By Center for Youth Ministry Training 5/28/19
Summer is almost here! As a youth minister, I find summer to be both exhilarating and exhausting. Most of you will spend at least one week on a mission trip or at camp. Some of you will spend all summer moving from one trip or event to another. You’ll work a 1000 hours one week and then the next you’ll be in the office staring at the walls out of sheer exhaustion.
As you think about managing your time this summer, here are four steps to keep you sane and moving forward:
Youth ministers as a group are great procrastinators. We must teach ourselves to live differently for the good of the youth ministry and for our lives. There are two types of prep work that need to take place during the summer.
A. Preparing well for trips
You should be exhausted when you get home from the trip, not when you leave on it. Therefore, you should not spend the last three days before the trip scrambling to get everything together. You already know what you need for the trip, so start getting it together NOW. I challenge you to take the day before each trip as a Sabbath day. You need to be rested and spiritually ready. Your family needs to have time with you before you leave. Make your preparations in advance. This is important for “summer must number two.”
B. Preparing for Fall Programming
I often found myself easily distracted during the summer. Programming was usually reduced to a weekly meeting and often that was a fun event that didn’t require much prep. The number of meetings had been reduced because people were out of town. But instead of taking advantage of this additional time to be productive, I would . . . do anything else. Learn to discipline yourself to work on prepping for the fall. Get the curriculum together. Assign small groups. Outline your lessons for the first two months of youth group. Come up with the theme for the fall retreat. With less distractions and focused attention, you will get more done in less time. This is can impact “summer must number three.”
Preparing for trips well is so important because the time and opportunity for ministry on mission trips and at camps is so valuable. Teachers get students every day of the week for two-thirds of the year. At best we get them every day of the week for two weeks a year. You want to be prepared so that you aren’t prepping the devotional when you could be spending time listening to youth share how God worked in their lives that day. Take advantage of the time you are given to be present with them as you experience God together.
If you go on trips and work your normal work hours during the summer, you are cheating yourself. No, you can’t count 24 hours a day on a trip as work hours and expect to take the next two weeks off (I tried that argument as a young youth minister), but you do deserve to take some time for yourself and your family. The school year is so busy with regular programming that many youth ministers have difficulty maintaining the discipline of Sabbath (see Rhythmic Week planning if this is a struggle for you). During the summer, there is time and opportunity to enjoy life outside of church–and you should! Take one extra day off a week during the four weeks following a week-long trip. Another option would be with less programming than during the school year, work only until 2:00 every day and then leave for the day.
The youth are likely the around the church less because of less programming and because they are traveling. You plan pool parties and other activities and wonder why the crowd is not bigger. The main reason is that teens do not plan more than a couple of hours ahead in the summer. I find that the best way to see them is to hang out with them wherever they are going. Pool parties and planned movie outings are very important, especially for the junior high youth whose parents need to be able to plan for their transportation, but don’t underestimate getting to hang with your senior high during whatever they are doing. Spontaneously invite them to the movies. Meet them at the park for ultimate Frisbee. If you meet them there and it’s a non-isolated public location, you don’t need to have planned for other adults to go with you (make sure you know your child protection policy well).
You’ll get your youth in smaller numbers and get good interaction with them and if you play your cards right you can have a lot of fun this summer doing your job.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.