Here it is the middle of June, I am fully engulfed in summer programming. I love the change in daily routines; camps, mission trips, special outings and events, access to students in ways we don’t have during a school year. I find myself lulled into a false-sense of bliss; let’s face it, fall will be here before I know it!
With many school districts starting we well before Labor Day and the month of May spent finalizing summer plans, it is as though any down time I used to have has vanished. Couple this with the attitude that we have to ramp up fall programming the minute school starts back up so that other organizations and activities don’t grab the attention of students before we can, and I literally have no down time. Vacation? What vacation! That is simply time away from the office, lap top in hand preparing for fall.
What do you need to do to avoid crashing and burning in the fall? Here are three things that make help you prepare for the pending doom that is fall programming:
1. Set Aside Time!
The rhythms and routines of the school allow us some natural down time. We can be really busy, but there are still moments when we don’t have access to students and events cannot be planned. In the summer, those rhythms and routines change and the lines get blurred. It is essential to set aside some time to plan and organize for the fall.
I have learned a lot in over 30 years of ministry to youth, but the most important lesson is that I must be intentional. Seriously, in every aspect of youth ministry it is so important know where you are and where you want to go, and to be intentional about that path. Intentionality is also essential when talking about organizational structures of a ministry, as well how we spend each moment of our day.
Summer has a great ability of throwing my intentions to the wind, with is “little-less-structure”, opportunities to be out of the office, and having access to students more hours of each day. And while this is what I love about summer, I am well aware that I will pay the price in the fall for this if I don’t set aside time to plan and prepare.
2. Rely on Volunteers so You Don’t Burn Out!
I love hanging out with students. I love being at camp with them and I love mission trips. Give me a spontaneous outing on a Tuesday afternoon with a group of students, and I am in my element. But, all of these things can take a toll on my energy level, my creativity, my attention to details, and my planning for the fall.
It is easy for us to think that, if in the summer, we are not doing something with students 24/7 we are squandering opportunities for discipleship and relationship building. But if we think that we are the only ones who can do this, our ministry simply won’t grow past what we can do alone. Simply put, your ministry will never fulfill its potential.
While volunteers are essential year around, during the summer there are increased opportunities to tap into them, and increased things that need to be done. Making sure that you know what needs to be done as well as what needs to be done by you will help your in organizing yourself so you have time to plan for the fall.
After every mission trip, retreat, camp, or outing it never ceases to amaze me that some people think this is a vacation; that simply being out of the office constitutes time off not matter what is being done. Don’t get me wrong, I love being out and about with students not matter what form that takes, but when I am with them it is far from vacation.
For me, the first part of August has always been my time to block out a couple of weeks for vacation. And when I say “vacation” I mean I vacate the job of youth minister. Of course, there will always be those occasionally pastoral emergencies you cannot escape, but vacating as much as you absolutely can to just get away is important for you to then have the energy level to tackle the fall.
If you have a family, you owe this time to them! In addition you owe it to not only yourself, but to your church as well. Burn out is real, and summer has this ability to tackle us in a way that leaves us ill-prepared for the fall.
Block out that time off, and hold it sacred. You will be blessed with energy and enthusiasm as a new school year emerges.
Remember, the successes you have during the summer can carry over into the fall and the school year if you spend time doing the above. If you don’t do these things, you risk the chance of a fall that is not prepared properly and doesn’t capitalize on what you have done during the summer.