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Children listen to a Bible lesson during a Vacation Bible School hosted by the East End Church of Christ on the island of Grand Cayman. The Pawlit family — Jousha, Jessica, Jackson, Addison and Emerson — coordinated the event.
Editorial
Larry Waymire

Editorial: Is it worth it? The value of summer ministry

Summer months bring a multitude of ministry opportunities, but the payoff isn’t always apparent.

Summer is in full swing and with it lots of exciting ministry: Bible camps. Vacation Bible Schools. Area youth series. Retreats. Mission trips. School supply giveaways. And so much more.

Church vans accumulate more miles over the summer. Children, families and youth ministers log more time away from home.


Related: Summertime means Vacation Bible School


Summer ministry requires tremendous time, energy and resources. Buildings get messy, carpets stained and glitter scattered. The work demands much planning, time away from regular routines and less-than-optimal sleeping arrangements.

All of this effort and energy tempt us to wonder: Is it worth it?

Pharaoh faces off against Mario during an Exodus-themed Vacation Bible School at the Northside Church of Christ in Mayfield, Ky.

Pharaoh faces off against Mario during an Exodus-themed Vacation Bible School at the Northside Church of Christ in Mayfield, Ky.

 

For many teens and young adults, summer means more engagement with the church. Camp requires counselors. VBS needs teachers and actors. And everything requires chaperones. Otherwise serious people sing silly songs, do crazy skits and visit remote, less developed places.

Memories are made, fellowship is deepened, and faith grows.

These ministries take many shapes and sizes, but they are all kingdom work. Little churches have a big VBS, and larger churches do small acts of service. The Kingdom of God is blessed by all. Every cup of cold water, and especially cookies and Kool-Aid, reflects the love and hospitality of Christ.

For some communities, VBS and school supply drives represent the most direct engagement churches have with our neighbors. Families that normally drive past the church building find themselves standing inside, met with a warm greeting and simple generosity.

“For some communities, VBS and school supply drives represent the most direct engagement churches have with our neighbors. Families that normally drive past the church building find themselves standing inside.”

Church camps welcome students to escape the routines of life and experience faith in new ways. For far too many kids, camp is the most stable, loving environment they will experience all year.

Summer can be exhausting for churches. But we need it.

A Soul Quest camper cries while she talks to a minister after evening worship at the East Hill Church of Christ.

A Soul Quest camper cries while she talks to a minister after evening worship at the East Hill Church of Christ.

We are often reminded of the challenging realities facing the church today. More Americans attend fewer religious services. Millennials are less engaged with religious communities than ever before. And the percentage of high school students walking away from the church after graduation is depressing.

But summer is a burst of energy launched in defiance of depressing statistics. Children are welcomed, showered with attention and shown the way of Jesus. Teens are counseled, and genuine mentoring takes place. Neighbors both near and far often hear and see more of the church in summer than at other times.

Is it worth it?

In our results-driven world, we are tempted to measure the success of summer (and most other ministry efforts) by the number of baptisms or the increase in church attendance. These are easy to observe and easy to count. There is a time and place for these concerns.

However, like Paul, we have been sent to share Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:17). Doing so requires wisdom, creativity and above all, faithfulness to the Gospel. When we do so, we trust God for the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).

“Sometimes the increase seems quick and obvious: late-night baptisms, honest confession and meaningful prayer. But often, the seeds planted take years to germinate.”

Sometimes the increase seems quick and obvious: late-night baptisms, honest confession and meaningful prayer. But often, the seeds planted take years to germinate.

Neighborhood kids will always remember the church for its good cookies, free school supplies and stories of Jesus. Relationships built at church camps become lifelong friendships. And people in far-off places will remember the week “that church” came to build houses, played with children and changed their life with the Gospel.

The real challenge is for the church not to sit out the rest of the year.

Attendees of the National Youth Conference in South Carolina bowl together.

Attendees of the National Youth Conference in South Carolina bowl together.

Once summer ends and the school year begins, ministry staffs, elderships and youth ministers collapse, catching their breath from the whirlwind of ministry. With fall comes more opportunities to serve the church and our neighbors, followed by winter, spring and back to summer.

As 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” — Jeremie Beller, for the Editorial Board

Filed under: Christian camp community outreach Editorial Mission trips Opinion Summer Camp Summer ministry Top Stories Vacation Bible School Youth conferences

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