Ah, summer ministry is finally here. The change of pace and the escape from church office hours is welcomed; the excitement of camp is all around you. Summer can be one of the most influential seasons in ministry—here’s why we love it and why your summer activities matter so much.

Embrace the change of pace.
When things change, people pay more attention. When you shake things up over the summer you’ve got a chance to be creative in your teaching style, or give guest speakers a new voice to your students (and we don’t mean expensive guest speakers…we mean student leaders, the dad with a cool testimony, etc.). Don’t let the summer be the same old thing—time to experiment!

Plan things to be ultra-relational.
Summer activities are an excuse to hang out with students. Take advantage of that opportunity. Dial down the program and work hard to create space for conversations and real life to be exposed. You might be surprised how the barriers come down when it isn’t over-programmed. Keep a journal and at the end of summer it will be exciting to see how God worked.

Make sure you make some “me” time.
If you’re not careful, you could plan out every waking minute of the summer and end up burned out by August. Don’t make this mistake; usually youth workers make it once and learn from it, or didn’t survive and changed professions by the next summer.

Summer activities build momentum for the kickoff of the school year.
A great summer makes for a great fall—work hard to invest in your people this summer and the returns will last until Christmas.

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

Whether you have kids or not, take advantage of the topic this week to think about your family and ministry and how they work together cooperatively—and how they fight each other.
The stages of kids in youth ministry vary…I’m in the thick of it right now:

You are living the dream. You AND your spouse are doing great ministry together. You both have unlimited time and have little or no boundaries on time or energy. These are great years to do youth ministry—soaking up experience and experiences left and right.

Youth ministry remains pretty easy at this stage. You can just throw the little one into a car seat and let them sleep while you’re finishing up a late youth group night or volunteer meeting. Every once in a while you see shades of how this can’t last forever, but largely it isn’t a significant change…yet.

This is where I’m living right now—my four kids are all 10 and under and are in our ministry lives 100%. My wife’s role has changed within the day-to-day ministry but that feels right after a little time. My kids are total insiders and get to jump in on some youth group activities and have lots of older friends who are in our youth group. At this stage the number of nights out matter so much, and balancing family and ministry is in its most crucial stage.

This one is just around the corner for me—my goal is to make this a super fun stage having them in our ministry. For the first time in my life I’ll have a teenager—and he’ll be in my youth group! I won’t hide too much from my kids at this point about the realities of ministry, and hope to have very open and honest conversations with them so they see both the good, bad, and ugly of the church. As an added bonus, I would imagine there’s a big credibility gain with parents when you’re in it alongside them, too.

Where does it go from here? Honestly, I’m about to figure it out. I’ve talked to enough youth workers to realize it is possible to raise amazing kids that are healthy, balanced, and grounded while their parents lead a youth ministry. It’s definitely one of my lifetime goals.

Take a minute to think about what stage you’re in, and your future family and youth ministry. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, too!

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

The event is over—you collapse in a heap swearing you’ll never do another overnighter again. Deep down, as much as you hate it, you see relationships growing with students and know the Gospel is being presented, so maybe… just maybe, you’ll do it again. Either way, now is the time to sleep.

Your peaceful and overdue slumber is sharply broken by the piercing of your cell phone. It’s 9 A.M. and the church staff is just getting to the office and wading through the aftermath of your event. The trustee is ticked about the Diet-Coke-and-Mentos-covered parking lot. The deacon wants to know why the baptismal is now empty and the carpets are so wet. The church cleaning guy is frustrated at the amount of toilet paper that’s missing and the senior pastor called having found where it ended up—the trees in his front yard.

This fictional event…well, honestly some of it is fiction…holds some great reminders. Yesterday we said make sure you say thanks; today’s reminder is to make sure you clean it up—which is how you say thanks to your church for letting you do this stuff in the first place!

A few lessons from our fable:

1) If possible, don’t use your own facility for “high maintenance” events. Rent out a YMCA or travel to a few different places so one place doesn’t take such a beating.

2) Clean up after yourself. There’s no faster way to lose your credibility, position, or salvation than leaving a mess in your event’s wake.

3) Know yourself. When I (Josh) think something is clean that usually means it’s somewhat passable. Find a leader who is detail-orientated and will make sure every nook and cranny are clean, and everything is back in place.

4) Be the last to leave. When you lock up behind you, there’s nothing left to chance. Not only that but it also lets you model servanthood by being the first one in and the first one out.

5) If you break something (hey, things happen)…give someone a heads up. Do it before it’s later discovered, and you look completely irresponsible. Don’t be that guy who blindsides his/her boss.

6) Fuel it back up and get it washed. Did you use a vehicle in your program or event? Borrow a parent’s minivan for your missions trip? Get it cleaned inside and out ,and make sure the fuel tank reads FULL.

7) Simple rule of thumb: Leave it better than you found it. Who cares about the senior citizens Bible study at 6am on Saturday morning? You do! Make sure their room, and any of the other ones you used, are back to ship shape.
Make them wonder if your event even happened because things are so tidy.

What else would you add to the list?

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.

As we’ve already discussed, summer is a chance to change up your student program; why not let it be a chance to change up how you care for your leaders as well. This summer we’re trying some new things, and bringing back some time-tested classic ways to encourage and care for our leaders. Here are a few of both!

Kick it off with a BBQ.
Nothing says “You’re important to me” like a double cheeseburger fresh off the grill….unless  you have ribs, too. By now your summer is in full swing, so take an evening to relax, eat some tasty food, and love on your volunteer team. They’ll need the encouragement to make it through the rest of the summer schedule!

Think about a ball game.
A while back we did a big tailgate party with our leaders and bought them tickets to a baseball game. Pick a great night (with fireworks) and if you’ve got the chance, spring for tickets for their whole family as well. Everyone makes sacrifices when a parent serves in youth group—give them all a ballpark dog and a seat in the upper deck to say thanks.

Host a coffee drop-in.
As you care for leaders in the summer, consider this one: Drive-By Coffee. You bring your MacBook and work from Starbucks for the bulk of the afternoon and let all your leaders know if they drop by you’ll buy them a drink. In our experience most will stay for maybe 10-15 minutes, so you can get in a ton of relational time as well as crank on a few emails in between. Of course, you need to be prepared for the awkward leader who decides to hang around for the majority of the afternoon!

Have some end of summer beach/pool fun.
Summer has been incredible, so why not pull everyone together for a little fun poolside? Maybe break out the grill again or just do s’mores at the firepit. Forget any formal program; just circle everyone up at the end of the night to share highlights, favorite moments, and stories that are destined to become legendary in your ministry for years to come.

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.

Our focus this week on relational youth ministry brings us to the practical question: How can we make our student ministry more relationship-based? Here are a few ways we’re trying to do just that in our ministry.

1 – Add a “welcome time” to youth group each week.
We’ve all seen this before, the “shake hands with 15 people around you” but when used sparingly it can be really effective. As your group grows, it’s surprisingly easy for the “basics” like a warm greeting to slip through the cracks!

Our students have come to love this time—we’ve expanded it to several minutes so that people can actually have a short conversation rather then just a cursory greeting. This is a great chance for introductions to be made, too! We have a volunteer every week who works hard to get to know someone new and makes it a point to introduce them to us specifically each week.

2 – Have everyone in place before and after the service.
If you are still running around finalizing details of your program when everyone is coming in, it’s gonna be tough to be relational! Work hard to do program-related stuff before students arrive; if you’re still dialing things in as they’re walking in, it’s simply too late. And tell everyone on your volunteer team they are “dead to each other” once youth group starts.

3 – Build down time to hang at every event.
If you’re at a youth conference, camp, or other big event, the planners have been paid to fill up every waking moment with something. In many cases, youth leaders choose a late-night option or yet another training session when what the group might need is some discussion time.

Maybe a break is in order, and you need to ditch a session and go get some frozen yogurt and just talk over what they’ve already learned. Relational ministry fights the go, go, go approach.

4 – Train your leaders in the art of asking good questions.
Help your leaders ask good questions—open-ended questions that require thoughts instead of a simple yes or no. Help them have an instantly ready queue of questions to ask someone they are meeting for the first time. Give them the tools to help them fight the awkward silences of first getting to meet someone.

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.

Today we’re simply pointing you to great tools that will help students grow on their own. Check them out in consideration of something that would work in your ministry context as well:

1-Minute Bible by Doug Fields
You’ve committed yourself to more Bible reading plans than you care to admit, and you’re 187 chapters behind in your latest attempt. If this sounds familiar, then the One Minute Bible for Students is what you need to get back and stay on track. Do the math. There are 1400 minutes in a day. It will take you One Minute to read a passage of Scripture. “Hey, that’s doable!” Additionally, veteran youth pastor Doug Fields has contributed some great insights to help you apply these short, one-minute Scripture readings to your every day life.

Student Leaders Start Here by LeaderTreks
Student Leaders Start Here is a practical, interactive workbook, to help students grow in leadership. It focuses on three topics that are crucial for developing as a leader, and gives students a personal leadership profile for their strengths and growth areas in each topic. Give this book to the individual student who is growing in leadership, or use it in your student leadership team and small groups when you follow the bonus pages for small group facilitators.

Stripped Clean by Jeff Storm

Give your teenagers a guilt-free, up-close look at materialism—one that strips away the overwhelming messages of a consumer society. You’ll see authentic changes in readers as they tear out pages to use in Jesus-centered activities.

Case for Christ Student Edition by Lee Strobel
Who Was Jesus? A good man? A lunatic? God? There’s little question that he actually lived. But miracles? Rising from the dead? Some of the stories you hear about him sound like just that—stories. A reasonable person would never believe them, let alone the claim that he’s the only way to God! But a reasonable person would also make sure that he or she understood the facts before jumping to conclusions. That’s why Lee Strobel—an award-winning legal journalist with a knack for asking tough questions—decided to investigate Jesus for himself.

Live Large. Be Different. Shine Bright. By Josh Griffin and Doug Fields
In Live Large. Be Different. Shine Bright., Doug Fields and Joshua Griffin share about some important character qualities that will help teenagers live large, be different, and shine bright. A lot of what Doug and Joshua write about doesn’t seem to get much sermon time, but these topics are definitely worthy of consideration and experimentation—topics like competition, laughter, cliques, encouragement and several others will help teenagers in the process of being a more vibrant follower of Jesus.

More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
With almost 10 million copies in print, More Than a Carpenter continues to be the most powerful evangelism tool worldwide. Josh McDowell’s timeless examination of the true nature of Christ and his impact on our lives is one of the best-selling Christian books ever. Written by a former skeptic of Christianity, it is a hard-hitting book for those who doubt Jesus’ deity and his purpose.

Your Own Jesus by Mark Hall
A true storyteller and a teacher with a heart for ministry, Mark Hall traces the downward spiral caused by spiritual compromise with the world, and then charts the upward road to wholeness and restoration that comes when we claim our very own Jesus. When that happens, believers experience authentic fellowship with the one living God. Through fascinating personal stories, scriptural insights, and discussion questions for practical interactive study, Your Own Jesus: Student Edition will set readers free to live without compromise with the Jesus they come to know intimately and love fully.

ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
High school and college students are bombarded today with mixed media messages of moral relativism. ethiX: Being Bold in a Whatever World helps young adults better understand how to make Bible-informed ethical decisions on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, marriage and divorce, the morality of war, cloning, euthanasia, capital punishment, sexuality, and more.

Middle School Survival Series by Kurt Johnston, Mark Oestreicher, and Scott Rubin
There are six books in this series: My Faith, My Family, My Friends, My School, My Changes and My Future. Each book consists of 72 easy-to-read mini chapters written specifically for young teens.

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.

Summer is crazy busy! And while the amount of activities and schedule vary from ministry to ministry, there’s no denying that summer can be a challenging time of year.

So how do you make the most of summer activities? Here are a few ways that might help you fall in love with summer as your favorite season of ministry:

Give your summer interns or key volunteers a chance to lead.
Take the summer off from teaching—and work on getting some of your people up front. Better yet, consider asking students to teach a series as well. Just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean that it won’t be work for you helping coach them and assist in crafting their talks, but the effort will be worth it. You get a chance to listen and be refreshed while less experienced teachers are being developed.

Try something new…really new.
This summer, we brainstormed up a ton of new ways to engage students. We came up with something that is super new … The Zombie Apocalypse. The whiteboard is filled with ideas on how to make this thing epic – think capture-the-flag + zombies and you’ll get the idea. Will it work? Will I (Josh) lose my job? Who knows, but no one will say we’re content with the same old summer activities. HA! If you need ideas, and didn’t read last week’s articles…shame on you. Now that you are shamed, go read those for a bunch of ideas.

Capture as many text numbers as you can.
Use the summer to expand your contact list. For us, it’s our texting group—we want this to grow significantly heading into fall. This will help you message a ton more students when you start promoting small groups or your fall kickoff teaching series. When a student signs up for an event, make one of the required fields their phone number and a check-box allowing you to text them. They can opt out on their phones at any time.

I think we’ve said this enough the past 2 weeks, but it’s because we don’t want you to miss it! Relationships are the point; don’t lose sight of that during summer. Whatever you plan is pretty much an excuse to have conversations and challenge students in their faith. Make the most of your summer activities!

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.

Summer Idea Lab

 —  June 11, 2012 — 5 Comments

Summer is a great time to try new things…and that’s what we’re doing! Here are a few things we’re kicking off in this next season that might inspire you to try something new as well. Share what you’re excited about in the comments, too!

Worship Together Weekends
Starting in July we’re going to cancel our “youth group” services and worship as a whole church—young and old. Our pastor is going to do his best to address students in his message, and the various other service elements are going to be designed to include or at least acknowledge the whole church worshiping as one.

We’re so excited about this change in our church, because in our setting it doesn’t happen naturally. Chances are your church could use a little “inter-generational kick in the pants,” too. Summer is a great time to something a try.

Youth Ministry Instagram Account
We just created an Instagram account for our student ministry—fun pictures taken on the spot at summer events or up at camp will instantly be shared with parents and other students. We’ll have them dropped onto our Facebook page as well. A simple, fun way to instantly connect with people who aren’t on the trip or waiting for word back home.

Prayer Walk at High Schools
This past weekend our student leaders organized a prayer walk at the main high schools represented in our youth group. The idea was simple but effective—kind of like a “See You at the Pole” but we didn’t want to wait until the fall. So we met at the flagpole, prayed together and then walked through the campus (empty since it was on a weekend) and prayed for the students, teachers, and staff that are represented in each area you walk. Football field: Pray for the athletes.

Walk by the school office? Pray for the principal, etc. Then after about a half hour everyone met up for food at a local fast-food joint, too. So fun! In the summer, you could pick the most convenient day of the week for your group.

So there are a few ideas from us—look for a handful more tomorrow as well! What new ideas are you most excited about this summer?

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.