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As graduations finish up this past weekend I thought of when I graduated high school. I got a lot of money for graduation gifts. I used part of my money to buy several boxes of blank transparencies, a black transparency box, and a Fender guitar. I knew that at sometime I would use them when I started in Youth Ministry. Later that summer before I left to come to the University of South Carolina I went up to my church and spent several hours making hard copies and transparencies of my youth pastor's song box. I look back and laugh as now I have all my music saved in PDF and view my music on my iPad as we stream it through Media Shout and ProPresenter. I think back of having to have someone manually move the songs.
To this day I still have my box of songs and my original songbook with all the hard copies of the songs. I think sometime soon I might do a Sunday Night youth program using these ancient forms of youth ministry!
The other day when I was at home in Augusta, GA, I saw several men in a local car dealership tying balloons to antennas in their lot. Not too far from them was a big 20ft inflatable gorilla that said "SALE". I don't know about you, but I have never stopped at a car dealership to buy a car just because the car had a balloon attached to it. I have also never been lured in by a big 20ft inflatable gorilla telling me that there is a sale going on. Mainly because I know that it is a gimmick. When I need a new vehicle I will take my time, research what I want, check the internet for the best price, and then go to the dealership.
I think often that as churches we try to be like car deanships with our cute sayings on our church signs. And often our church signs are as bad or worse than having a gorilla with the word sign. A lot of church signs have messages that speak in Christianeese or telling people to turn or burn. They can often be too witty. I wonder sometimes what non-Christians think when they see all the church signs on their way to work or on their errands.
When it comes down to it, I'm going to buy a new truck for my needs or from the suggestion of a friend. I think that is how we need to focus and teach our congregations. They are the best church signs by their daily living and experience in our church
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another.
-- Hebrews 10:24-25
For many churches, summer means we shut the doors on all our programs and take a summer break. So is that a good or bad thing. We are instructed to spur one another on and not give up the habit of meeting together. So why do we?
May churches use the time to give their volunteers a break. Others are afraid of a small turn out during summer months. And others just don't have the people power to have events all summer long.
For the last couple weeks I've been catching up with a lot of friends in youth ministry and have heard various plans for the summer. The are several churches that have stopped small group ministry during the summer, but are continuing to have regular youth program time. Several others are stopping programing and small groups and going the event based summer plans. Others have some type of program, camp, retreat, or mission opportunity going on all summer every week. Others are having event based events in place of program and continuing small groups during the summer. In the past I have tried each one of these a time or too.
For us, we have two mission trips, a beach retreat, Sunday Night events, and small groups meeting every week through the summer. This is my first summer with this group and we will see if it works. One important reason we did not stop small groups for the summer is because we just started them in the Spring and things are going great.
I do events, such as pool party, going to the river and lake, bowling, movie nights, and other things to help build our group through fellowship. I also see it as a great opportunity for students to invite their friends and not feel threatened by the church experience. Over the years, I have seen many of my strongest leaders come from being invited during the summer.
No matter which route your youth program goes this summer, take time for your students and remind them of this verse in Hebrews.
I know that I've been guilty as the next youth worker in saying, "After this next event...things will slow down..."
But do they and should we allow there to be downtime in our ministry?
There should be downtime so we can rest and prepare for our next event. I typically see towards the end of the school year and the beginning of summer as down time. Its a time to reflect and see where things should change for the fall. It is a slow down time before all the summer missions and retreats happen. For me personally I have always changed from program based to event based ministry in the summer. And always in December, youth ministry slows down with Advent events so it gives everyone a breather. I think we need them, but we also have to create other downtimes throughout the year to keep us from going crazy. I think you have to have unplanned and planned down time in ministry
There is no downtime, because we are always planning and getting ready for the next Sunday. But the way around this is to delegate. So when you are having downtime, someone else is picking up.
Hard to believe that I haven't posted in several days, but things got crazy at the end of the week.
Thursday I had planned to write several blogs. I first had to drive to Charlotte to meet with a realtor about putting our house back on the market, then had lunch and hung out with one of my old youth and then came home and was ready to blog... but the power went out and my laptop was not charged. Then Friday and Saturday I went to Augusta. While in Augusta I went to Friday nights worship at St. Mark UMC for the Augusta River of Life. It was an amazing time of worship and a great message on King David. After worship, I hung around to talk with Mark and Scot about our Summer Camp. Really excited about what we have in store for our students in July.
Then I hung out in the St. Mark UMC parking lot talking to an old friend/old roommate/old youth pastor for three hours. It was great to catch up with Chip and pick his brain on youth ministry. Really helped me through some thoughts I had on planning for the next year...more to come in a future blog on this....
Sunday was Confirmation Sunday. We confirmed eight out of ten students who were in the class. The other two were out of town and we will confirm them soon. Then we had our kick off to summer pool party. Had a great turnout and a great time.