Surviving the Summertime Lows
There are a lot of great things about summer: Camp can be awesome. Opportunities for vacation with your family are great. But when you’re a youth worker in a local church, summer can be kind of a depressing time. Very often it’s a time during which churches have high expectations of youth ministry. But, realistically, it’s a very up-and-down time of the year.
When I first started out in youth ministry, I had big ideas for my first summer: We were going to take the teens to a water park. We were going to take them to a music festival. We were going to use this “slower” time in the life of their families to go a lot deeper in the Word. Instead, I got families constantly away on vacation. I got students away with relatives for significant stretches of time. I did get the water park and music festival trips, but that was about all I saw of many of the teens through the summer.
What I got were the summertime lows. Summer can be a really tough time in the life of a youth worker: great things are often expected, and the reality is much different. But there are a few things you can do to survive this spotty time in the youth ministry calendar—and maybe you can even use it in impactful ways.
FOCUS ON THE OPPORTUNITIES
If you plan it right, there can be some specific opportunities built into your summer that have a shot at being impactful. Earlier, I mentioned trips to water parks and music festivals. These are the kinds of things that your students are almost surely going to show up for if they’re around. And they’re likely to bring some of their friends with them, too, which allows you to connect with some new students over the summer.
Additionally, there’s always camp. Camp can provide you with an excellent opportunity to spend a week more intensely feeding into your students as well as getting to know them on a deeper level. This opportunity can be used in a lot of different ways that can impact your ministry well into the future.
USE THE DOWN TIMES
Sure. There are going to be down times. There’s a decent chance you’ll have a lot of down times in your summer where your students aren’t showing up to youth group and it’s hard to get in contact with them. But those down times can be used to connect with the students who are still around.
Not every kid goes away during the summer. And even the ones who do aren’t necessarily gone every week. Use those opportunities to connect with kids one on one or in a small-group setting. The reality is that a lot of your students who are still around will actually be looking for something to do, because many of their friends are gone—these students would get a real charge out of their youth worker reaching out to them. Use those opportunities well. They will be impactful.
MAKE SOME PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
One of the best things I ever learned about summer is that those down times are actually times of opportunity. A lot of planning and preparation can get done during the summer. The reality is that during the down times, you can reflect and pray. You have a lot of time to establish direction for the future.
Use the down times as opportunities to plan for the fall, to plan for the rest of the year, even to plan for the long-term. God often grants us seasons of quiet and solitude so we can prepare for what’s coming next. Look at 1 Kings 17. God called Elijah to the office of prophet, and then he immediately sent him out into solitude so he could get ready for the big things that were coming. Use your times of solitude well so you’re ready for the big things God may send your way.
DON’T GET TOO DOWN DURING THE SUMMER
Finally, don’t get too down during the summer. Utilize the opportunities you have. Work well with the students you have. Spend some time reconnecting with God and his direction for you and your ministry. Summer can be depressing—but it can also be a great blessing if you use your summer well. These are just a few ideas for how that can happen. There are many, many, more.
MATT LARKIN serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ 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 all 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.