(not) planning for the summer
This past summer, I tried something totally different than what I’ve done in the past. I planned very few events. I think we did a total of 3 planned events all summer. Instead of big events with sign ups, deposits, transportation, etc. I just hung out with students. Their schedules become so random in the summer. No school, sports, homework. Several of them had jobs but their schedules were nothing like they are during the school year. I made it clear to them that I was always up for hanging out. If there was a movie they wanted to see, I’d go. If there was a day that they were all bored and wanted to come play ping-pong at the church, that was fine with me. I think my favorite was when the high school girls called to tell me there was a flip-flop sale at Old Navy … could we go?
The cool thing is, looking back on the summer, I spent more time with students than ever before. We did spontaneous bible studies, we talked about how our walk with the Lord was going, we talked about life and we built stronger relationships. It was a bummer when they returned to school and I had to go back to only seeing them once or twice a week.
There are a couple of different ways to get this kind of thing rolling. The first step is explaining it to the church leadership. If people don’t understand what you’re doing it can end up looking like you’re taking the summer off. If you need to make it sound official you can say that your summer focus is building relationships. That’s absolutely true … and it sounds much better than “I don’t have much planned for this summer. I’m just going to hang out”
Talk to your pastor about cutting back your office hours or find opportunities for students to hang out at the church with you. Start a breakfast club where students can come to the church for bagels and coffee once a week, pick a day to be at a fast food restaurant and let students know. I did Mondays last summer for the simple reason that I could call it McMonday. Anyone who wanted to come was welcome. They knew I was there every Monday at 11:00.
If that’s not going to work, then just be available. Publicize your office hours and let students know they’re always welcome to stop in for a visit. Have a stock of soda/junk food so that it doesn’t seem like they’re making an appointment and coming in for an official discussion. If you don’t think it will make you look bad to the leadership, you can even say things like “I get so bored being stuck in my office all day. Grab a couple friends and come hang out!”
Last week was February break and I was able to spend some quality ‘hang out’ time with students. We were standing at Panera getting bagels when one of the girls said “I love this! It’s like summer!” A discussion started among the group and it was decided that this summer we will institute ‘pancake day’ where we will meet at one of the girls houses once a week for pancakes.
I’m counting down the weeks until summer vacation!!