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Summer: A Good Time for New Relationships
By: Randy Fields

Summer provides a multitude of opportunities for church ministry. Students are out of school and looking for things to do. Families go on vacations to a variety of destinations. Every day, the malls, beaches, pools, local hangouts, and family rooms with video-game systems are full of students.

With so many options for students, we often fail to keep up with the relationships we have been building with them during the school year. Before you throw in the towel and put those relationships on hold for the summer, consider some ways to keep those relationships going and to reach students and their families.

High-Tech, High-Touch
With all the technology available to us today, personal contact with students is a cinch. From e-mails to instant messaging, from cell phones to e-cards, you can contact multiple students in a short period of time.

To ensure that every youth is personally contacted each week, simply divide the number of students in your class by seven. Write out the names of the student on a calendar for the week and then make it a point to contact that student personally. If you have a large youth ministry, encourage your leaders to join you in this effort.

Lunch Bunch
Consider setting aside time each week to eat lunch with students. Choose a central location that is easily accessible for students. Informal gatherings provide many opportunities to build relationships and to meet new prospects. Meeting for ice cream or a soft drink can accomplish the same thing.

Where in the World?
Knowing that families take vacations during the summer, obtain a large map. Ask students to trace their vacations for you on the map and to indicate the dates they are going to be away. Tell students you will pray for them while they gone, and ask them to drop you a postcard from their destinations.

Rally 'Round the Summer
The summer months often take a toll on Sunday School and church attendance. Why not plan a summer emphasis for Sunday School? You just might provide a rallying point for those students who are home for the summer.

Such an emphasis also can provide opportunities to reach new students before the school year begins. Don't take the summer off from Bible study just because students are out of school.

Training and Time Off
Summer also takes its toll on your teaching force. Consider providing time off for all of your teachers. Enlist prospective leaders by asking them to substitute teach. Inform them that your teachers are taking some time for personal renewal.

During the month, encourage and guide your substitute teachers. Provide training opportunities as well as words of affirmation. Then ask substitutes whether they might be interested in continuing to work with teenagers. If so, start new classes and expand your vision. If not, you have trained some great substitute teachers for the year when teachers are ill or out of town. Either outcome is a winning situation for you and your students.

Jump Start on Fall
Summer means that fall is not far away. Consider creating ways to include new teenagers who will be part of the youth ministry in the fall. Plan activities that will begin to build relationships with those students even before they are in your class or ministry.

Place the names of new students on your calendar and begin making some personal contacts with them. Design a bag full of goodies for all upcoming youth. Enlist a few other students to go with you and personally deliver the cookies. Make appointments with parents to let them know of your excitement about their students being involved.

Encourage your workers to adopt a new student and begin building relationships as well. Some students will be leaving for college. Plan an activity that can provide a meaningful way to send off those students who graduated. Prepare survival kits for them and ask remaining students to adopt a college student and keep in contact with them during the coming months.

Invite new students to the going-away activity for seniors, and allow them to see the relationships that have been with those who are leaving. Allow new students to see that they are part of a legacy.

Family Ministry
Summer is also a great time to minister to the families of your students. With students out of school, parents are often looking for ways for the entire family to have fun together. Many youth ministries offer trips and outings for teenagers during the summer. Consider offering trips and outings for the entire family. This could provide a great way for you to meet parents and siblings and gain a better picture of your students. It could also provide you with names of parents who want to get involved in the church and possibly the youth ministry.

Summers can and will be busy times, but they can be incredibly beneficial to reaching and nurturing kids for the kingdom of God. It takes effort and planning on our part, but the benefits far outweigh the work. Happy summer!

Randy Fields is a former youth minister and is currently lead pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church in Grass Valley, California. This article is courtesy of Lifeway Christian Resources, www.lifeway.com.

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