Isn’t summer supposed to be restful?
Some churches embrace it, others resist it, but in reality, most churches slow down in the summer in some way or another.
Most youth leaders, however, do not.
I vividly remember being so frustrated at our church staff meetings, as our senior pastor would repeatedly encourage our staff to rest up this summer to be ready for the big fall ramp-up. Our kids’ ministry leaders would share that they still had six blissful weeks without any weekday programming, our women’s ministry leaders happily sighed and spoke of how they were just beginning to dream of ideas for the fall retreat, and our admins smiled and said that they were so glad to finally have a season that was a bit slower. And I clearly remember each and every week, biting my tongue, thinking: Must be nice!
Given the increased event possibilities, greater availability of teens, and outdoor options, summer is full of incredible opportunities that are simply too good for most youth leaders to pass up. After all, we’re absolutely called on to:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Why Rest Matters
Whether your senior pastor encourages rest or not, the truth is Jesus Himself modeled for us the importance of rest even amid incredible ministry opportunities. (Check out Luke 5:15-16.) I know all too well the challenge of finding windows in the youth ministry calendar where we can take breaks. But we can’t forget that God meant it when He included the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments. He built us with the need for rhythms of sleep and renewal, and He desires for us to experience the joy that comes only with healthy boundaries. If we’re going to stay on mission for the long haul, we need to rest and fuel up along the way.
Making It Happen
But how do you “rest up” when you’ve got to rent the van, build the ultimate slip-n-slide, and get all those stinkin’ forms turned in.
It takes a healthy dose of strategy, creativity, and intentionality, but your summer rest is worth it! Here’s how to make it happen:
- Spend a few hours thinking, praying, and strategically planning how to truly get the most “bang for your buck.” Say no to good things for the sake of the best things.
- What can you change or cut for the summer? For example, we always shifted our youth group time to be later on Sunday nights so we didn’t disrupt our weekend family plans as much.
- Have a different volunteer or student leader run the youth group every week or on key weeks when you need to focus more on planning, recuperating, or resting.
- Use a video series instead of preparing messages.
- Join with other youth groups, and split the preparation responsibilities.
After Lead THE Cause, camp, retreat, or a missions trip:
- Give yourself permission to take a week off. That was not a “vacation,” even if you were in a really cool location.
- Cancel youth group for a week or two. It will be OK.
- Spend extended time in prayer and in the Bible, so you can effectively fight the spiritual battles that are sure to come.
Plan unique ways to share the Gospel (that don’t require any more work on your part):
- Have events in public places, and challenge your students to use the Life in 6Words app with at least one other person who is not there with your group.
- Have your students get together in small groups and put on free lemonade stands, where they give out lemonade as a conversation starter, using it as a segue to talk about the free gift of grace.
- Encourage your students to invite friends to all your fun events, and have student leaders share the Gospel from the front.