Summer is often a time to catch your breath, take a step back and thank God for the blessings of the past year. Some lay ministers also thank God that the year is over! How do you spend your summer months? One youth minister in Georgia takes the entire month of July off no youth group meetings, no peer ministry, offices closed. That's her time with her family and friends and the pastor and parish staff are supportive of it. A campus minister in New Hampshire often spends two evenings a week during the month of July with seniors as they prepare for a special August leadership night. A parish in New Jersey doesn't run a bulletin for the month of August, giving the parish staff a lighter load for those quiet days of summer. However you spend your time, I've put together a list of seven ideas that you might consider:
1. Go on a weekend retreat where it is quiet and where you can be alone. This might be the year that you actually go on that silent retreat that you've been longing for. Remember that your spiritual life is the wellspring from which you minister. An empty well will be bad news for your ministry. On the flip side, students returning in the Fall who find their lay minister perky and filled with new life will be drawn in and your ministry will flourish.
2. Take a vacation. Whether you have deep pockets or are on a tight budget, there's every reason to go on a vacation and everyone can do it. The planning for it is fun and gives you something to look forward to and then actually being on vacation is an accomplishment that you can feel good about. If you're on a tight budget, consider a long weekend to a spot that you can drive to. Rent an RV and see the country. Visit a water park. Read a mystery novel in a lounge chair on the beach. If you're in the mood for adventure, go mountain biking for a week. Hike a part of the Appalachian trail. Whatever the vacation, the key is to just do it.
3. Clean out your work space. It feels good to clean up clutter, throw out stuff and get your things in order. Go through your in-box, wipe out old emails and put things where they need to be. Take pride in your office or work area and make it a place where others want to be, i.e. a clean and inviting space where work gets done.
4. Revise your hours. Make it known through voice mail, email and door signs that you will be working shortened “summer hours” for a designated period of time. As long as others know your schedule, they'll respect the fact that summer is for taking things easy.
5. Get in touch with alumni in your program. Are those college students back from another year? Get together to chat and hang out. Find out where Jesus has spoken to them in the past semester. How has your work in ministry prepared them for college? Renew your friendship and good vibes once again.
6. Brush up on your theology. If you have 4-5 books that are in a stack on your shelf and you've been wanting to read them but never had the chance- now is the time! Go for it and work through one at a time. Enjoy the afternoon with some ice tea and a cool breeze. Take notes and always have a pen and paper to “think with” the book. Don't forget to visit Scripture, and often. Get into the Word, even if it's been a while since you've had a chance to study the Bible. Take your study seriously but have fun on the way. Why not meet with a few friends for breakfast each week to discuss your study?
7. Plan for the new year in a reflective way. In one parish assignment that I had, I arranged for my adult leadership team to have an afternoon away from the parish and away from the busy-ness of life. We went to a remote spot and prayed, talked and had fun together. There was a clear agenda of items that we wanted to review but it wasn't constrictive and allowed for plenty of time to adjust as needed. You may want to take some time this summer to get away with your adult or student teams to look back on the year and plan for the year ahead. Allow for some “dream time” so that the group can be creative and test out “in a perfect world” ideas for your ministry. Write them down and revisit them on occasion. You may also want to take some time on your own to get away and think about your own mission statement and some personal and professional goals for the upcoming year. It's always better to be ready when September comes than to have to scramble at the last minute to regain focus and that healthy sense of control.
Whatever you do this summer, ask for the Lord's blessing and that sense of stewardship which allows you to use your time responsibly and well. Have fun and expect for God to do his part. He will always honor your faithfulness to Him and to your ministry.
This article is reprinted with permission from Mike St. Pierre's free monthly e-newswire, Catholic Ventures Newswire, available at CatholicVentures.com