Monday, April 13, 2015

Are You Ready For the Summer?

Dear friends in Student Ministry: Summer is almost upon us! Are you ready to make the most of all of the free time your students will have? Here are some thoughts on how I became a huge fan of summer ministries, originally posted back in 2009. 

In the early days of professional youth ministry it was commonplace for summer to be downtime for the Youth Pastor. This never made any sense to me. We would take three months when students were usually available and often bored and churches would slow down their youth ministries. Many youth workers were not paid during the summer months and had to find other jobs. In fact, I spent my earliest summers in ministry working at a summer camp because I had summers off. By the time of my first summer at Springfield Friends Meeting in 1987 all of this was changing. We planned events on Wednesdays and Sundays and our first trip to Disney World. At the 1987 NYWC I attended a seminar that challenged me to expand our summer ministry and to improve our communication. The summer of 1988 was my first shot at doing both.

The programs and events for that summer now seem very tame by my later standards, but they were the start of something big! We continued to meet on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights (giving our award-winning TNT program the summer off). We took trips to Myrtle
Beach (That's Amy, Lavonia, Andi & Heather pictured at The Betsy B in 1988) and Atlanta. We had our first ever Youth Week, with events every day, including a trip to Carowinds and a concert by me at the Covered Bridge Pizza Parlor in Archdale. We had our first ever Breakfast Club; our first ever trip to feed the homeless of High Point at Our Father's Table; our first ever end of the summer Luau!  We collected cans of tuna to help Urban Ministry feed the hungry. We attended Quaker Lake together and had our own class at VBS. Every ministry and event that would come in the later years got a start in the summer of '88.

It was also the year of the first Summer Ministries Booklet. This picture is the cover from 1990, but the little guy, Zed, was on the cover for the first four years. In 1988 he was carrying a surfboard. The booklet laid out the plan for our summer, giving details and sign-up deadlines. Students and parents alike loved the concept; looking back, it was a website in print years before anyone had a website! In the years to come the summer info packet would grow and the schedule would expand, but it all started in 1988. Nothing I ever accomplished in youth ministry created as much of a buzz or brought as much praise my way from students and their parents as my summer schedules over the years. And no one enjoyed the hectic pace, the frantic planning and the incredible amount of time spent with students any more than me! I thank God every day for the many blessings I received through the ministries, events and programs I led for all those years. Too many churches still treat summer as a time to slow down. I respectfully suggest just the opposite. Summer is a time to shift into high gear. Students have actual free time. Wouldn't it be awesome to have them spend it with the church? The time to start planning is NOW...

Because of Jesus,

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