This article was written by Seth Tucker, Youth Ministry Consultant for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention
Summer ministry has been an integral piece to student ministry for many decades and will likely continue to be so in 2021. Even though many camps are not able to function this summer, your students are still hungry for camp experiences and missions. There are multiple specific ideas that could be discussed, but with every church and every student ministry having different needs we will look at general ideas to be applied to your own setting.
Purpose is the key word to your summer student experience. As Robert Jose from First Baptist Church in Cabot recently said on a Zoom call, “focus on the why and not the what.” If you do not have a goal and purpose behind your summer camp/missions opportunity not much will be accomplished. So, before you set out mapping out the logistics of your summer, understand the purpose behind what you want to do. Maybe you want to see students engage the Word of God in a fresh new way. Maybe you want to see students share their faith in your community. Maybe you want to partner with a local church plant nearby. Or maybe you want students to invite friends and see teens come to know Jesus. Whatever your “why,” let it drive what you plan.
Consider doing what you would do away from home but do it locally. If a mission trip is your usual routine, do missions in your town. If your summer camp has a unique look, consider doing a similar camp at your church. On the same Zoom call mentioned above, Dusty Lindsey from First Baptist Church in Russellville talked about the mission trip he is planning for this summer in Russellville. Dusty said “to highlight your traditions.” What he was saying is, as you do something new, make it like what you’ve done in the past.
Flexibility will be key this summer. It may cost more than usual. You may have students who can come to three days of your local camp but not to all five. Be able to pivot as plans may need to change. If the “why” is leading the way, the “what” can be adjusted.
As you develop strategies to accomplish the purpose God has laid on your heart remember that strategies are all about what students walk away with. What does God want your students to walk away thinking or having accomplished?
Of course, there are some specific logistics that may come in useful as you plan. Obviously, think about coronavirus guidelines. Think about having parents help out with food. Think about scheduling in free time as it may be good for your students to just be together again. And think about letting students help with the planning.
No matter what your summer plans will look like, an important facet will be communication. Communicate with students, parents, and your church about safety and protocols. Communicate more than you ever have because you will likely receive more questions than you ever have.
Lastly, remember, something is better than nothing. Students need the Word of God, to be missional, and to worship together. Find some way to engage your teens this summer as we all pray for God to do a mighty work in 2021.