As part of a special summer series, Alabama youth ministers will be writing about various topics that are relevant to those involved in Student Ministries in any roles.
Our first guest is Denis Tanner, associate pastor of students and adult ministries at Shades Crest Baptist Church.
Much of what I am sharing comes from what I have learned through 26 years of ministry, and yet I have so much more to learn. This is not meant to cover everything to do in the summer.
- Base everything in prayer (I Thessalonians 5:17). Pray for self, your family, students, families, workers, church and church leaders. Pray for your community, and certainly pray for the lost and those in need. Encourage others to pray.
- Rest and then work (John 15). We are called to be fruitful but we must begin with rest. (3DMovement) Rest before you plan to work (Exodus 20:8-11), and keep the Sabbath holy. I am guilty of wanting to rest after I work yet Jesus spent time alone with the Father before He worked. We must establish a rhythm of rest and work. Our work should flow from our rest, and our family needs to see this balance as well. Rest and work should be done daily, weekly and throughout the year. Students and leaders need time to process what God is doing in our lives.
- Family before work (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This is said and heard all the time, but do we reflect this in our ministry? We are called to love the Lord with our total being and to teach our children and remind our children what God has done for each of us. We must spend time with our family sitting at home, going places, at bedtime and early in the morning. Family is our first and greatest mission. Sometimes we may teach, but it is time together that is a must. Rules without a good relationship breeds resentment. What fun activity can you do with your family today?
- Focus on the heart of students over the way things look (I Samuel 16:7). God uses people that sometimes surprise us. Listen to what is on the heart of students and which affects their lives. Then encourage them in their faith.
- Give students opportunities for leadership (I Samuel 17). Let them watch you lead and then help you lead. Then challenge them to lead while you help them, and finally let them lead while you watch. Don’t be discouraged if your group is smaller at times in the summer, it can be a great time to develop new leaders. Invite someone new to pray or read Scripture. It is a great time to give a quieter student an opportunity to speak up. Invite them to do ministry planning with you. They can make announcements, take prayer requests, and/or share their favorite verse. Give students an opportunity to serve not just on mission trips but locally. One opportunity could be visiting with senior adults or other people in the community. Do something that requires the heart to be invested. Give students time to process what God is doing in their life during and between activities. Provide training opportunities like Super Summer Alabama: great for students to mix with other groups for growth.
- Invest in your leaders (Colossians 3:2). Focus on things above, and let go of controlling everything. Let an adult sub for you who may not have done this and another adult to do an activity with students. Be present and help, but eventually let the adult take over that role. Put an adult in charge of getting transportation for students. Spend one-on-one time or in small groups with leaders, and try to get to know their heart as well. Invite them to do life with you as you speak with students. Pray for them and with them.
- Invite your others to do life with you but make sure you challenge them to grow in their walk with the Lord (Luke 10:17– disciples return). Instead of leaving your family behind, invite students to spend time with you and your family. Students need to be around additional families who focus on Christ. It is not about getting your home to look a certain way but to simply let others live life with you. Much like Jesus did.
- Challenge your students (Luke 9:23). Summer is a great time to sit down with a smaller group and challenge your students to follow Christ to the point of denying self. Set the example, and do not be afraid to challenge others but you must be willing to do it as well.
- Learn from failures (Psalm 51:10). It is okay when things do not go as planned. Confess if you are at fault, but then press on. Take the things that we call failures, and help others see that they are growth opportunities and time to trust the Lord. We model life for others in all circumstances. If the bus breaks down, make it an adventure not a downer.
- Keep others informed (I Thessalonians 5:11). Summer is a time when many people miss church and activities, so make sure plans are made in advance and that others are informed. Keep the pastor, staff and parents informed – b efore and after events. Use social media but also personal invites. Let students help get the word out since they are the best at inviting their peers. Announce through text, emails, post cards, announcement in church, small groups, Sunday School and other activities. Remember to share about what has happened on trips and Bible study as well as what is coming up. Announcements can also be an excellent time to thank and encourage chaperones.