Summer is coming! Are you ready? The summer season for me was one of the most loved and feared seasons of student ministry every year! In student ministry, summertime is where some of our greatest mountain top moments happen for our students.
(Allow me here to insert a rather lengthy side note. The mountaintop experiences are not bad! Most of the time when leaders address students on the reality of the mountaintop moments of camps and retreats it is from a perspective of failure and disappointment. As student pastors, we become frustrated that after re-engaging with normal routines, students often appear unchanged and unaffected by their experience with God. Although this should be pointed out, I would challenge you to speak to your students from a different perspective this summer. Instead of highlighting the failure of follow through, help students remember that experience as a spiritual marker in their lives. Just like the people of Israel set up monuments to remember what God did for them, help your students to use the memory of their interaction with Him as a monument of remembrance that will encourage further dedication to Him.)
Although summer brings some incredible experiences, it can also feel like a yearly exercise in herding cats! As soon as summer hits, families begin to scatter and priorities shift. I’ll never forget one summer I took a group of students white water rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. We went through the normal process and got our paddles, life jackets, and helmets, and then we began rotating through the safety presentation. During the presentation the guide was illustrating how important it was to follow instructions and always be aware of where our paddles are because nobody wants “summer teeth”! After a slight pause, we all collectively asked the guide, “What are summer teeth?” He said, “Oh! Thats when you catch a paddle to the teeth and some ‘er in your mouth, some ‘er in the boat, and some ‘er in the river!” I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard!
This is exactly what it feels like sometime to be in the middle of a student ministry summer. It feel like a shot to the teeth and all of the sudden, some of your students are in the room, some are at the beach, and some are on their couch!
The question is how do you combat this? One great way to head this mass departure off is to take advantage of flexible summer schedules and start a series of small groups that meet through the summer. The beauty of this is that your kids have time on their hands and are looking for something to do. You also don’t have school nights during the summer so almost any night of the week will work for a gathering! So use this to your advantage. Schedule a bible study that meets at the mall food court for lunch once a week. Start one that meets at your house one night of the week. Have kids come to the church and pile into your office! Since its summer, you can do almost anything here and you better believe that parents are more than willing to hand off their kids to you for a little while!
Summer is also a perfect opportunity for you to have older students disciple younger students because again, there are far less obligations in the way. Maybe hold a bible study with some high school students and then organize groups of younger kids for them to teach the same study to!
The bottom line here is that you can use the advantages of a summer schedule to accomplish both discipleship AND greater summertime engagement.
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Manager of LifeWay Student Ministry Publishing