By Sean Garner
Easter marks the splash — like a rock in the water — starting ripples that expand into what will come. Like a shadow moving slowly across the ground it stretches toward us. Your ministry ebbs, flows, shrinks and grows in different ways than at other times of the year in the post-Easter youth ministry world. And, then, like a light switch getting tripped: summer time!
Memorial Day weekend and its partner, Labor Day weekend, are twins that stand guard over a frenetic stretch of picnics, vacations, concerts, camps and mission trips that can radically change lives. Like children that charge out of a school bus on the last day of school, church people (especially teenagers) pour out into the world with the hope of bringing change (through mission, ministry and more) and are consistently surprised when THEY are the ones who are changed.
Here are four summer cheers to encourage you along the way.
Find the TIME: While they try to sell us on Daylight Savings Time, we know that the clock really changes during the summer. When the days lengthen – the world changes. Each day at a camp, on mission trips or at a Christian music festival can equal to a month of sporadic ministry at your church or youth ministry. Time with your team and the teens you serve multiply during the summer.
A summer challenge for you: Open your regular calendar to an expansion of experience during the summer. Don’t be afraid to throw away your watch and settle in for longer days of ministry.
Find your Focus: Like fasting and other spiritual disciplines, the adventures of summer offer a unique focus to your ministry and to you. Suddenly (in the midst of these events) you are more aware of WHAT God is doing, the people you serve are more receptive WHEN God moves, and everyone can see HOW God moves. The brighter sun brings short-term opportunities of focus to everyone as they soak up every moment.
A summer challenge for you: Revel in the unique focus you receive during the summer, don’t be afraid to put your spiritual “antenna” up and hear what God is saying. Then write it down so you don’t forget it.
Find your FAMINE: As we head out into the world, expanding our horizons guided by our GPS, the problems of the world show up where the map ends. Blown tires on vans, sunburnt skin, tired nights on uncomfortable floors, sparse electric outlets, limited food and a life outdoors where insects reign make the idea of poverty become a reality. In addition, we often add opportunities to serve those truly in need. To people who live in such comfort and ease, this finally matches the stories we share at the 30 Hour Famine.
A summer challenge for you: Make the connection to the Famine during the summer. Don’t be afraid to be a mirror – reflecting their eyes back once again to the poorest of the poor.
Find your FAMILY: Summer provides the unique opportunity to allow for life-long memories with spouses, children and extended family that will carry them through the rest of the year. Life in ministry is not meant to be a death sentence, and you are in many ways accountable to God for serving others AND your family — not either/or. People matter to God; and…um…you are a “people.”
A summer challenge for you: In the midst of all your summer plans, prioritize your family above all. No excuses, no delays. Let God provide simple moments of love for you. Pull your calendar out NOW and make those plans.
May your sunburn hurt, your insect bites itch, your muscles be sore and your heart be opened this summer through all God does in and through you.