Some youth groups keep the same programming through the summer months as they do in during the school year. If that’s you…well… wow. I honestly have no idea how you do it. I used to be borderline ANTI-summer. I put nothing the calendar besides a mission trip and a camp week.
While I think it is important to have a “down” time in your yearly calendar, my empty summer schedule felt a little TOO “down.” I told myself that all the students were on vacation and had jobs, etc., but the reality was that there were plenty of students around to something.
I tried doing random get-togethers, but things fell through and people’s schedules filled up. Attendance was pitiful. Even though these events weren’t massive successes, they helped me realized how much I liked the feel of randomness for summer. This led to us instituting “planned randomness” where we had programming in the summer months that felt spontanious, but were really planned far in advance. People were able to schedule the meetings into their summer calendars and we had good attendance at each gathering. We’ve now been doing this for four years and it’s worked really well.
Here’s a basic breakdown of what we do.
End of the Year Pool Party: self-explanatory…I hope. (Note: I don’t find the need to over-plan this). I cook on the grill while chatting with the parents. The students and leaders swim. We invite incoming 6th graders. It’s not rocket science.
VBS: The Youth Group started helping out with our VBS about 6 years ago. We now make up almost half of all the volunteers! It’s a great way to meet upcoming students and there are usually so many different jobs that everyone can help with something.
Camp Trip: We do not go to one every year; but when we do, it is usually some sort of beach camp. We tend to go to the types of camps that take care of all the planning. We go to camp not put on a camp. Win. (Some years we do an international missions trip and it takes the place of this trip.)
Christianity and Coffee: Each Tuesday in July we meet at the local Starbucks and do a Bible study. I always arrive an hour early to commandeer the tables. The students enjoy it and I enjoy the coffee. Win-win. The only trick is that sometimes the music is a little loud and it almost feels like we are shouting as we do the study.
Missions Trip: Two semi-unique things about our mission trips: We only go to organizations that our church officially partners with and we found a missions organization that we decided to go back to every year. I could write a whole blog post just about those two choices. But for our purposes here, I’ll just say that I used to be a big advocate for traveling to a different place every year, but we have found multiple advantages to going to the same location, using the same organization, and not traveling very far. It has been a massive blessing. The one we go to every year is called “The Philadelphia Project.” Google it. Great organization!
Parables and Pizza: Each Thursday in August we meet at a local pizza shop. They allow us to do a Bible study at a couple tables in the back of their restaurant. It takes the place of the coffee events that we do in July, but tend to make them a different day of the week in case someone couldn’t do one or the other.
One-Day Trips: This can be anything that’s a full day trip. You probably already do them. We don’t do a lot of these . Maybe one per summer (and sometimes none). Examples include beach day, going to an amusement park, visiting a nearby large city (we’re on the east coats, so NYC and Washington DC are great examples), and even just a day-long hike. They don’t have to be expensive options.
Quick Thought About Communication:
Because we want to make it feel different, we send out a summer calendar that looks a little… well… chaotic. We use emojis and graphics. It was more of an illustrated bullet-point outline than a calendar. Parents hang it on the fridge and people comment on the pictures and easter eggs I throw in. I also sound out a weekly email with reminders.
Find the right balance in your summer schedule. Resist BOTH of the big temptations: over-planning and under-planning. This is a great 2-3 month period where you can do fun, unique things with your group. Starting planning now to make June, July, and August a special time in your ministry!
JONATHAN HOBBS is the Director of Youth Ministries at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He has worked in youth ministry for almost 20 years, including churches in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He has spoken and/or led worship for multiple camps, retreats, and events around the country and has written multiple articles for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. He also co-wrote/edited a book called “Don’t Do This” which is full of stories about failures in youth ministry. (Something he knows a lot about). He is the founder of J3 Youth Ministry (WWW.J3YOUTHMINISTRY.COM) and is one of the hosts of the J3 Youth Ministry Podcast. He took karate in high school because he thought it would help make him cool. He was wrong. Jonathan and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful daughters, Kaylin and Julia. He loves golf, can juggle two balls skillfully and does a halfway decent impression of Kermit the Frog. He’s also a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @JONHOBBSTWEETS.