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.

 

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.

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 to Spend More Time With Students This Summer

Like many student pastors I struggle with finding time to hangout with students. In the summer I feel this struggle more than ever. During the school year most students are too busy to hangout with you anyways, but during the summer many of them are always looking for something to do. There are days when I’m in my office planning an event, answering emails, and recording money coming in for a mission trip and in the back of my head I know I could be out with some of our students building relationships. Let’s face it, you can’t leave the office and spend everyday with students this summer. If you do, you will probably get fired! But how do we manage hanging out with our students this summer while making sure all the office work gets done and our ministry doesn’t fall apart? Here are a few ideas that have helped me spend more time with my students this summer while still getting stuff done in the office.

Get to the office earlier. I wanted to mention this first so I could get it out of the way because honestly I suck at this one. I have managed to do it a few times this summer, but it’s always tough since I’m not a wake up at 5am to read your Bible and pray kind of guy! However, getting to your office early allows you to knock out some work while your students are sleeping in until noon. This way you can hangout with them during the afternoon while knowing you got much off the office work done during the morning.

Take them along with you. Awhile back I wrote about this idea of taking students along with you while you do stuff during the day. I’ve seen this work great so far this summer! A few weeks ago I needed to go to Walmart to buy some storage bins for some supplies and I decided to take two of my high school guys along. It was a great time to get to know them better and let them get a glimpse into my everyday life. I love doing this because it allows me to do what I need to do while still hanging out with students! It’s a no brainer! Take students with you when you do stuff during the day this summer!

Do stuff at night. During the summer students want to stay out late and rather be out doing something than sitting at home on Facebook or Twitter. So instead of hanging out with them during the day hangout with them at night! Have them over to your place or meet them for bowling or putt-putt. Either way, look for things you can do with them at night. This will allow you to get office work done during the day and then spend time with students at night. This summer I have been doing Monday night basketball with our high school guys at a local park. We start playing at 8:00 and play under the lights until 10:00. One caution here for married student pastors and youth workers, don’t sacrifice your spouse for this! You can click here to read more about my thoughts on keeping your spouse first in student ministry.

Take them out to lunch. Students love food and I do too so take them out to lunch! When noon hits your ready to get out of the office and grab some lunch so pick up a student or two and take them with you. I can guarantee that no student will turn you down if you call them and ask if they want to go to lunch and it’s on you! One thing to remember with this is don’t take a student out of the opposite sex if it’s just you two. If your married, have your spouse come with you or send them off to have lunch with a student of their same sex.

These are just a few ways I have been hanging out with students this summer while still getting stuff done in the office. Summer is such a great time to do relational ministry with your students, but it takes intentionally and discipline while you still have other things you need to do. What are some ways you are creatively spending time with students this summer?

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?