A few weeks back we released a podcast entitled, “keeping students engaged this summer” and it had a lot of great ideas that were really practical. We know thousands of you listen each month to our podcast, and we are beyond humbled and honored that you do. Seriously, the reason we spend hours and hours each week putting together that huge free resource is simply because so many of you KEEP LISTENING!
However, we know not everyone is a podcast kind of person. Some of you are “give me the meat and potatoes in a blog post, summarized into six points kind of people.”
So, because summer is just around the corner and we know engaging the next generation is at the heart of so many of our readers…
here are our favorite ways to engage students this summer:
1. youth camp and missions trips:
These weren’t on the original list, but during planning, we realized these are two incredibly popular ways for engaging with students in the summer time no matter how “old school”. We love these approaches. The approach might be decades old, but sometimes you have to say, if it works, then it works. However, both of these activities are intense and emotionally draining, they definitely do generate life change, but make sure you are following them up with discipleship and relationships. One life changing week isn’t enough, keep pushing for more!
2. summer evangelistic pool parties:
This episode goes into a lot of detail about these pool parties, but here’s what you need to know. They are student lead. There are host homes with parents that are present to provide more accountability. Students have to bring a first time guest to attend. If you want students to be able to attend without a guest, you can have them make a donation to missions or your ministry. There are a few specific and intentionally scheduled leaders there, but not your entire volunteer team. This event gives students opportunities to do the evangelizing and the leading. This is a great way to help not only your students grow, but also to engage new teens.
We know that bathing suits are a big “to do” in a lot of churches. This isn’t meant to be a stumbling block, but rather a replacement for the pool parties and summer hangouts that will probably be taking place without supervision and accountability whether you’re there or not. Make any rules you see fit, but remember this is an on-ramp for someone who won’t understand your culture or church culture in any way. Plan with them in mind.
3. host a midday student ministry experience:
Adults don’t have a lot of flexibility in their lives, but teenagers don’t live by those same rules. In the summer, teens have more freedom than they know what to do with. This is why the possibility of a midday event has SO much potential, and why you should definitely consider it. There’s not a time limit. You don’t have to worry about kids driving in the dark. You could plan an outing afterwards, or an onsite bbq or even a sports tournament. Don’t make it too early because students often sleep late, but if you give it a try, let us know how it goes!
Bonus: Having open Wednesday nights (means you could potentially use a normal student ministry time to pour into volunteers, who probably have to work and that evening slot still works great for them.)
4. discipleship opportunities or internships:
Consider putting together a summer internship program for teens. Plan for students to intern for a short window of time like six weeks, that way they still have some downtime in the summer. In this episode, we make sure to clarify that less is more, overseeing even just a couple of students is a big deal. For every task they finish for you or someone on staff, it will be accompanied by many hours of oversight, training and discipleship. So, make sure that you don’t over extend yourself for the amount of students that you pick. Make it competitive like a real internship, so you get the cream of the crop. Provide real goals up front. Let students know what you plan to accomplish with them and what type of experiences they will gain.
5. connect students with local ministries and volunteer opportunities:
Students are ALWAYS looking for volunteer opportunities to get hours for National Honor Society, their sports teams or even just their resume. The serving opportunities you provide on the weekend are an excellent start, but we live in a big big world and doing the leg work to set up additional opportunities could be the difference in them being able to discover where their passions lie. You could modify this idea to fit a group style, where each week you take a group of students to serve together somewhere, or you could just “broker” the right serve opportunities to make sure that your students are getting to make a big impact (Local mission, food bank, Big Brother- Big Sister, YMCA, and more.) You could even set it up to meet the needs of your own congregation first; finding out whose children need help with homework, reading, music or sports, or who needs help with projects around their house, yard or other odd jobs. There’s a lot of growth potential here for students.
6. student ministry sabbatical
Lastly we talked about the idea of a Student Ministry sabbatical where for several weeks, you don’t provide a Youth Group experience mid-week at all. I’m sure all the Student Ministry Pastors are cheering right now, getting ready to forward this blog to their supervisors, but let’s be clear about the reasons.
- It gives you time and total focus to have a strong strategy for the fall.
- It possibly provides a great time for your leaders for a vacation without getting in the way of other things, especially if they had a summer full of camps and trips.
- It gives your youth and student volunteers a much needed break, without anyone stepping down or feeling guilty.
- It allows a few weeks to pass for your students to realize how much they love attending Student Ministry each week. Their appreciation of what you provide is crucial to the long term success.
So, get to planning, because summer will be here before you know it.