Changing Things Up: Youth Ministry in Summer

summer-break-glassesDuring the summer we take a break from our weekly programs on the weekends and midweek. We do this on the biblical concept of Sabbath. We do it to give our regular adult volunteers a breather from the weekly preparations and leading, so they don’t get burned out. We also do it to affirm the primary importance of families, giving them the chance to sit together in church, and to encourage more quality time together while the kids are out of school.

In place of our regular programs we simply have weekly events designed around the value of fun and the purpose of fellowship. We want our students to enjoy themselves and have fun events to do and to which they can invite their friends. It’s also a great way to help lower the “threat” or “intimidation” level for students who are making transitions, whether from Kid’s Ministry to Student Ministry, or from Jr. High Ministry to Sr. High Ministry.

I also offer a Bible study in a casual environment for student who would like to intentionally deepen their faith during the summer. I do it late enough in the morning so that students don’t feel like they can’t sleep in (not to mention, because I am not a morning person) – usually at 10am. Last summer I had students join me at a diner and we did a study on the Holy Spirit. This summer I am inviting students to join me at my house for Philippians and Pancakes.

Tomorrow I will write about how volunteer Adult Youth Leaders can maximize their impact over the summer months.

Every summer we experiment and have fun. If you’re in youth ministry, I would love to hear some of the things that you do to change things up in the summer. Share some of your success stories, funny stories, as well as stories about things that were not so successful. 

We Now Have 2 High Schoolers!

On Tuesday last week Natalia officially graduated from 8th grade and we now have a high school freshman and a senior in our home. Where does that time go? Proud of our girl!


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See Kings X in Concert (Bucket List: Check!)

Last night, after almost 30 years of rocking out to their music, I finally got to see Kings X live in concert. It was awesome introducing my very good friend Don to their legendary music. They were absolutely incredible! They are musicians’ musicians, and it was an honor to experience their music in person. If you love rock and roll, you need to check these guys out!


Shelter Rock Students Summer Calendar 2015

Beach border scene with striped towel, flip flops and starfish on old weathered blue painted wood decking.  Space for copy.

Expressing Gratitude for Great Leaders

At the end of each school year, we always take time to thank the great team of adult youth workers who serve students with us. This year we catered a nice dinner, hired a jazz band, and invited our team and their families for a pool party. Good youth ministry is impossible without a team of adults who love Jesus, love students, and love connecting students to Jesus. I am so grateful for the wonderful adults God has surrounded me with to minister to our youth! If you are a lead youth worker, invest in and appreciate your leaders! If you’re going to spoil anybody, spoil your volunteers. They deserve it!

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The Book that Could Cure World Diseases

51K8qhCXQ3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jim Gaffigan has done it! He has found the cure for world diseases. OK, not really. But his contribution to the world does bring about healing (just not from food-related diseases). “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). Food: A Love Story is one of the funniest things ever set down on paper. You will laugh your way through the entire book. Do yourself a favor and go buy it. It will indeed bring healing to your soul.

Operation Finish Well

I am about to share with you two of the most important things about good youth ministry, so read all the way to the end.

I know, I know. Probably 90% of you reading this live in places where school has been out for several weeks. But here in New York we find that keeping our kids in school for half of the summer is benef … no, wait, is utterly ridiculous! But, for (I am certain) politically-motivated financial reasons, most of our students are still in school.

Last year my good friend Laurie Bolton sent me an idea that she did with her students that I knew instantly I wanted to do. She delivered “study break” goodie bags to her students while they were in finals week. So, this year I went out and bought lots of junk food and little goodies, wrote a poem; we bagged them up, and divvied them up by zip codes among our team of awesome adult youth leaders who delivered the surprises to unsuspecting students. This, we called Operation Finish Well. It was awesome!

Perhaps you are a healthy food person and you are offended that we would deliver sugary goodness to our students. Someone even told me that the sugar would kill their precious brain cells, and that we should have taken them healthy snacks like fruits and veggies, etc. I get it. I understand. You’re totally right. We should have. But I had two thoughts about this … 1) We wanted our kids to be excited when they received the packages. 2) We are actually trying to help our kids learn humility. I’ve been told that the students in our area are really smart, and we think we are serving them and teaching them that they are no better than anyone else by killing off a few brain cells in order to be more average. I’m kidding, of course. lol! (Seriously, point noted.)

This whole operation highlighted two hallmarks of good youth ministry. 1) Stealing ideas, and 2) Junk food.

Feel free to re-steal (But give Laurie props for the idea!).

And feel free to give your students healthy food … which most students will consider junk food and promptly throw away. lol! (Sorry, I was in a joking-kind-of-mood writing this. I’ve been reading Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan – the funniest book I have ever read. Post about that coming soon.)IMG_3359 IMG_3362

Passing the Leadership Baton

Many of you may remember the excitement we experienced 8 months ago when our youngest daughter Natalia started the first-ever Christian Club in her middle school. All year they averaged almost 30 students in weekly attendance, and it was awesome watching the influence they had in the school and beyond. A few weeks ago, they received a Certificate of Merit from the New York State Assembly for their project of sending Valentines to Veterans which is going to be framed and displayed in the school!

After an amazing school year, yesterday we attended the final club meeting of the year. We have been so proud of our girl for all of her hard work and leadership. She assembled a great team of her peers and led them as together they led the club all year. Perhaps the most impressive part of her leadership is that right from the start she recognized that as an 8th grader this was her final year in the middle school, but she wanted the club to continue long after she was gone, so she was looking for future leaders from day one.

About 3 months ago, she and her team really started praying, watching, and talking with the younger students who had been faithful and active in the club, and who had a desire to be lights in their school. Two months ago she approached two 6th graders and asked them about the possibility of them leading next year. After they accepted, she began training them, giving them opportunities to lead, and giving them leadership feedback. Yesterday, as we celebrated a great inaugural year for the club, Natalia and her team formally handed the baton of leadership to the aforementioned students and prayed over them.

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