A step-by-step guide to help you chart your course to the best summer ever!
In the midst of all the celebrations, special events, and programs during November and December, surely the last thing on your mind is your summer schedule. Let’s face it, it’s hard to imagine charting a path to summer success when your head is still spinning from the previous summer camp and your office still shows the effects of your VBS tropical storm. Summer seems a long way off — but it’s not.
Sure, your calendar may promise you six more months of precious time, but your journey should begin now with preparations and planning that pave the way to a successful summer. We all too often put off our many preparations and then, down the road, find ourselves frantically planning last-minute and missing out on the greatest blessings.
In Luke 10 Jesus illustrates this point perfectly. As Martha busied herself with all the things that had to be done, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. After Martha grumbled for help, Jesus told her, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.”
Martha had an important houseguest and wanted to give him her best. No way was she going to heat up leftovers and pour water from a chipped pot. Wanting nothing but the best for her Savior, she sacrificed time with him to get many things done. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give the best, but Martha missed the greatest blessings of all because she let preparations take priority at a time when she should’ve been with Jesus.
Fast-forward 2,000 years. While Martha may not have had ample warning to prepare for her guest, we know well in advance when summer will strike. We can guarantee that May comes after April, and August consistently arrives before September. Because we reach our summer destination in May, why not begin mapping out plans now to provide quality programming? What a waste to sacrifice carefully planned events on the altars of procrastination and frantic last-minute planning. True success in summer activities lies not in numbers, creativity, or perfect programs. True success is leading children to the Savior’s feet. No preparations should ever take the place of the Savior’s presence.
So even though a nativity scene may be on your desk, planning for next summer should be on your mind. Starting early in the journey gives us plenty of time to prepare and plan so that when we arrive at our final destination, we’re relaxed and can rest with the One who is peace.
To help you achieve true success this summer, chart your course with the following steps. Bon voyage.
#1: DETERMINE YOUR DESTINATION.
Before any journey begins, you must decide where you’re going. Why take a trip if there’s no real reason for the journey? Set your goal for the summer. Define the purpose. Dare to dream what God has in store for your future. What does God want to accomplish in the lives of your children? So many times we plan events for events’ sake alone, leaving us with hollow blocks of time on already crowded calendars. We need not wander through mountains of events searching for meaning when through prayer we can find where God is leading and forge straight there.
A primary goal not only gives you direction but also helps you say no to activities that lead to detours. Satan wants nothing more than to distract us and keep us from God’s perfect way. Our way should be a narrow one; by setting specific goals, we can remain focused and on track.
#2: PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Once you know your final destination, look into events that’ll complement your vision. What kinds of activities will support your goal? summer camps? VBS? weekly events? If evangelism is a main priority in your final destination, vacation Bible school or other outreach events can be great tools to maintain the principles of your vision. Maybe discipleship is a priority. Summer camp or in-depth weekly Bible studies can help you mold young disciples. If service is your goal, then organized weeks of service, mission trips, or random acts of kindness throughout the summer can instill this value in your children.
God has given you the vision. He has entrusted you with guiding little ones, and with that comes great responsibility. When planning your way, make sure each route you take fully supports your vision and has purpose.
#3: SET YOUR ITINERARY
Setting dates, booking camp facilities, and picking curriculum are all aspects of the logistics nightmare that can accompany summer planning. You know they have to be done, and the best time for getting them done is early.
With dates in place, you can see your summer taking shape, and you can prioritize your planning. Sit down with your calendar to chart your events, leaving room for you to catch your breath in between.
It’s never too early to book camps or facilities. With early planning, you can get your first choice of locations and not have to settle for last-minute leftovers. When picking curriculum, do your research. Make your choice early and educate yourself so you’ll be well prepared when it’s time to share it with others. Check out the VBS review every year in the March/April issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine.
#4: CHOOSE YOUR TRAVELING COMPANIONS
I dislike taking long trips alone. How disappointing to have no one to share the highlights of the journey — or the load of the suitcases for that matter. Take the time to share your vision with others and surround yourself with those willing to share the load.
Teamwork is essential. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” We all stumble and fall, but what a blessing it is to have someone there to pick us up and dust us off.
Bringing different gifts and talents to the trail will help you see and overcome obstacles that may slow down your planning. Though surprises are to be expected, they can leave us feeling defeated. Rally your troops and delegate responsibility to help ease the load as you tackle problems. Ecclesiastes 4:12 goes on to say, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
#5: PROMOTE YOUR MOUTH-WATERING IDEAS
It always happens on a road trip. Your stomach is growling, and nothing will conquer your appetite like a juicy burger from your favorite fast-food joint. In search for an answer, you stare hope in the face as you pass yet another billboard. There it sits, a picture of a monstrous burger with all the trimmings. Just as your mouth begins to water, you realize you have 10 more miles. What? Why would they tease you so early? Because they want you to be ready when it’s time to exit.
Just as advertisements give you plenty of time to buy and provide constant exposure to their products, we must do the same for our summer events. Get the word out. Give people time to see what you’ve planned so they can mark their calendars and be ready for summer.
#6: PULL INTO REST STOPS ALONG THE WAY
In the whirlwind of details and preparation, we try to run on empty and in turn have nothing to give those we encounter. Jesus is our perfect example. Jesus had the most important work on his to-do list, but he always took time to meet with God. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed,” Mark 1:35 tells us. How can we expect to do God’s work if we aren’t in constant communication with him? During this long journey, it’s only God’s living water that can quench our thirsty souls and the Word that can guide our steps.
By beginning now, while the choir is singing carols, you can begin your journey on the path to summer success. Plan early so you don’t succumb to frantic preparations come May. The result? When the events take place, you’ll be able to invest in the lives of the children and watch with awe and wonder how Jesus shows himself in their hearts and their smiles. You too will be blessed as you sit at Jesus’ feet unencumbered by the many preparations. I’ll choose that over Martha’s chaotic kitchen any day.
Danielle Bell is the children’s minister at Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.