For some of us, summer means things slow down a bit for a few months. For others, things seem to somehow move even faster. But, no matter what speed you find yourself moving right now—no matter how full or how empty your summer youth calendar is—fall is coming.
And, while summer may offer a change of pace for many of us, fall means the start of another ministry year full of program nights, small groups, outreach events, service projects and whatever else you fill your ministry calendar with.
Over the past 22 years that I’ve served students, I’ve learned to think about the youth ministry seasons of summer and fall this way…
If summer is time to slow down and put the brakes on, I think fall is like getting shot out of a cannon—it’s an adrenaline rush every time, but you have to know where you’re going and hit the target. Otherwise, you’ve just made a lot of noise and a big mess.
Youth ministry is a lot like that—you have to know where you’re going and aim for something. And, you better be prepared too. Otherwise, your ministry calendar can easily become just another chaotic mess of random events and teaching topics thrown together at the last minute.
Fortunately, Jesus gave us all something to aim at—His Kingdom. Ultimately, He wants us to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). He wants us to make an impact in people’s lives beyond this life. And, for those of us involved in vocational ministry, that means that we’ve got to be ready when fall rolls around and our ministry calendar starts all over again. Because, the reality is, God’s Kingdom is at stake.
So, while you’re thinking about what you’ll be doing during those hot summer days in front of you, let me give you four things to do to prepare yourself for fall. Remember, you have to know where you are going and aim for something. If your aim is to make an impact in God’s Kingdom, then consider adding these four things to your summer:
You need rest. Your body, soul, mind and spirit cannot maintain the pace of ministry year-round. You need rest. In a typical ministry year, there are generally two blocks of time that are ideal for you to rest—the summer months and Christmas break. So, take a vacation and go somewhere and rest. Leave your smartphone at home, grab a book or two and go. A couple books you might check out are An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling and Leaders who Last by Dave Kraft (especially chapter 5!).
The summer is a great time of year to spend time with students and leaders. You can make huge investments in kids’ lives by hanging out with them over ice cream, throwing a Frisbee around at a local park or even surprising them at their work if they have a job. The possibilities are endless. But, the great thing about summer is that your schedule is more flexible and students’ schedules are wide open. So, go find some students and hang out with them! You’ll be glad you did in the fall.
When fall comes, you will need help. You can’t do ministry alone. And, you can’t wait until Labor Day weekend to recruit your leaders for next year. Start the recruitment process now by making a list of potential student leaders and adult volunteers. Then, take that list and make personal contact with each person—talk to them about your ministry and how you see them fitting in it. Be clear about what you’re asking them to do and give them time to pray (and think) about joining your team. Remember, you can’t do ministry alone. God didn’t design the church to function that way anyway (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Like I said before, I imagine fall is like getting shot out of a cannon. And, if the cannon is empty, all you’ve done is made a lot of noise with no lasting impact (except for some deaf ears). You need to take the summer to reload your ministry—to have everything* ready to go when the ministry calendar starts all over again. And, just like in recruiting, you can’t wait until Labor Day weekend to do this. The best time to reload is the summer months because you actually have the time to put some thought and prayer into where you’re going in your ministry (and how you’re going to get there).
* “Everything” includes working on stuff like the overall program, teaching topics, small groups, outreach activities and special events, service projects and student and volunteer leadership development.How you use your time this summer will have a huge impact on how effective you will be in the fall. Click To Tweet
If your desire is to make an impact in God’s Kingdom—to see it explode in your ministry—then what are you going to do this summer to make that happen?
Jason Matthews is a youth pastor in Washington state, where he’s been serving students for over 20 years. When he doesn’t have to be in the office, he loves to be outside with his family, hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. He also loves to write, and you can find more of what he writes about at one of his blogs (WWW.VERSEOTHEWEEK.WORDPRESS.COM & WWW.PJASONMATTHEWS.WORDPRESS.COM).