I've experienced both, the super busy summer of student ministry and the restful relaxing summer.
But whether your busy or relaxing there are a few things you need to do to make the most of your summer.
1. Take The Time To Rest.
I know, you've heard it over and over again, but you can't deny the importance of making time to rest. Rest is vital for the longevity of your ministry career. Without rest, you will burn out.
Resting should be high on your priority list. For many Americans, summer means summer vacation; one to two weeks where we venture off with family and friends to enjoy some time away from work. Now I'm not about to deny the importance of the summer vacation, but the rest I'm thinking about is more of the spiritual rest. As youth workers, we are only as good as our rest in the Lord. Sure, we might be good at what we do and perhaps we can fake it from time to time. But even the best of us need to find rest, otherwise, we run the risk of simply walking through the motions.
We need to rest. Not just rest from the office and our students, but rest in the arms of our Savior. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) Ministry is hard. But the yoke that we take upon us, or better said, the call we answer to be youth workers, is one we accept with Jesus' help. In the midst of ministry, we have the opportunity to find rest because in the midst of ministry we find Jesus. Being able to make the time to rest in Jesus will help you reconnect with the One who called you into ministry.
2. Take Time To Be With Family.
So now the traditional family vacation might fit the context of summer rest. As a youth worker, you work hard. If you worked by the clock, some weeks would break the bank. We give a lot of hours to the church and our students. Sometimes, our families suffer. Even when we are good at balancing ministry and family, there are still the emergencies and unexpected events that take us away from home.
One of the treasures I learned serving at a recent church was the importance of taking time to spend with the family. You see, our summers looked very different from the rest of our church year. In the summer, just about everything stopped, including the student ministry. For the first two years I tried to stir up some kind of summer programing. I spent time and money on ideas that just didn't work. Finally my pastor came to me and told me that I should stop trying to plan and simply enjoy being with my family.
What I saw and learned was that it was okay to stop. Programs aren't the end-all-be-all for the church. It was good to let things stop and allow the staff and the volunteers time to be with their families.
So be sure you set aside time to be with your family. And when you go away, go away. Leave the computer at home. Set up an away message for your email, and shut off your phone. Do whatever you need to do to make sure your family gets your full attention.
3. Take Time To Build Relationships.
The school year often demands more office time than the summer months. Juggling programs, activities, and teaching prep, leaves you working more at a desk, or at least a coffee shop. But the summer months usually come with less office time planning or preparing and more time to actually be with students.
Use these summer months to spend time with your students. Meet in small groups for lunch or gather for ice cream. Take one or two students to a cafe. Have a cookout at your house and invite a few students to join you and your family for dinner. Plan a game night where students can come over just to hang out and play a game or two.
These simple activities create the ideal setting for building relationships. And the best part is, they require little to no planning.