7 Lessons Learned From A Summer ‘Shutdown’

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A while back I posted an article that debated the benefits and downsides to shutting down for the summer. This summer I got to live out one of these perspectives more fully than I would have liked… You see, over the summer months we shut down much of our student ministry program since we renovated our student ministry center called ‘The Warehouse.’ (It is actually a converted warehouse and is now looking pretty sweet)! Because of demolition and permits, we could not meet weekly on a Sunday morning as we usually do. Instead students went to church with their parents…

Here are 7 lessons that I learned from the shut down: 

1) Momentum Can Easily Get Lost: Even though we continued bible studies and some events, the fact that we did not meet every Sunday (as we usually do over the summer), meant that we lost a lot of momentum going into the events and BBQ’s we always have. It was all to do with promotion at the end of the day… If students weren’t there to hear the latest happening, they forgot, or were not encouraged to come. Text messages, Facebook invites, and emails still don’t beat a personal invite!

2) Connection With Students Was Lost: This summer more than ever I found myself missing students and wishing I had more ways to stay connected with them. I sought out a number of students and tried to get together as much as I could, but it was not the same as checking in with them at The Warehouse each Sunday.

3) Rhythm Was Lost: Doing a renovation project kicked me in the rear end! Although I did do not all the work myself, (we had loads of incredible contractors, volunteers, students, and parents), it still was a huge drain on my time and resources. As a result I never felt like I had a rhythm over the summer. For me, it’s imperative to find a good rhythm in ministry…

4) Ownership Was Gained: Renovating a student ministry center has meant that a number of students got to be a part of the process. This has been huge for them and for me. When we kick-off next week, there will be a bunch of incredible students who got to be a part of owning the future of The Warehouse. Ownership in ministry is key! Yes, we could have paid people to demo and paint, but it was more important to get students involved in the process.

5) A Greater Ministry Tool Has Been Established: By shutting down and renovating this summer we have created a better ministry space that will allow us to reach more students for Christ, and give better learning environments for our existing students. Even though we felt many losses, this renovation will be a great investment!

6) We Learned To Minister Without Buildings: Even though we shutdown The Warehouse to improve the space and environment, we also learned a valuable lesson too: When you have no ministry space to use, you can always adapt and find ways to do ministry that ends up involving more people and greater ownership. It’s easy to rely on our ministry space and resources, but when we are forced to seek help, it’s amazing how many people and resources become available. Going into this Fall we are stronger with parent support and student ownership!

7) Shutting Down Sunday Mornings Brought Families Together: Not everyone was excited by this idea at first, but it was great to see families together at church this summer! Sticky Faith: Youth Worker Edition by Brad Griffin and Kara Powell states that students are more likely to stay in church after they graduate if they have learned to be a part of the church while they were in high school. Since students were ‘forced’ to be in church, I feel good about the sticky church feel that was created this summer… I am now looking at ways to orchestrate this again throughout my regular year, (but just not a complete shutdown like this summer). Check out what Kurt Johnston and his team at Saddleback did to bring families and students together if you get the chance…

What was your plan for the summer? How did your summer work out? What lessons did you walk away with? What would you do differently next summer? 

Phil <><


6 Responses to 7 Lessons Learned From A Summer ‘Shutdown’

  1. Jason Lamb August 28, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I am a full time Student Ministry Pastor and our ministry shuts down all weekly programming for our students over the summer. That’s right, Sunday morning and Wednesday nights cease during the summer months. I’m not a fan. I inherited this setup and plan on changing it next summer. I agree with and have experienced many of your 7 points above (those not related to a new building). Next year we will scale back our weekly meetings, but we will meet weekly. I’m all for changing things up and having the opportunity to try new things…something is definitely better than nothing.

  2. Phil Bell August 28, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Jason, something is definitely better than nothing and I am surprised by how many ministries shutdown completely! For me, I struggle with the idea of having to ‘splutter’ back into the Fall and build momentum again…


    Phil <

  3. Christopher Wesley August 28, 2012 at 9:05 am #


    Good post. While we don’t shut things completely down we tone it down significantly so that we don’t lose the momentum or connection needed for the fall. I think it’s a balance and there is no full proof formula. With that said I do think there needs to be periods where we completely shut down, but maybe it’s not for a whole summer.

  4. Darren Sutton August 28, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    As a pretty big fan of summer shut-downs, I have learned a few nuances for making it successful.

    a) You can never TOTALLY shut down without taking a few steps back.

    b) If you do that, be sure you have a fall plan in place before summer ever begins so you can take a few giant steps forward with the kick-off of school. (Unless you’re in year-round school…then you have my condolences).

    c) Sometimes just mixing up the routine is enough to give the ambiance of ‘shutting down’ without taking as big a risk. So do midweek during the day instead of at night. Do large group teaching for part of the summer, rather than small groups exclusively. Do a week of intentional Bible studies in June, but take mid-weeks off in July.

  5. Milli August 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    I just started my position at the end of May and I never for a moment thought of gearing down for the summer, we took a crowded old youth room and were allowed to expand the very small jr high room. this meant we had a dark cave with a pool table glued to the floor and a now multi colored nursery like activity room. to start out from scratch, the men took down the wall and hauled of dead furniture. My 5 diligent eager beaver 12 yr olds have spray painted hand me down furnishings, painted the walls and add more than a few opps to the ceiling, But what God did was bind this mismatched group together taught them to begin thinking about others first and begin to heal a broken church.

  6. Phil Bell August 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    Milli! This is great to hear! There’s nothing better than getting a group of students like yours together for a common cause! The ownership factor is huge and will carry you into the Fall. Keep seeking ways to include them in your processes. When they are involved they will want to see your ministry succeed nearly as much as you do!

    Great stuff! Keep up the great work!!!

    Phil <

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