I love youth ministry. I have been passionate about it since I felt God call me to do it in jr. high. After 9 years on staff at Eastridge Church there are a few things that I have learned (some from my mistakes and some from others with a lot more wisdom) about leading a youth ministry.
One thing I have become convinced of is summer is one of the most vital seasons within youth ministry. There is no other time or season throughout the year where students have more free time and opportunity to move forward in their faith.
Summer may be a great time to take a break from school. It is a horrible time for students to take a break from their faith!
If we believe this, our youth ministry structure and calendar should line up with that believe.
Here are a few things we do every summer to help equip, encourage and strengthen our students in their faith.
1. We keep EVERYTHING going
I don’t believe that since kids are on break that the schedule of ministry should change. We keep Youth Church on Wednesdays and Life Groups on Sundays going strong. I know this philosophy doesn’t and won’t work with every community, city and church culture. But if you can…keep things rolling. I believe you will have a lot easier time in the fall if things have not been in hibernation mode for a few months.
2. We do a MISSION trip
The summer is a great window to get your kids to experience something that will change their lives. There are few things that accomplish that like a mission trip. Getting young people into an environment where they are serving, caring and giving always develops good things in their lives, in their character and in their faith. At Eastridge Youth we try to offer both local (in the US) and international mission trips. We want our students to understand that the mission is across the street and around the world. It’s our desire to see every student go on a mission trip before they graduate high school.
3. We do a Summer CAMP
There is just something about summer camp! I know for a fact that my life was changed at summer camp, and I know that as we help to create environments where young people can encounter Jesus, their lives will be changed as well. Camp is an opportunity to get away from the distractions of life as normal and position yourself in an environment where Jesus is focused on and centered on throughout the week. I am always amazed at the testimonies that come out of a week of camp. God is still in the business of changing lives!
4. We do a Student Summer INTERNSHIP
One of the greatest windows of discipleship is summer! Every year since 2003 we have held a student summer internship at Eastridge Youth. We focus it around two specific areas: discipleship and serving. I like the balance that brings. I don’t want to raise kids up who have all the knowledge but are unwilling to do anything with it. On the other hand, I don’t want to have a bunch of students who are eager to “do works” without the understanding of what it is all about. Our student summer internship focuses on growing their understanding of God’s Word and their faith, as well as serving THEIR student ministry, THEIR church and THEIR community. We use the month of August to do our student summer internship…and I love it!
5. We have FUN
I don’t think fun should be seasonal, but I think different seasons lend itself to creating fun moments. Throughout our summer we do After Parties following youth church on Wednesday nights, Ski Days down at the lake and other fun events to build relationship and have a good time!
Summer is vital in youth ministry. Use it to build students to their full potential. Don’t throw summer away!