Investing in the Next Generation of Believers
By Josh Yun
Increasingly, the church needs to reach out to young people, especially when there is a decline in church attendance and a shortage of kingdom-ministry partners. Our younger generation is exploding with potential with their access and proficiency in technology. Their problem-solving skills and innovative ideas for “doing church” differently are revolutionizing how modern churches approach worship. Churches need to not only focus on scripture and spiritual disciplines but also to embrace the experiential encounter with Christ to bring renewal.
Leading the next generation is going to be hard work, but it will bear much fruit. Once their direction is set on serving God, they will be able to use technology and innovative ideas to bring change to the church and bring more people to worship God. Our young people are the key to helping churches to thrive and grow. One of the ways that our church has been reaching out to the next generation is through our summer school.
1. Start a Summer School
The summer school is a program that serves the community by providing a day camp where students can have fun with friends, go on field trips, and learn from teachers. We start with dynamic worship full of dancing and songs from vacation Bible study. Afterward, we focus on teaching math and English language arts, while providing snacks and plenty of breaks. At lunchtime, we provide food that represents our culture and history. Afternoon activities consist of a rotation of sports, Korean classes, arts and crafts, and creative snacks. Each week, the summer school goes on field trips, including amusement parks, zoos, and aquariums.
2. Provide Summer School at an Affordable Price
By providing this much-wanted service at an affordable price, the church has discovered that parents will volunteer to help and even start attending church with their children. The parents become familiar with the worship format and enjoy praise time and even learn quite a bit from the short Bible message time. The Bible message time sometimes includes videos that have animations of Bible stories that students love to watch. When asked about the Bible stories, the students remember everything and ask if there are more videos. Many of these young people never have been in church before, but by the end of the summer school, they are singing Christian worship songs they have learned.
3. Impact the Future
By reaching the next generation of believers, we have hope for the future of our churches and our faith. Summer school is one way to reach young people, and it’s an effective way to engage the local community with the church. Once people are connected to the church and become part of the community of believers, the possibilities are endless. Many of them come back as teachers and community members. The new perspectives and skills they can bring will innovate the way the church functions and worships. The young people will bring their families and friends to church, and they will become trusted leaders in the community.
4. Recruit Students in the Community
Recruiting students and advertising to parents can be a daunting task at first, but once the word gets out about this great opportunity, many people will flock to your program. It is important to have a six-week plan with a vision for your program. Then you can submit the highlights of your program to your church to be announced. Congregation members can ask people they know to attend the summer school. The most effective method of outreach is word-of-mouth and simple advertisements in social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Researching different prices of registration and making sure that you are within the market price or lower will also affect the number of registrations. Some parents will be interested that the church offers academic work on top of field trips and fun activities. Further, parents enjoy the performances at the end of the summer and the festive events that show our unity with one another.
5. Recruit Teachers in the Community
Recruiting teachers is both rewarding and challenging. It is rewarding because you recruit students or volunteers from the church for the summer school. Students you’ve seen grow can now have summer jobs being teachers. Other teachers you don’t know will come in and bring a new perspective that will help the summer school grow. It may be challenging to find teachers since summer jobs are not typically wanted by senior college students who are seeking internships. After they graduate, it is even more difficult to recruit them, although they have the most experience and maturity. It is also challenging to get people to commit to teach at the summer school. Because of changing schedules and vacations, it is hard to get an early commitment to have a set number of teachers for the summer.
Overall, the rewards of having programs such as summer school outweigh the challenges. It is especially rewarding when teachers and students are happy and having a good time in the summer school community. Through these programs and through these fellowship times, we can ensure a steady increase of young people in attendance in our churches and ensure their spiritual growth.
Josh Yun is youth pastor and director of Summer School at New York Plainview United Methodist Church.