May 08, 2017
5 Things You Need to Do This Summer
Andy Cimbala offers five practical steps you should take to make the most of your summer as a college ministry leader.
“So do you just get one long vacation for the summer?” How many of you have heard that question from friends, family, and donors? College ministry is seasonal, shaped by the academic calendar, which creates confusion for many young staff: What do I do with my summers? Most students are gone from the campus pursuing missions trips, summer jobs, or internships to boost their resume. Does this mean you get to kick back and relax for 3 months?
I want to challenge you to INVEST your summer strategically. We often exhort our students, “Don’t waste your summer!” but how many of us staff need to hear that same advice? We have to be wise about how we invest our summer, because it’s a complex season with opportunities in several areas.
Here are 5 things you need to do this summer, to maximize fruit and not waste this season. Shout outs and thanks to my good friend & staff teammate Brian Parker for this list of 5!
You need to rest. You’re not a machine, and you’re not God. You’ve been pushing hard all school year with teaching, Bible studies, outreach, discipleship, counseling, recruitment, conferences… and you’re tired! The summer is a key time to rest, refresh, and reenergize. College ministry is a long-term marathon, not a sprint. If you’re going to be on staff for longer than 1 or 2 years, you will need to steward your energy wisely so you don’t burn out. You can’t take a vacation in September, because that’s harvest time! The summer is the down season when vacation has the least cost. But what is truly restful for you? Different folks are rejuvenated by different kinds of rests. Avoid “shallow rests” like Netflix, binge sleeping, or video games that promise rest but leave you stale. Consider taking a week of vacation with friends or family, consider starting up a restful hobby for a few weeks, consider restful (not work-related) reading. Go surfing, hiking, sleeping in (yeah!) and increased time just being WITH your family around the house (with the phone turned off). If you’re a dad that’s often gone most evenings during the school year, the summer is a key time to reconnect and spend extra time with your kids. Rest over the summer, so you are ready to go in the fall.
2. Support Raising
You need to raise support. Take a look at your current income and expenses and make a proposed budget for the coming year. How much support have you lost over the last year? How much extra do you need to raise? Set a clear support goal. Then begin planning the trips you’ll make, the churches you’ll speak at, and start setting up appointments. Consider also caring for your current donors through donor appreciation parties, newsletters and ministry updates, following up with delinquent donors, and maybe even personal visits or church updates. Also if your church or organization has a special fund to help students with conferences, consider doing some extra support raising for that fund. Using your summer for support raising protects you from being distracted by finances during the school year of ministry.
3. Plan for the Fall
You need to plan for the fall semester. Your primary goal is to “arrive at the fall ready to go”. And summer is the time to plan for that. There’s a lot to do! Starting prep on your large group talks, new graphics & printing posters, crafting a student leadership training plan & meeting schedule, scheduling freshmen outreach events for the first few weeks of fall, recruiting volunteers to help with student housing move-in, identifying the topics and times for staff-led bible studies, looking at academic calenders for big events & when breaks are, coordinating service projects, updating your ministry website, organizing free college lunches with local churches, and hosting staff planning meetings. Whew it’s a lot! That’s why one of your top ways to plan for the fall is to PRAY. Pray to start your meetings, pray to start your prep, pray before you look at the schedule, pray with your staff, pray for this new school year coming soon, and ask your donor team to join you in prayer. Example: I set aside a few Wednesday lunches in July & August to fast and pray for the new semester, and invited donors and student leaders to join me.
You need to sharpen your mind, heart, and skills. Sharpening your mind might mean attending a conference, committing to a reading list, or formal training like taking a seminary course. To sharpen your heart, some organizations (like mine) do yearly evaluations during the summer and create new annual growth plans to advance our training. Ask your teammates or spouse how you can grow, and then take their advice! Sharpen your skills by listening to some Collegiate Collective podcasts to get some fresh ideas. Talk with college ministry folks outside your bubble. Watch some videos on leadership to augment your wisdom & ability. If you invest each summer into sharpening your ministry skills, you’ll be even more wise and fruitful each year. But one of the greatest ways to sharpen in all three areas over the summer is to READ. You need to read! Read books about college ministry, theology, history, social trends, areas for personal growth, and practical ministry skills.
5. Student Ministry
You need to minister to students, locally and digitally. Some students will still be around in your area, so consider hosting a summer Bible study at your home. If there are enough students taking summer classes on campus, consider a limited version of your normal school year ministry activities. Connect with your key leaders digitally (phone calls, video chats) or even visiting a few at their homes. Maybe do some summer reading with your student leaders and discuss what you’re learning over an email thread or group chat. Related to this category, some staff will host a summer missions trip or internship. Many students’ lives have been deeply impacted by extended focus on ministry during the summer. I did an internship with DiscipleMakers during summer 2006, which was a large part of what convinced me to join staff! Internships and mission trips need to be staffed, and if this is on your schedule for the summer, make sure you are able to reserve some time to focus on the other 5 areas.
Finally, as you consider these 5 categories: Make a plan. The months of April & May are a perfect time to start brainstorming what you’ll be doing over the summer and nailing it down in your calendar. Each year I make a “Summer Plan” Google Doc with a list of ideas to do, split into categories. I never do them all, but it helps me have a list so I can remember. Once you make that plan, share it with some fellow staff and with your roommates or spouse to help encourage you and keep you accountable. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” The summer moves by quickly, so make your plan before the semester ends so you can transition smoothly and start hitting your summer goals in stride. “But what if I can’t do this all?” It’s okay! Only God completely finishes all that He plans. But God does call us to “make the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16), and promises us that “in all toil there is profit” (Proverbs 14:23). As you work hard, remember that you are working “as for the Lord and not for men…You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
It’s hard to focus on 5 things at the same time, but this is one of the unique aspects of college ministry, the summer is the “junk drawer” for all the important things you don’t have much time for during the normal school year. I hope this brief word can inspire you to not waste your summer, but invest it strategically!