Summer seems to keep getting busier and busier. As events, retreat, camp, staff meetings, and just the weekly responsibilities pile up it can become harder to not feel overwhelmed this time of year. With teenagers having more time on their hands, we sometimes over book the summer. Here are a few good ideas on…..
“How do you make sure not to have too many events during the summer?”
Josh Beeler is the Associate Pastor of Youth and College at Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, TN. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University and of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Josh is married to his wonderful wife, Sherry, who he enjoys sharing conversation, adventures, and life with. He is ridiculously playful and works daily to maintain his mischievousness. Josh enjoys playing, singing, reading, questioning and laughing with friends.
Event overload is a very real epidemic in the lives of youth ministries, though it goes unnoticed by the Center for Disease Control, and has no approved medicine from the FDA (though caffeine does help…). On a professional level, calendaring and detail planning can take up huge chunks of weekly time and take away from time spent planning discipleship and devotional opportunities. On a personal level, too much time at church functions can strain family relations and leave spouses and children longing for school again. And on a ministry level, believe it or not, your students have plenty else going on, and can actually get tired of having so much to do. All these things point to one truth: we need to plan less events, and plan them more carefully. And with intentional efforts, it can certainly be done. Here’s a couple of suggestions for “decluttering” summer:
1. Plan your WHOLE Calendar at Some Point Throughout the Year
Yep, the whole calendar. In one sitting. I block off two weeks each summer to schedule the next year’s activities, budget designations, and Bible studies. There are a few reasons. First, an annual calendar is a framework for your creativity to shine. When I sit down with the goal of planning Bible studies and activities together, I can let one inform the other, I can craft retreats around a topic we just recently discussed in Bible study, or the other way around. I can draw outlines and take months to fill them with creative and meaningful activities and Bible studies. Second, by doing so you can follow whatever guideline you put in place for space between big events. Personally, I try to schedule major events only once every two months. Sometimes they get a little bit closer than that, but it’s a rough framework that works pretty well. If you look at the whole calendar together, the summer doesn’t become some entity separate from what you do while school is in.
2. Put your Summer Budget to Camp & Mission…and Pretty Much Nothing Else
At our church, we put a lot of money into a summer youth choir mission trip and a summer camp. These are BIG investments, and for the most part, things that the majority of your student base will participate in. Because of that, we try to invest the rest of our annual budget in other major events throughout the year so that students get meaningful experiences all year long. Don’t let summer hoard all of your ministry’s resources—there are plenty of meaningful and worthwhile things to do throughout the rest of the year as well.
3. Think About your Parents’ Budgets
When I sit down each summer to plan our calendar, I work through the church’s budget, but I also try to account for how much it will cost for a family to participate in our youth ministry’s annual events for one year. How much is reasonable for a family to contribute depends on the economic makeup of your congregation, and only you know what that looks like. We want students to participate in everything and not have to draw lines based on finances. With this being said, I also try to account for when parents will have to pay their money. As I mentioned before, summer is usually the time for Mission Trips and Camp—the two biggest expenses families usually have in the year. Considering that, you don’t want to give families any extra financial burden during those summer months! So if you consider family budgets in your planning, you will naturally plan less events in the summer.
4. Schedule Intentional Personal Times and be Serious About Taking It
If you have family, it’s summer for them too! This is time to get away with them or visit family or friends. And just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that your spouse will understand that you can’t have time alone anymore because of your endless attempts to keep teens occupied. You need to be intentional about protecting your time during these months. Plan and honor days off during the week and scheduled vacation times throughout the season. In the midst of the summer chaos, find moments for self care and make efforts to make events more meaningful, instead of more plentiful
Tim Schindler serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Ministry Development at Georgetown Baptist Church in Georgetown, Kentucky where he lives with his wife and four awesome kids. He studied at the University of Kentucky and Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY and has been in youth ministry for 16 years, with the last seven at GBC. In addition to student ministry, Tim also leads the church’s contemporary worship music. Follow him on Twitter @timschindler.
How do you make sure not to have too many events during the summer?
Truth is I am probably not the best person to answer this question. Case in point, as of this writing, I just returned home tonight after a week-long mission trip in Chicago (which also happened to be the week immediately following VBS). I’m going to squeeze in some family time, but in nine days I leave again for a week-long camp in Panama City Beach, Florida. I stay pretty busy in the summer—good times though!
However, I have two thoughts about summer scheduling.
First, see summer for what it is. Take full advantage of the opportunity to spend time with students relationally. Whatever time you put into preparation for the weekly programs throughout the school year (which for me is considerable), find ways to cut that significantly so that you can spend a ton of your energy focusing on relationships. For me, if it’s not notably relational, don’t bother doing it in the summer.
However, what I have found is that students are so much more available while school is out. It’s warm; find simple water activities to do with youth like going to the pool. The days are longer; find ways to stay out late like drive-in movies or Steak n’ Shake runs. The community gathers more often; get in on county fairs and street parties. Facilitate good transitions; send off your graduated seniors helping them leave well and reach out especially to new middle schoolers. Take your own kids along; I fully expect to take my four kids with us when we plan to play miniature golf or go to the water park. Most of these require little preparation other than finding adult volunteers and getting the word out. It really is okay to sacrifice some content in order to pour into relationships. I simply have opportunities to connect with students in a way I cannot during the school year.
My other advice—hire an intern.
I say this half-joking realizing that not everyone has the luxury of providing a paid internship for nine weeks in the summer. For me though, every summer since I’ve been at Georgetown Baptist Church, I have had the opportunity to bring in a summer youth intern. (Shout out to these awesome friends, including Justin Sizemore who wrote this week too!) It might be that you can start small with a few hours at a time, utilizing a student who graduated from your own ministry. In whatever way you can incorporate it into your own context, this kind of experience can be a great win-win both for your youth ministry and for these college students/ young adults.
On the one hand, an intern has the opportunity to learn on-the-job skills of working with youth. I usually ask our intern to take responsibility for planning and implementing our midweek summer youth program… with the freedom to pretty much make it whatever she or he wants it to be. On the other hand, I walk with the intern, model some of the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts, and can provide a sounding board for ideas and feedback. It takes some of the summer responsibility off of me, but it also allows me to guide and invest in someone who has a heart for students or who might be considering ministry. It doesn’t necessarily mean less time for me in the summer, but again, it becomes a mostly relational activity itself.
Summer, then, turns out to be for me one of the most life-giving parts of my job because it allows me to do what I went into youth ministry to do in the first place… be with students, serving, worshiping, and doing life together with them.
Justin Sizemore graduated from Georgetown College, and McAfee School of Theology. He is married to Abby Sizemore.
Summer in youth ministry life can be exciting, rejuvenating, and almost always exhausting. In order to find the right balance of rest and fun, it is important to look over the calendar and find times for activities and time for rest. When I set out to plan the summer schedule, I always have three things in mind. First, what can we do on a consistent basis? Two, when could we do 3-4 special events? And three, where in the calendar can we find some time for rest?
First, I think it is important to be consistent with a summer schedule. Doing something on a weekly basis might seem exhausting, but in the long run, can be very beneficial. Not only does it keep the students on a schedule, it also keeps me on a schedule. I know that I will see the students every week or at least every other week. The past few summers I have done Scrunch (Scripture and Lunch) and Munch (Movie and lunch). These events are pretty low key and just help to keep a consistent flow.
Second, special events are what make summers in youth ministry. Camp, a summer mission project, a night at the drive-in or numerous other activities can make or break a summer schedule. I have noticed that too many special activities can be overwhelming for you and the students. If there is something big happening every weekend, students will not want to come. Likewise, parents will get frustrated if these events cost a lot of money. A general rule I try to follow is one major event and one minor event each month of summer. Camp and a baseball game could be a major and minor event for one month then a water park and movie night the next month.
Lastly and most importantly, summer should be a time for rest and a time to regroup. As youth ministers, we need time to stop and to get our thoughts back together after ending the school year. And likewise, the students need time to regroup and relax as well. It is so easy to burn out by doing so many activities over the summer. Find some time to STOP. Rest is a great thing and the summer should be slow enough for you to take that well needed rest.
Summer is always a lot of fun in youth ministry and one of the times of year I realize I have the best job ever. But it is important not to get overwhelmed and burned out during this time. Find times to be consistent but not overwhelming. Plan out a few bigger and fun events that students will love! (Maybe even let them come up with an idea for one of those events.) And finally, take a break! It is called summer break after all! Take some time to kick your feet up and think new exciting thoughts. Prepare yourself for the fall. And most importantly, turn it all off and just relax.