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.

 

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3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry

12771549_10209197367077562_8672662913260402396_oAn important aspect of student ministry is student leadership. Every student ministry needs student leaders. When students begin to lead and take ownership within their student ministry amazing things happen. It’s important we give students leadership opportunities instead of just making our staff and volunteers do everything.

But how do we use student leaders in our student ministry? There are countless ways to do this and it will look different in every student ministry. However, there are three key ways we have used student leaders in our ministry that I think can be translated to almost any other student ministry.

Planning. One of the worst things we can do is plan events for students without actually getting any input from students. If we want to have an event that connects well with students we need to know what they want and don’t want. We need to discover what things are popular in their world and what would reach other students in their context. For the past two years we have been using our student leaders in our planning process for events and retreats. It’s been a game changer. Our events and retreats have gotten much better because of this. Don’t be afraid to ask student leaders for their ideas and input. Also, don’t be afraid to give your student leaders ownership over an entire event. We have done this and are planning to do it even more in the future.

Interacting with new students. Our hope should be that all our students are welcoming and interacting with new students when they come into our ministry. We can’t expect every student to do that. However, we can expect our student leaders to do it. When student leaders join the team they should be reminded that they will be held to a higher standard and will be asked to lead in various ways. So one of the things we require all our student leaders to do is to be on the lookout for new students when they walk in. If they see one, they are to go talk to them and hangout with them throughout the night. The phrase we communicate over and over to our student leaders is this – “No student left behind.” We want every student to feel welcomed and to feel like they belong. We don’t want them left alone in any way. This will require a lot of coaching on your part. You may have to remind your student leaders of this every week. But it’s worth it. Students interacting with new students and making them feel comfortable and welcomed is huge!

Teaching. Yes, I said teaching. Don’t be afraid to step aside and let your student leaders do some teaching. This will require you to do a lot of coaching but it is worth it. Walk your student leaders through how they can plan and teach a lesson or a whole series. Give them time to then do that together. Once they are ready give them the stage. Have them teach for a night or a few nights. Students teaching God’s Word to other students is an awesome thing. This may sound risky to some but it’s a risk that’s worth taking. It will help your student leaders grow in their knowledge of the Bible as well as how they can communicate it to others. One of the highlights of this year has been watching our student leaders plan and teach an entire series.

These are just three ways we use our student leaders in our ministry. I’d encourage you to try these three things with your student leaders. Also, don’t just settle for these three. Be creative and find your own ways to use your student leaders.

Guest Post: Big Impact in a Small Ministry

10341619_10152567387914365_579703700949541727_nMost student ministries in America could accurately be classified as “small.” A small ministry always comes with a particular set of challenges. If you’re in a small ministry context, I’m sure you ask some of the same questions I do, “How will we afford this?” or “How will we have enough leaders for that event?” Some believe that a small ministry is destined to have a small impact, but I disagree. I believe with thoughtful planning, intentional networking, and above all the work of the Holy Spirit, a SMALL ministry is capable of having a BIG impact. Here are a few points I believe will help make this happen:

Plan strategically, instead of “on the fly.” Within a small ministry context, resources will be limited. This is a given. But just because resources are in limited supply doesn’t mean that you don’t have any! Whether that’s a budget, facilities, or workers, everyone has something and often times the pivotal question is, “What is the best way we can use what we have for what we want to accomplish?” One practical step to using resources wisely is planning ahead! Don’t settle by living on a week-to-week schedule, claiming your just “going with the flow” or that you’re just trying “to be led by the Holy Spirit.” Instead, think about what you want to do and why you want to do it months before you actually do it! This will give you time to develop a game plan of how you will effectively make an impact in the lives of your students.

Partner with other ministries, instead of doing it all by yourself. In our ministry, roughly half of our calendar events take place with other student ministries in our area. Partnering with other like-minded ministries is something we have found incredibly valuable. This allows you to expand your resources, provide larger (and often more affordable) events, as well as develop vital ministry partnerships. Through ministry partnerships, we do events we would never be able to do on our own! Seek to tap into a student ministry network in your area if you haven’t already, or if there isn’t one, maybe you should start one! Developing ministry partnerships provides leverage for everyone that is involved. Partner to help your ministry flourish, and to help the ministries you partner with flourish along with you.

Push through the obstacles, and get to work. When you’re in a small ministry context, it’s easy to get frustrated, complain, and quit striving for excellence. When you can’t get volunteers to sign-up, the youth room gets flooded, or some of your students randomly stop attending, it’s easy to get discouraged. I know this from experience, and the first couple of months of my current ministry were some of the most discouraging days I’d ever experienced. But when you feel this way, remember what God has called you to. Remember He has chosen you to be at this church with these students to impact their lives with the good news of Jesus Christ! That alone is worth pushing through the obstacles, and making your ministry the best it can be by the grace of God for the glory of God. If you’re doing something and it’s clearly not working, try something else! One of the advantages of a small ministry is flexibility. Make your ministry the best you can with what you have available. Don’t defeat yourself up-front by making excuses regarding your budget, youth workers, meeting space, exc. God is not limited to these kinds of factors, and He can choose to move in your ministry in ways you’ve never dreamed. I challenge you to believe that. Don’t just believe it about other ministries, but believe it about your ministry. Believe that in your youth group, students will have their lives changed forever. Believe you will see students meet Jesus, and students become more like Jesus because of God’s work in your ministry.

This is God’s work, not ours, and what a privilege it is that He would call us to such a ministry as He has. No matter the size of your ministry, give it every last thing you’ve got, because Jesus demands nothing less. There’s no time like the present to start making positive changes, and there’s no better time than right now to expect God will do great things in your student ministry.

Mark Etheridge is the Student Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Mark is passionate about reaching the next generation with the life-changing message of Jesus. He lives in Wake Forest, NC. You can connect with Mark on Twitter @MarkCEtheridge.

3 Things for Student Pastors to Focus on This Summer

summer-beach-ball-summer-associate-event-contestLike many student ministries, we take a break from our normal programing structure during the summer. We don’t have mid-week meetings, small groups, or retreats. Instead, we always do mission trips (one for middle school and one for high school) and we have a few house parties scattered throughout the summer. I enjoy the change and benefit much from it. If you change things up in the summer for your ministry as well, let me suggest you make an effort to focus on three things.

Build relationships with students. One of the huge benefits of not doing a weekly program in the summer is the time and energy you can put fully to building relationships with students. You don’t have to spend hours writing a talk or planning for that weeks mid-week program, you can get out of the office and hangout with students. Don’t think to hard about how to do this, just text some students and meet up somewhere. You don’t need a huge plan or a program in place, just spend time with your students. Also, make an effort to connect with students in your community that may never step foot in your youth room during the school year. One way I do this each summer is I meet up weekly with some of the high school guys to play basketball at a local park. It’s a great way to do something I enjoy with my students as well a way to meet new students that may be at the park playing basketball as well. Bottom line is this, students are out of school and they are looking for something to do. Make an effort to hangout with them and don’t overlook the opportunity to do real, life on life relational ministry this summer.

Give volunteers a break and recruit new volunteers. One of the things I try to do during the summer is give my volunteers a break from our ministry. At the end of the school year we do an appreciation lunch and at that lunch I tell them “thank you” for serving during the school year and that they are off the hook for the summer. I usually give them a date near the end of summer that stands as a deadline for them to let me know if they are coming back to volunteer for the new school year. Not only do I give my volunteers a break, but I use the summer to look for new volunteers. It’s hard to recruit and plug-in new volunteers in the middle of the school year because small groups are in full swing and the program is running strong, so I usually try to recruit and plug new volunteers in at the start of the new year. This is not to say I will avoid recruiting and plugging in new volunteers during the school year, but I have found it more beneficial to do this near the end of the summer so they can jump on board when the school year starts up.

Focus on planning for the next year. Even though you may take a break from your normal program in the summer, don’t neglect planning and staying on top of being ready for the next school year. If your Fall/Spring calendar is not done by August you are probably not working far enough ahead. Look over the next school year (even next summer if you can) and plan out your events, retreats, and other things that you want to do during the next school year. Once you have everything laid out, start making a good calendar you can give to your parents before the school year kicks off (click here to view some great calendar resources you can use from YouthMin.org). We always do a parent meeting a week or two before the school year kicks off to go over the year and get calendars in the hands of our parents.

Focusing on those three things will help you stay on track this summer with ministering to your students as well as getting ready for the next school year of ministry.

How Our Student Ministry Changes During the Summer

friends-summer-teens-sunset-Favim.com-464114_largeStudent 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?