By Andrea Fieldhouse Griner
I oversee so many things at the church where I am employed. Titled the Director of Youth Faith Formation and Family Ministry—fancy but true—I’m in charge of all things youth. Part of that work includes making plans for my congregation’s summer ministry. Before planning, I like to have a quote or two to inspire me and the first that caught my eye was “summer is a state of mind.” My initial thought was—it is not! And that made me laugh. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I know the realities of the weather far outweigh the state of mind.
Instead, I decided on a more apropos quote, “Every summer has a story.” Now isn’t that the truth! After essentially missing summer 2019 when my mom was sick, I was so looking forward to summer 2020. I loved the programs and ministries we had tirelessly planned. Dragons and castles for VBS, a new shiny VBS for those going into 6th grade, Arts Camp, missions, and our 2nd Mount Calvary goes to Bible Camp—all for naught. The pandemic hit, and fear and uncertainty took over. We cancelled everything and worked from our homes. Out of guilt, boredom, and the need to earn our pay, my staff committed to rewriting a VBS (from Illustrated Ministries) for all ages that could be done at home called Compassion and a Campfire! We knew everyone was already tired of being online. It launched, and I feel pretty sure no one looked at it. Then summer was over. Period.
New Summer—Brand New Story!
Now, I am setting my sights on a brand-new summer and the shaping of a brand new story! One of the things our team does best is create and run camps. This summer our camps are happening, and they will be in-person. VBS and Confirmation Camp will be held at a regional park 10 minutes from our church. We rented both large pavilions, so we will be outside but also have the safety of their covered picnic areas. We are going to be organized into more and smaller groups which allows us to have more high school and college age counselors and more middle school assistant counselors. The more the merrier (though safely distanced, of course).
Our plans include the following.
- VBS: We will have VBS for elementary kiddos from 1st-4th grade.
- VBX: We opted for VBS reconfigured as VBX for those going into 5th and 6th Grade in the fall—a totally outdoors, active experience!
- Arts Camp: Our Art Camp is now ARTS Camp with the addition of Music & Motion and a Movie Makers program alongside the visual arts. Again, we look forward to using the outdoors as much as possible—our facilities director is thrilled to not worry about paint on the carpet!
- Confirmation Camp: Our middle school students will enjoy confirmation camp outside with games, campfires, s’mores, crafts, and incredible fun! And of course, we are talking about Jesus and living our faith in God’s creation.
- Camp Serve: We are especially excited about our Senior High Camp Serve. We will be helping to revamp an entire playground area at a church in Minneapolis while working with and getting to know teens and kids from the neighborhood!
- Bible and Breakfast: Our middle school youth will have a weekly Bible & Breakfast outside
- The Vine: Our high school youth group, The Vine will meet around weekly campfires—all outside.
You get the rhythm here! And all these ministries use our Cascading Mentorship focus—older youth partnering with younger. We’ve got a lot going on this summer, but selfishly, we cannot wait to connect with all those faces we have missed this year.
As you might guess, these ministries have been planned knowing we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Even as things get better, our commitment to God and Jesus’ words, “love others as I have loved you” requires that we put others first and that means doing things differently and safely. The challenge did not scare us and the opportunity to change things up was a grand idea. I hope you hear the delight in these words I write and the confidence we feel in our plans. This summer we are going to be shaping a new story—one filled with hope, laughter, and shiny memories.
Brainstorm some guiding phrases before planning CYF ministry in your context. What will shape your mindset and approach?
About the Author
Andrea Fieldhouse Griner is the Director of Youth Faith Formation and Family Ministry at Mount Calvary Lutheran in Excelsior, MN. She is also a certified Spiritual Director. She delights in her work but loves changing things up. Andrea specializes in Family Ministry, developing ritual and creating sacred space and experiences.
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