As any youth pastor or leader knows, summer is the craziest time of the year for youth ministries. Is it worth it? 1,000%! But if you’re like me, you end the summer encouraged but exhausted.
So here’s the question: How do you keep summer momentum as you enter the fall season without crashing & burning?
The answer to this question will probably look different for many ministry teams depending on the size, season, culture, and vision of the youth ministry, but there are a few principles that can be helpful for everyone:
1 | Take Care of You.
If you are a youth pastor or a key leader in the youth ministry, you know how important this is! Scheduling a family vacation or just a personal getaway at some point before school starts is essential so that you can restore your soul, catch up on sleep, & be ready to pour into your team.
No matter what this looks like for you, get recharged! If you are afraid to slow down personally because of losing momentum in the youth ministry, it may be better to lose some momentum & start the fall feeling strong, than to push forward & lose strength for the long haul.
2 | Consider & Care for the Team.
One of the MOST IMPORTANT things to remember is that as the team goes, so goes the youth ministry. I am very personally passionate about this because I have seen this to be true over & over again.
How you are doing will bleed onto the team, and how the team is doing will bleed onto students. Planning a Fall season without considering the capacity of the current team members may result in tired & frustrated leaders.
The key is to assess the gift-mix, size, and maturity of your team as you plan. Though you want to be faithful to the vision God has given you, the pace & methods with which you accomplish that vision may need to adjust depending on the team you have.
Whether your team is small, large, bi-vocational, or completely volunteer-driven, you can do these things:
• Check on them
• Affirm/encourage them (publicly & privately)
• Consider them when planning: Don’t plan events or start programs that require more time, talent, or maturity than they have to give. (There is a difference between developing them where they are gifted, and driving them where they are not.)
• Set time to connect if possible: having a quick team retreat (even just a day) is awesome to have fun, talk about the fall, deepen unity, & cultivate a culture where people look forward to being on the team!
Let’s be real though: Youth Ministry can sometimes feel like a revolving door of volunteers. Be encouraged that God gave you the team He did for a reason. While we do what we can to recruit & build, our job is simply to steward the team that God has provided!
3 | Assess the Calendar.
One of the most helpful things for me when coming back into the office after the summer winds down is to see the big picture. I usually grab a whiteboard or something of the sort and map out the calendar 6 mo. out, 3 mo. out, & 1 month out.
This allows me to get my brain around what’s coming up, & make sure the schedule works for us, not us for the schedule.
Things may have shifted during the summer, & this could be due to the church calendar, your personal life, volunteers, a direction from God, etc. If there are any changes that need to be made, make them!
Busy isn’t bad, as long as it is intentional and purposeful. Consistency is good, but too many events in a short period of time could burn you out as well as students/parents.
Recently, our assistant youth pastor and I sat down & discussed each upcoming fall event, WHY we were doing it, & HOW it served the vision of our youth ministry. If we couldn’t answer or agree on each of the answers to the questions, we canceled it. (& felt so much better!)
4 | Keep the Family Feel.
When we ask students what they love about camp, one thing that consistently comes up is the fact that they all feel closer afterward. At camp, they tune out the world and are present, to connect with God and & each other.
The sad truth is that many students (yes, even ones whose families are in service every Sunday) are not connecting on a real level with their families at home. One of the best things we can do in the Fall is continue to make students feel seen & loved, instead of like a number.
When students see their youth group as more of a family than a youth ministry, they want to be there! Caring about them will motivate them more than entertaining or impressing them. Here are a few things that keep the family alive on a practical note:
• Be strategic in who leads small groups at camp: If possible, ask leaders before camp if they plan on consistently serving in youth after camp. If they aren’t, you might choose another leader who is going to be around after camp so that when they bond with students at camp, they don’t just peace out, but WALK IT OUT with students afterward.
• Have time to break into small groups after camp: (usually within the first 2 or 3 weeks is great to keep that relational connection going). If you have the leaders available to do this – make it happen in a setting that works for your youth group.
• Share testimonies: This has been a huge momentum carrier for us in years past. Having a night where students can hear from their peers cultivates a culture of intimacy, & trust. Sharing with / hearing from peers corporately reminds them that this is their spiritual family, and it allows students to take part in Revelation 12:11“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony…”
Because it can be daunting to share in front of peers, some students will need a little push. Sometimes it can be helpful to reach out to your team (or those who led small groups at camp) and ask them to suggest students to you that have an encouraging testimony. Lovingly encouraging them to share may end up being a huge benefit to them and to the whole group!
As we shift from summer to fall, let’s remember that God goes before us, He is for us, and He will set the pace for our race.