ slides, cookouts, outdoor movies, and bonfires. These events are great because it allows us to just hangout with students and get to know them and their friends better. These are easy to pull off events that have great impact for our student ministry.

Mission trips. One thing we don’t do in the summer that many student ministries do is camp. We do two retreats (Fall and Spring) during the school year so our students get the “camp” experience during those weekends. When it comes to the summer then we like to focus on taking students on mission trips. Right now we do one trip for middle school and one trip for high school. We have been doing our mission trips through LeaderTreks and we love it! We love the way LeaderTreks combines serving, spiritual growth, and leadership development on their trips. Mission trips are always the highlight of our summer and our students love them!

Give leaders a break. As I mentioned earlier in this post, we do our best to give our volunteer leaders a break. They work hard during the school year and we want to give them a few months to refresh and hopefully gear up to join us again for the new school year. We do take a few leaders on our mission trips and have them help at our summer events but for the most part we try to give them all a break. I have been a part of student ministries that use leaders year around and I have seen how easy it is to burn them out. It’s been beneficial for our leaders to have a few months off for the summer.

Get ready for the new year. We use the summer months to do a few things to get everyone ready for the new school year. We have auditions for our high school worship band, we have a vision meeting for our student leadership team, and we have a training day for our adult volunteers. All these things, and more, help us get everyone from students to leaders on the same page and ready for a new school year of ministry.

That’s a little glimpse into what do during the summer in our student ministry. We are always open to changing things up but for now this has been working for us.

What We Did This Week

Acts Social MediaWe had great nights in both our middle school and high school ministries this week. We had great attendance at both and there was good energy in the room both nights. Below are the details of what we did this week.

What We Did at Porch (High School)
Group Game: The Purge. We did this game a few weeks back with our middle school students and figured we would give it a try with the high school students. It went pretty well. The game is simple but crazy. You give every student a blown up balloon and the goal of the game is to be the last one standing with your balloon. You want to try and pop other peoples balloons. There are no rules except you cannot physical hurt someone else. We put a 15 minute countdown on the screen and threw a box of “supplies” out in the middle of the room. The box had plastic straws, balls, bandanas, duct tape, rope, and a few other random things. When your balloon gets popped you “die” and are out. Click here to watch a video of a youth group playing this game. Also, click here to get the graphic we used for this game.
Worship Set List: The Ascension (Phil Wickham), Hail the King (Citizens & Saints), Oceans [Where Feet May Fail] (Hillsong United), and Great I Am (New Life Worship).
Teaching: We continued our series through the book of Acts by talking about how the early Christians prayed and practiced radical generosity. The talk came straight from Acts 4:23-37.
Highlight: Each week I create postcard sized handouts to give students that have blanks to fill in for the talk. Most students use them and fill in the blanks as well as take notes, but the majority of them probably don’t do much with them after the night is over. I assume that because usually most of them are left on the floor or in the trash cans. However, this week I found out one of our students who just came to faith in Christ has been taking them home and putting them above his bed to help him remember what we have been learning. Makes doing these cards worth it!

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Video: Good Llama Bad Llama. This is a funny video from Download Youth Ministry. It’s a video that is only available to members right now. This is just another reason to get a membership with DYM. The membership is worth it. The video really doesn’t have a point other than to make students laugh. It basically says something a “good lama” does and then says something a “bad lama” does. We used it as an opener right when the countdown ended.
Upfront Game: Emoji Hunt. This is another sweet game from DYM that’s only available to members right now. It’s a game that runs as an app on your computer. Basically a slot machine type looking thing is on the screen and when you are ready it spins and will stop with three different emoji’s on the screen. You also have a phone number of your choice on the screen and the student that texts those emoji’s to that number in the order they are on the screen wins. This game was a hit with our students! Once DYM puts this game on their website for anyone to buy make sure you grab it and use it.
Group Game: Scatterball. We play this game at least once a month with our middle school students. They love it! It’s basically dodgeball but with only one ball (we usually throw in a few more as the game goes on). You can only take up to three steps with a ball as well. If you get hit you’re out and if you catch the ball the person that threw it is out. Play until there is one person left standing. Click here to download the graphic we use for this game.
Teaching: This week we had small groups and in their groups students continued our Acts series by talking about how the early Christians prayed and practiced radical generosity. They read and  discussed this from Acts 4:23-37.
Highlight: We picked up a new leader this week as well has had one potential leader come to check it out. As our middle school ministry grows we are in need of more leaders so it was great to see God provide in this area.