I love summer. I love all that comes with it! I even still love camp, even when I’m in the cabins with teens! What I love even more is the change of pace and rhythm where you get to spend a little more time with people.
What has blown me away in the last few years would be the number of youth groups I hear get cancelled for the summer months. When asked why…the response is typically something like this. “Well, the youth are so busy during the school year that we want to give them a break.” or “Oh, our students are on vacation all summer so it is impossible to plan anything” or “We do camp!! It takes so much effort and energy, it’s like an entire semester’s worth of youth group in one week!”
Here’s what I actually hear- 1) I am so busy and I need a break (or my volunteers). Don’t mind if this is the most free any teenagers schedule gets all year long. And yes, that is even with summer jobs, summer school and practice for sports. 2) If I can’t have every youth at every event it’s not worth it. 3) Youth ministry is all about camp. It is not about an ongoing walk with students. It is about getting them to camp, being at camp and reflecting on camp.
What blows me away more are the pastors/rectors/ministers and lay leaders who find this pattern to be perfectly acceptable even encouraged! In what other job can you be expected to take off for 2-3 months and still expected to maintain momentum? Even more weird are for those getting paid…to take off for the summer.
Summer can be the golden opportunity to be who you have wanted to be as a minister a youth group and a church. It is a change of pace, the season when a more relaxed and relational rhythm of life is possible. There are tons of blogs with all kinds of tips for what to do in the summer months. Everything from swim parties, to cook outs, game nights, prayer walks, games at the park and finding ways to serve in your local community. I am more than happy to brainstorm all manner of ways to be with one another but that’s not my point here. My point is to encourage youth leaders to not blow summer’s off. To walk with students during this crucial time. Teenagers will fill their time. It can be filled with lots of fun and great relationship building time or let them hang out on their own, find parties and create their own fun. For many they will make fine choices and good decisions. For others, the choices they make will lead them further and further from Christ, the church and certainly from returning to youth group in the fall. Just like adults, we need to come together to encourage one another to love and good deeds.
One final note, be realistic. Yes, vacations happen, but not everyone is on vacation for the entire summer. It’s ok to adjust for smaller numbers at any one activity, event or Bible study. This is a great time for relationships to be built and life to be shared!