Summer fun is in full swing here at YMC. In the next few months this website will continue to grow to include more than just the blog and the occasional resource. Currently we have several projects/ideas/and resources that should be hitting our site come mid to late August. Until that time enjoy some answers to…..
“What are some activities you do 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.
The school year’s finished, students are excited for the break from books and papers, families are preparing for the vacation that is just around the corner, and you sit in your office counting down the days until September. In youth ministry, we all know it—this is the busiest time of the year! But done right, it can also be the most fulfilling.
Students often look forward to the summer activities of their youth group more than any other time of the year (think back—I know my most memorable times in youth group happened during these months!). So how do we go about making sure that they remain excited for what’s happening, and still create intentional and meaningful opportunities for discipleship along the way? My suggestion is to plan space for discipleship in your summer activities.
Duh. No brainer. But seriously! Find creative ways to teach discipleship through fun environments that only the summer allows for. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Send Your Students Devotional/Conversational Lessons Throughout the Week
This summer, our middle and high school groups will receive daily devotional materials to reflect on individually. When we come together at activities, all of our lessons and discipleship conversations will be shaped around these materials. Our high school group has been challenged to use the d365.org devotional website each day throughout the summer, and our middle school group will be sent daily text message devotionals from a discipleship tool called “SMSdevotionals” from Download Youth Ministry. Students are encouraged to reflect daily (and in our situation, MS students are encouraged to respond in text to the devotionals) and come prepared to talk about what meant the most, challenged them the most, or was something they had never heard before in their daily devotions. Summer creates a unique space where students schedule allows for you to pour into them more in the realm of discipleship—so make use of it!
2. Activity-based Discussions
I mentioned this in the previous point, but I’ll expound here—summer is expected to be activity driven. That can be an exhausting thing, and you move away from it if you want, but it can also be meaningful. Students will plan to be at these events to spend fun times with their friends, so it becomes and easy and natural environment to discuss the materials they’ve been working through. Pool parties are your best friend! They are easy to plan (especially if you have AWESOME adult hosts), they can even be very low cost (try asking those wonderful adult volunteers if they’d consider donating the food for the event, or have each student bring something to the party), and they provide a comfortable environment for conversation whenever you decide to have it. Some other activities we are doing include movie night (plan a discussion about the movie after), bowling, mini golf and tubing (a Knoxville favorite where you sit in an inflatable tube and float down a river—every area has a “local favorite” activity like this that you can take advantage of!). Whatever you choose, be sure to make a space for discipleship. You don’t need to force 45 minutes of it into everything that you do, but be sure to schedule some activities where you have time for meaningful conversation throughout the summer.
3. Mission Trips
It’s not a summer without them. If you aren’t careful, summer in your youth group can become just a fun collection of regular events that students get to go to. We need to balance fun with purpose. Our groups will be completing one major mission project each month of the summer, along with a mission trip and Passport missions camp. Even in the midst of all the fun, don’t let your students lose focus of what Christ has really called them to as his disciples!
So yes, summer is exhausting for all of us, but I hope that at the end of each day you will know that the activities you plan has meaning and significance in the lives of your students. Happy summer to all!
Rev. Molly Brummett is a graduate of Carson Newman University (’10) and Wake Forest University School of Divinity (’13). She has served as Minister of Youth and Community at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC since July 2013. Molly loves strong coffee, frolicking outside, dancing in the streets, good poetry, hearty laughter and embodied radical hospitality. Getting to do life with her youthies brings her great joy.
“To make bread …, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.”
These words of Barbara Brown Taylor’s have resonated with me for quite some time—even before engaging in youth ministry. Sometimes the most profound, holy moments of transformation come not in a lecture, sermon, bible study or questions; instead, they come in being, in doing, in engaging the simple, fun everyday acts. During KBC Youth summers, therefore, when we do not only engage in thinking, embodying, learning and being the Gospel through mission trips and choir tours, we also play, serve, laugh, run, chop, grow, and be to embody the Gospel.
During summers at KBC, we still have SNYG (Sunday Nigh Youth Group) but take a less structured feel. The nights involve games, presence, laughter and prayer varying from the church to the local park to my home. We also focus on celebration in the summer—a cookout to celebrate the end of a school year, Messy Games to celebrate a full summer of delight, a pool party to usher in and welcome our new 6th graders, and even a Lock-In to celebrate our newly renovated Youth Space.
But the most crucial, bountiful way I have found to enact the truth behind Barbara Brown Taylor’s words with my youth comes in Wonderful Wednesdays. These began as a way for me to get to know my youth as the new youth minister in town last summer. What they became, however, were times I could just “be” with my youth.
Every other Wednesday, we go hiking, we serve a meal to the community, we relish in ½ price ice cream, we get competitive at bowling, we engage summer at its best on a baseball field, we jump around at a trampoline park and we see faith—yes, even God—in each other and in these simple moments of living. It is a space where all masks, doctrine, and uncertainty come off and instead a space for the Holy Spirit is created. Relationships with each other and with God blossom on Wonderful Wednesdays in ways they do not on Sunday Night or even on our Mission Trips, for faith becomes not just something we do on Sunday night or twice a summer as we serve on mission but something we do together—all the time—even in the simple, fun acts of living life to the fullest.
Gregory Harrell has served as minister to youth at Blacksburg Baptist in Blacksburg, VA, since 2009. Despite being directly across the street from Virginia Tech he still believes Maroon and Orange should never be worn together.
Every year as the summer roles around, I begin to get this feeling like I have to take everything to warp speed. Our students are out of school and the demands on their time seem to lighten so it seems like I should take advantage of that time and plan a lot of great things for them to do to encounter God. This urge, I believe, is wrong. Our students are over-scheduled, stressed out, and they need a break. They need to discover the power of sabbath. I think the summer gives us a great opportunity to show what resting in God is like. When planning my summer calendar I look for opportunities to provide times of connections with God and each other, fun, and relaxation. We usually have things on a weekly basis, but they are all low stress. I also try to make sure all activities are either free or low cost. Here are the three things I try to fill my summer with:
Outdoors: Our winters are usually harsh so when summer roles around we want to be outside. Planning outdoor activities is relatively easy for me as we have mountains, a national forrest, and amazing rivers and lakes nearby. Where ever you are find cheap things to do outside. Plan a hike, games at a local park, play in a lake/river, do a bike ride and a movie, or meet for a cookout.
Lunches: Each week we meet for lunch on Tuesdays for what we call Refresh. We usually walk to a nearby restaurant to eat and hang out. We also have a devotional at the end that a student leads. It gives us a time to catch-up and it is great to hear how God is working in the lives of our students.
Serve: Each summer I try to identify one organization to serve with locally a few times over the summer. I want our students to gain a better awareness of the needs in our community and to hopefully find ways God is calling them to serve.