Mission trips, church camp, national conferences, and retreats. Water gun fights, trips to Sonic, Monday afternoon Mexican food, and laser tag outings. All of these add up to summertime in youth ministry, for some the favorite time of the year, and for others the most exhausting. So far this summer I have done the following.
- Gone to our local Mexican Restaurant every Monday with anywhere from 10-25 teenagers, much to the delight (I tip well) and fear of servers everywhere.
- Had a pool party with 3 other churches where we had over 120 teenagers in one space complete with rope swing, diving board, waterfall, and platform for wrestling.
- Consumed more Rt 44 Sonic Vanilla Diet Cokes than anyone should… ever.
- Planed and led the games for an event called Tribe Wars for ourselves and 4 other churches
- Driven the Church van with 4 teenage girls to Orlando (15 hours) for the National Methodist Youth Conference.
- Accompanied my husband’s youth group to a minor league baseball game and a lake party
All of this and we haven’t gone on our mission trip to St Louis yet, and have had regular Sunday School and Wednesday evening youth group. I don’t say this so you’ll pity me, although your prayers and caffeine are greatly appreciated, this is merely a frame of reference for the busyness of youth ministry in the summer.
Many of us have traded tales of woe about coming home from a weeklong trip with students, where we have worked at least 12 hours a day, missed our spouses and children, only to have a well-meaning church member say, “Did you enjoy your vacation with the youth!!??” (I personally have never had this happen, but it happens enough to be a well known joke). While this is eye-roll worthy, it is understandable. What we do doesn’t always seem like a job, and isn’t that awesome! We work hard maintaining healthy work boundaries in ministry, carving out time for family, friends, hobbies and the like, and much of the reason for this is because we have fun!
In the previous list of things that have happened this summer the following also occurred:
- I was able to reconnect with students that I haven’t seen in a while, over chips and queso.
- I made new connections with parents at the pool party while the youth made new friends
- Many of those Rt. 44 Diet Cokes were gifts from students “just because” they thought I might need one
- Tribe wars forged bonds between students, and provided an opportunity for the underdogs to win it all
- I rode the Seven Dwarves Mine Train for the first time with students who had never been to Disney World.
- I stayed up till 2 am in an Orlando hotel lobby discussing what it means to really believe in God
These are all amazing things. They mix with exhaustion, and a lack of sleep, and sometimes homesickness, but they are amazing things, and they are able to happen because of summertime. We get the precious opportunity to be in the lives of youth whose normal school year schedule only allows a few hours during the week and an extra-curricular filled weekend. Lets savor those sweet moments of summertime in ministry, and remember those moments in the busyness of the coming school year.