I was asked if I could write an article for the Eastern Region on “staying connected to students over the summer” which I realize can be a difficult thing to make happen. As I thought on that topic it got me to name the following suggestions and ideas that have helped me.
1. Realize that while attendance does decline in the summer, this at the same time might possibly give you increased opportunity to build relationships with the students that are present.
2. Recognize that two of the main causes for decreased attendance are bible camps and family vacations, and in the big picture, those are both very valuable things in the lives of your students.
3. Take advantage of increased daylight and the great outdoors because there are so many great things to do that we can’t during the school year.
4. Consider that the summer gives us unique opportunities to build relationships, and one of those really important ones to build will be with new incoming students transitioning to youth group.
5. Publish your events and schedule with as much of a heads-up for parents and students as possible.
6. Take advantage for creative programming. In the summer, we expand our time for our youth ministry and utilize many things that we can’t during the regular school year because of time and logistics. We do a food shelf scavenger hunt, a progressive dinner, late night after youth group movie nights, messy nights, and other themed nights that work much better in the summer.
7. Call students and stay in contact with them and ask them to spread the word and tell their friends. Even while doing our best to communicate details, sometimes the lynch pin is simply having another student give them a call.
8. Create regular annual events that students look forward to each summer, creating an easy reason to do it again.
And as you think about summer, enjoy the pause that the summer affords our students for yourself as well. For as creative and well-thought-out as I think the plans are that our church has for our student ministry, I really look forward to the last two weeks of August where we put it all on pause until we reboot after Labor Day. It creates a healthy break for me and our leadership team.
Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.