Make the Biggest Event This Summer, YOU

June 23rd, 2011

I remember one summer I clocked in 8 hours in the lazy river at water-park here in SoCal. In Youth Ministry, it is very easy for summers to become so busy that we miss critical time with students. In southern California, we go to the beach (weekly), go to Disneyland (monthly), Late night BBQ's (every Sunday) – we have special super-sized midweek programs, we spend more time on a bus than we'd like to admit, and we go to camp. One of the regrets I had in youth ministry at Summer time is the distraction of activities that kept me from meeting, playing or laughing with everyone of our 200 students. I mean to closest I got to a few of these students might have been checking off that they had a permission slip for the “next big event”.

Taking a summer off in between positions showed me one thing. You are the Big Event. Yes, groggy-early-morning after the lock-in- professional, you. This summer make your presence, relationship, fun and personality the catalyst for life-change in the fall.

Keep Summer simple.

  • Erase the word “event” from your calendar and strategic thinking, insert the word “opportunities” –  The moment I began calling these dates and time on a calendar events is the moment they siezed control of my time and energy, students got the left-overs. Even now, begin fostering creative-strategic opportunities where students can reframe their life experience and share with you their story. That is why I love theme parks, I am that guy that will stand with students for more than 2 hours for 3 minutes of Adrenaline, it is prime-time in conversational currency, we talk about their ex-boyfriend who they think is gay, their mom's drinking, their questions about God, their akward opinions about which transformer is sexier, all have been talked about in line, all are opportunities for me to engage them and earn the right to lead them and impact their evolving world view.
  • Avoid the AC and the Lazy River  I know all of us have had those trips that we spent 80 hours creating and making the big event happen, the momet we get there  is pure relief  and we take some time for ourselves, we sit in the lazy river, we spend the entire day at the Moose Lodge buffet at six-flags. I was doing this, and suddenly I smacked myself in the face and said out-loud “STOP IT”. I spent the next 7.5 hours attempting to have a 20 minute conversation with every student and friend. On that trip I attempted to be in every group picture, with every cluster of students seeking out their next adventure. It is that trip alone that contributed to our growth from 30-200+ in 9 months. The mistake isn't to take time for you we all deserve time to rest, but the real trajedy is spending 80 hours in details and giving students our left-overs.
  • Empower your teams to produce your summers, they work during the day- and don't get the weekends you get with students, like we do. They may not be able to go to summer camp, but they can help find drivers, or schedule the hotels.  Find two or three  of your detailed minded people, give them the church credit card (figuaratively 🙂 ) to produce these big events for you so you show up and do the work of ministry to students.
  • Spend summer exegeting the life of students more than the bible talks. I use summer to generate the life-hermanutic, the narrative of the fall and winter, the life issues I talk about with students in lines become my cross-hair of topics for the next three months, if there is ever a time I hire guest speakers, or purchase a cirriculum it is summer. And if you are developing your teams right- you might have a few youth workers in the wings with the “talk” they have been writing for months.

I can't wait to hear how powerful your summers were at NYWC11! Also if you are in crisis, need someone to talk to, or someone to throw ideas around you can find me on twitter @ryan_smith Love you guys— you will survive this summer, and what you do matters, just don't get lost in the details!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.