It’s probably a little late for this post as many of us have the summer all laid out. Some of us aim for a scaled back model that includes more “activities.” Other just continue what we have going year round.

There is more “down time” for our families. We each have a different way of filling the summer. For years it was my busiest time filled with camps and missions trips. I almost dreaded the exhaustion as each day I literally ran around from 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night doing stuff and then making sure all was ready for the following day. I was frustrated when my students and their parents didn’t show deep appreciation for all I offered.

This triggered a realization for me that it isn’t about IF we do something during the summer, it’s WHAT we do for the summer.

Here are the key elements I take into account:

Take A Breath

What I love most about summer is there are less stressors competing for my student’s energy. While scheduling may still be an issue, I feel like I get a more laid back version of my youth. This is why I love to take the time to teach life lessons in action. Rather than simply sitting for a study, we serve together. Yes, we do take a mission’s trip, however, we find other ways to give to the community as well. In the midst of our projects we talk about the Bible, life lessons, and accountability.

Reinforce & Build

Over the course of the school year I have some key themes we focus on. Summer is when I come at those same ideas from a new fresh angle. I love to come up with activities that back up lessons we have been talking about, then at the end sit down and discuss what they keep learning. As we strengthen the learning, it provides building blocks to new lessons about the Lord.

Stop Talking About Fun

Here’s what I mean. Saying that our summertime activities should be more “fun” is like saying that we are boring the rest of the year. There is space however, to be more creative in some instances. Summer is the perfect venue to ask parents to host a dessert or open their home. Ask students to “plan the summer.” This is the time when they have the bandwidth to try. Could they come up with games, activities or ideas? It will take some guidance, however, try including them not only in what they want, but taking ownership.

Focus Down

Many times we talk about how we want summer to deepen our relationships with students. Yet, merely “hanging out” doesn’t always make that happen. Be purposeful in your relational time. Focus on ways you can get to know youth deeply, and allow them to get to know you.

Throw Out “All or Nothing”

Often the schedules of our students dictate what we do. We complain, “Not that many students come.”  So what? Why do we have to have a large number of students for it to be effective? We never know which students may be really impacted just by the extra attention they get.

Summer is my favorite time and I realize that when I see it as an opportunity to be creative and see Christ what a powerful time of year it can be.

– Leneita

#10 – Special Events and Activities
You might think that pot lucks and ice cream socials, but according to the research of over 8,000 new members at Saddleback Church - special events and activities rank the lowest on this best of 10 survey. Most churches spend an inordinate amount of time on planing events and activities for their people – when in fact it is only a minor factor in keeping people engaged as members. What would it look like if we reduced the glut of activities and events that are usually more work than they’re worth anyhow? If they play such an insignificant role, why not redirect some of that budget and manpower to something that is more important?

Youth ministry application: activities and events certainly have their place, but don’t waste your most precious resources on them. Chances are, maybe a few larger, annual events would give you a better return on your effort, without the total drain on the family, calendar and budget.

Whats your take on the importance of special events and activities?


This week we snuck away for the afternoon to take a stab at creating the first draft of our fall youth ministry calendar. There were lots of laughs and some good ideas for what’s next for HSM. Here’s a few things that were running around in my head yesterday, and am thinking about as I continue to process the stuff we came up with for our students:

Kill the sacred cows.
Each year, everything is on the chopping block. Annual events are fun and I totally love and support traditions, but have to be careful they don’t become something doesn’t becomes untouchable. Sacred cows haunt the halls of too many churches, this will not be one of them. Nothing is sacred. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when someone offers up one of my favorites to be sacrificed, but I have to be willing to put a bullet in it.

Effective is what matters most.
This ties in pretty closely with the first principle, but what matters more is not size, buzz or fun. Those things do matter and certainly play into our decisions – but what matters most is whether the event we are putting on the calendar is effective. If a discipleship class is bombing, don’t get rid of discipleship, just search for a way to do discipleship that is more effective. If an evangelistic event is huge but isn’t bringing students to Christ and/or back to church, why bother with it? Put aside personal feelings and inferior measurements and talk about effectiveness.

Know your unique strengths, identity and culture.
Here’s a few of ours that help shape what we do: the fall has natural momentum with the launch of small groups and the launch of our weekend services. Fun after-service events have been way more effective than separate night our events. We are an evangelistic-leaning ministry (trying to balance the biblical purposes). If you know where you’re leading your youth ministry and have a firm grip on your strengths and specific culture, it will help you guide the planning session accordingly.

Last years successes can be this years successes … or failures.
Don’t change for the sake of change – but realize what worked last year may not work again. Copying the previous year may seem like a good idea (and it just might be) but be careful not to get too comfortable in the same path because they easily turn into ruts. Surrounding your past, present and future plans in prayer and asking God to guide you into your future is always a good plan.

I wrote 5 Steps to Calendar on Purpose a couple years ago … might also be helpful. What else?


Our annual HSM Bowl is coming up in just two weeks. Going to be a blast! I’ll post the rules and details soon – here’s a promo video from this weekend’s service.