Want to have a great summer? As youth workers that have planned summers that have both crushed and crashed—let us share some tips for planning a great summer calendar.

Don’t wait until the pressure is on.
Here’s some good news right up front: If you’re thinking about summer now, you’re in good shape. Next year, start even earlier! If you plan in advance, even in broad strokes, it will greatly improve the chances of your summer’s big ideas becoming a reality. Resist the false belief that waiting until the pressure is on makes you better—it doesn’t; it just makes you more frantic.

Change it up.
Summer is a GREAT time to change it up. Get out of the school year rhythms and programs and shake things up. Always have youth group inside? What about taking it “under the stars” for the month of July? Always have small groups? Change it up and go with Midweek for a few months. Summer allows you to try something new and experiment in the short-term effectively. Maybe you’ll stumble onto something great that you can bring into the full year, too!

Think free first.
Summer gets expensive quickly. Aside from camp, what if everything else was free? It would make you get creative for sure! This summer we’re trying out a weekly event we’re calling Five-Dollar Friday trying to keep things super relational, super effective, and super cheap. A few years ago we employed a “cheap and easy” philosophy where everything was super cheap AND most things required no advanced registration, paperwork, etc.

Push hard toward a central event.
For us, Summer Camp is THE event of summer—all events before it point toward it and everything after rides the wave it creates. Maybe this summer take the same strategy and put your eggs in one basket. If you plan too much, it creates confusion as to what someone should really attend. We want it to be obvious: COME TO CAMP—and if you make it to the other stuff, great!

What are your summer planning tips?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Last summer was incredible so this summer we’re hoping to build on what we learned and have another great break. Here is a little insight behind what HSM has planned for this summer. If you haven’t seen the calendar and list of events yet, you can check it out here:

All about relationships
The summer is all about hanging with students. We embrace the beauty of time off from school and the different pace around the church office. Summer = relational ministry goldmine.

Free, free, free
Summer camp is the signature event to kickoff the summer and the only one that costs money – after that every event is totally free. In the past we have had events that each charge admission, and over time these add up to frustrated parents and limiting participation.

Low prep time
The events on the summer calendar are meant to be low-prep time events. They are basically excuses to do relational ministry. Prep for Free Coke Friday? Grab some frisbees and a cooler of Gatorade. Done!

Regular recurring events
Want to remember the summer schedule? Every event happens 7 times this summer. 7 Midweeks, 7 Free Coke Fridays, 7 Bagels & Bibles. If you come to one, you can figure out the schedule for the summer. If you’re free on a Friday, you know what we’re up to that day.

Lots of Bible time
One of the big emphasis of our summer is plenty of time in the Word. One of the advantages of no small groups and no high school classes is that we have blocks of time and regular opportunities to pull off our own classes fr spiritual growth.

What should we try next summer that is working for you?

JG