Summertime: A Time for Relationships
Summer is an interesting time in youth ministry. It’s a time when students are out of school, so in theory, they’ve got plenty of time for everything you’ve put on the agenda, right? Well, maybe not so much . . . It’s a time when families are on vacation. It’s a time when students go away to different camps. It’s a time when families’ schedules fall all out of whack. As a result, it can be tough to plan an active summer youth group schedule. You’ll find yourself beating your head against the wall, wondering where all your students are from week-to-week. The reality is that summer isn’t always a great time to load students down with activities. But, it
The reality is that summer isn’t always a great time to load students down with activities. But, it is a great time to seek out students individually, to build your ministry to them relationally.
Relationship has been a buzzword during my entire 15-year career in youth ministry. It’s almost become cliché to make the declaration that you are sacrificing program for relationship in youth ministry. But that is exactly what I’m suggesting you do this summer. I know that there can be a lot of pressure on youth workers to create a busy summer schedule that’s loaded with trips and outreach events, in an effort to build momentum for the fall, and take advantage of the time where students are out of school. And this may be wise in some situations. But all of my experiences with such an approach have been met with frustration for the very reasons I mentioned above. Families are gone. Students are still busy. As a result, many of the big summer events I’ve planned in my career have just flopped.
Relationship Building in Smaller Groups
However, what I realized through some of my failed big summer events is that since I was drawing smaller groups, I was gaining the opportunity to get to know individual students in ways I couldn’t when the whole group was around. In other words (and this may be the most obvious statement ever), the smaller group setting was perfect for relationship building. So for me, summertime has become a time for relationships. It has become a time when I can focus in on the few students that are there on Wednesday nights. It has become a time where I can focus on carving out extra time with those core students who are growing into spiritual leaders. It has become a time when I can focus on connecting for coffee with parents, so I can work more closely with them on discipling their kids.
Summertime is often a lull in the calendar for churches. But it doesn’t have to be. There may not be as many events on the church calendar. There may not be as many people in the pews on a Sunday morning. But summertime can still be a very fruitful time in the life of the church, and more specifically, in the life of a youth ministry. Because summertime is a time that is ripe for something that often lacks in the church, despite all the talk about it, a time for relationships. So if your numbers have been down the last few summers and the weirdness of summertime youth ministry is starting to get to you, maybe this summer is an opportunity for you to shift gears and focus on what’s awesome about the smaller numbers you often draw in the summer . . . those smaller numbers give you an opportunity to spend time on relationships.
MATT LARKIN serves as the Director of the Department of Student & Family Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (WWW.ACGC.US). In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MATTWLARKIN.
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.