Photo courtesy of photographer geniuses Chrissy & Eddie Irvin. Check them out at High Five For Love Photography.

I was just talking to my friend Jeremy Lee about how ridiculously busy summers are in youth ministry. (And when I say we were “talking,” I actually mean he was laughing at me and my absurdly long Summer To-Do List.)

Summers in youth ministry are crazy. Now that August is almost here, I’m guessing you’re swamped with planning the calendar for a new school year, recruiting volunteers, reworking all the stuff that flopped last year, planning a sweet kick-off event, and about a million other things.

Or maybe you’re reading this post right now and thinking, “Shoot… I should probably start thinking about the new school year, huh?”

If that’s you, I will pray for you.

Anyway. I thought it would be fun to share with you a little checklist of the 9 things I do every single summer in preparation for the new school year… and let you know how I’m doing with each of them so far.

Ok, here we go.




Every summer, we spend a week with our middle schoolers at summer camp. Fortunately, my summer camp responsibilities (besides actually being there) are usually pretty simple and not very time consuming: make sure we have volunteers coming, buy a ton of yellow and gold stuff, and pack the band-aids. STATUS: Done.


Our Middle School Ministry team plans and runs the Middle School Tent for Kingdom Bound, an annual Christian music festival here in Buffalo. Picture an extended version of one of our Sunday morning services, add squirt guns, guest appearances from a few Christian artists, and lots of popsicles. Then repeat for each day of the festival. This is a blast and it’s also pretty easy, at least for me. Besides actually being there every year, I’m in charge of designing a volunteer t-shirt, recruiting volunteers, and helping where I’m needed during the programming. STATUS: Prep is done. Festival is next week. 


Do you know about our Volunteer Handbook? When I started working in Middle School Ministry, my top priority was putting together a handbook to help train our volunteers and communicate our vision, strategy, and mission well. Every year so far, I’ve done some pretty significant overhauls to the look and the content of the Handbook. But, happily, this year I won’t need to change much. I’ll be adding a page about sharing the Gospel, expanding the section about safety and boundaries with students, and incorporating some key principles from Lead Small into the “Small Group Leaders” section. STATUS: In progress.


Every summer, we are on the hunt for new volunteers. We lose 8th Grade Small Group Leaders who move up with their students into our High School Ministry. We need Small Group Leaders for the new 5th Graders coming into our ministry. Our Cafe and Volunteer Teams reshuffle, new needs pop up, and people move on. I’m sure it’s very much the same for you. STATUS: We’re close, but still on the hunt for 3-5 Small Group Leaders.


Like I mentioned, summer is the time every year when we lose team members. That’s not a bad thing. It just happens. People move on to other areas of ministry, leave for college, have a significant life change… whatever the reason, I try to make sure I send some love to our folks who are leaving us. A handwritten note, a gift card, whatever makes sense. STATUS: On hold. I like to send these out at the very end of the summer.


We like to come up with a new t-shirt design every fall. These are shirts we sell to students and give to volunteers throughout the year. Kenny and I have some ideas, but we haven’t fleshed anything out quite yet. STATUS: Still in the brainstorming phase.


When a new school year is about to begin, I love being able to debut lots of fun new stuff in our youth space on the week of our Fall Kick-Off. Sometimes we have big changes to debut but, more often, we try to think of lots of small things to debut – little details that communicate to our team and our students, “HEY. It’s a new year, we’re excited, and it’s gonna be awesome.” Some small changes have either already happened or are in the works: redecorating classrooms, replacing broken or old pieces of furniture, and revamping our Cafe set-up and menu. But we also have a big change coming for the new school year: a ton of new couches, which will create a ton of new small group spaces in our Theater. STATUS: In progress. Can’t be finished until the week of our fall kick-off. 


Every summer, Kenny and I get together to create a tentative plan for the school year, including special events, volunteer meetings, service projects, and events for parents. We have a few events already scheduled, but we still need to get together to look at the full scope of the year and finalize things. (By the way, even though we try to schedule things way in advance, we also try to stay flexible with what we’ve put on the calendar. We often change the dates of events, or cancel them entirely, once the school year begins.) STATUS: In progress. 


In our church, our official “move-up day,” where students move up into their new grade levels, happens on the first Sunday of the school year. And, every year, the week before Move-Up Day, we host an Open House for the families of our new incoming 5th Graders. It’s a quick, simple orientation before and after our Sunday morning services, where families can get a tour of the building, hear from our staff, and meet their kids’ new Small Group Leaders. STATUS: In progress. Will be promoted to families throughout August.

So that’s my annual Summer To-Do List. As you can probably tell, I’ve still got a bunch to nail down before the new school year starts. And this list doesn’t even include the handful of special new projects I’m working on for this school year. But I’ll tell you more about those later this week.

How about you? What are some of your annual summer to-do’s? What are you still working on for the new school year?

Photos courtesy of photographer geniuses Chrissy & Eddie Irvin. Check them out at High Five For Love Photography.