Four Foundational Summer Priorities

By Jonathan McKee Posted on May 08 2012

Summer is rapidly approaching. Typically, for youth ministries, this means summer camps, water balloon wars, swimming pool events…oh yeah…and a summer Bible study.

Am I missing something?

It’s never easy to plan summer ministry. Family vacations and sports camps take teenagers away for weeks at a time. This doesn’t keep me from planning weekly venues where I have contact with kids, but it does prompt me to think about where my time is best spent. After all, everything I do in ministry falls under one of two categories: Outreach or Discipleship. I’m either reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus, or I’m helping believers get to know him better.

The question is…how can I use summer vacation to achieve these goals in my ministry to teenagers?

Summer is prime time to accomplish four foundational ministry practices:

One-on-one Time With Teenagers
Summer often provides the freedom in teenagers’ calendars to just “hang out.” Use this opportunity to “hang out” with them. Let every one of your volunteers know that this is priority-one for the summer.

It’s a sad reality, but most young people don’t have a lot of positive adult attention. Summer is a time where your whole team of adults can invite teenagers to connect in settings that are both fun and provoke face-to-face conversation.

Grab a kid or two and…

• Take them to the beach for the day. It doesn’t have to be an official youth group beach trip. In actuality, the smaller the group, the deeper the conversations.

• Go on a hike or a bike ride. This is a great escape from entertainment media and a great setting to surround yourselves in God’s creation.

• Take them shopping somewhere unique. Drive to a huge mall several hours away. It’s amazing the conversations you’ll have while shopping for shoes or sharing mediocre nachos in a food court.

• Go to one of the fun summer movie releases. But don’t just see a film, go for food afterwards and dialogue about what you saw.

One-on-one time helps you build relationships with teenagers that don’t know Jesus, opening doors to spiritual conversations. One-on-one time helps you disciple believers and draw them closer to Jesus.

Isn’t that what ministry’s all about?

Recruiting Adult Volunteers
As some of you read the words above, “Let every one of your volunteers know”…some of you squirmed in your seat.

But I don’t have many adult volunteers.

It’s a simple fact: it would be much easier to put adult mentors in one-on-one situations with teenagers if you actually had more adult mentors. Summer is a great time to recruit workers for the harvest (Matthew 9: 37,38).


Simple. Just give them a taste of ministry.

See all those activities above? Take another adult with you on some of those activities. Give them a taste of what it’s like to hang with a teenager for a day. Let them hear some of the stories as teenagers open up and reveal their hearts.

I assure you, there’s no better way to recruit workers of the harvest than giving them an opportunity to get waist deep with you in the waters of youth ministry.

Don’t scare potential volunteers away, asking them to sign on the dotted line…just ask them to hang out next Wednesday. Let them experience God’s work in the lives of teenagers, and then you can talk about how they can be involved on a regular basis.

But it all starts with a taste. What is a good venue where you could invite a potential volunteer and give them a taste of what God is doing in your ministry?

Gathering Student Leaders
As I’m spending time with teenagers during the summer, I’m always keeping my eyes open for the students that are ready to use their gifts and do ministry.

I was very selective in my wording there. I didn’t say, “serve.” I said, “ministry.”

Let me be clear. Any student can serve, believer and unbeliever alike. But only believers use their gifts to do ministry. We should provide service opportunities for all of the teenagers we connect with. But as students put their trust in Christ, we need to disciple them and eventually give them opportunities to not just serve, but do ministry. Service helps people temporarily. Ministry allows God to work through us and make a difference for eternity.

Jesus didn’t just hang out with the crowds, although that was an important aspect of his ministry, He chose a team of disciples that he would build into and equip to do ministry. This team of guys continued Christ’s cause after His death.

Entire books have been written on what ministry by teenagers can look like, making disciples, and even building student leadership teams. My point: summer is a great time to begin the process. Start to identifying student leaders who are ready to humbly do ministry. Plan a student leadership retreat or take them to a student leadership conference to equip them for ministry.

Who are the students you see who are ready to do ministry?

Plan a vacation with your family or friends. Get some “me time.” No, I’m not saying “take the entire summer off.” But plan a week or two—whatever you need—to just truly “rest.”

Escape your normal surroundings. Read that book you’ve wanted to read that’s not a ministry assignment. Rent a whole season of that TV series that you wanted to see but missed. Go to that vacation spot you’ve been wanting to go to…the one that you can afford! (in Fresno)

Get closer to God. Get closer to your family. Rejuvinate!

Where does this fit on your summer calendar? Make it fit!

Summer is so much more than just swimming pools and water balloon launchers, which both are great ministry tools, by the way. But don’t get caught up so much in the tools or the venues that we forget the purpose behind them. Build relationships with students this summer. Recruit more workers for the harvest. Prepare students to help you reach young people in your community. Rest!

Now only one question remains: what’s the first step you need to take to make these happen?

Jonathan McKeeIf you liked this article from Jonathan, you’ll love his books, Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and his brand new 4 Session DVD curriculum coming out this May, Real Conversations: Sharing Your Faith Without Being Pushy



Picture of Josh Evans

From Josh Evans on May 09, 2012

I have actually taken this model myself and applied to our student ministry! I am looking forward to recruiting new adult volunteers as much as anything. I am already starting this process, but have a few more that we need to take our student ministry to another level next school year.

Thanks for the challenges and the reminders about our upcoming summer break.

Picture of Laurie

From Laurie on May 09, 2012

We have a large youth group, and every we year we struggle to keep all youth engaged and ready to return during the school year.  Though personalized one-on-one time is great, it is difficult to do so with a youth group of about 300.  In recent years, we have been creating weekly small get-togethers throughout the summer that any youth can sign up for.  They range from weekend-long service projects and mission trips ( has some great ones, for all sizes), to a daily visit to a nursing home, to a day trip to the mountains.  I think it is so important to use activities like this to consistently remind youth why they value youth group time and the satisfaction they can gain.

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From Robin on May 10, 2012

So helpful, thank you for following the Spirit’s lead and posting this article.  Exactly the push I needed.

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From Jonathan on May 10, 2012

Thank you, Jonathan. Your blog posts are incredibly life-giving to me. Keep up the good work; it is a service/MINISTRY to the rest of us!

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From Austin Stewart on May 26, 2012

Great encouragement here in setting some intentional goals for the summer.

Teaching students to be ministers & not simply ‘serve’ is a crucial statement here. This goes for the adult volunteers as well big time. They are not going to be awesome volunteers if they are not clued into being a minister in the student ministry as apposed to just serving to just serve somewhere cause they are supose to at church. Too many churches want warm bodies serving instead of hearts on fire ministering in thier personal wheelhouses.

Helping the adult volunteers serve in the area they are passionate about in the student ministry turns them into adult student ministers instead of just volunteers.

Some of the words i use there are symantics but i love Jonathons point of students ministering & not just serving.

awesome !

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From LiSA j. on May 29, 2012

Thank you~ once again!  :)

Picture of Dave Wollan

From Dave Wollan on June 07, 2012

I love the change of pace summer brings.  I use the summer to play with my kids.  We have a church youth softball league in town and I find it to be an amazing group builder.  From getting shirts to cheering eachother on to grilling before the game, it really brings the group together!

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