Ready-to-Go School's Out: Youth Ministry Ideas for School Breaks and Summer Vacation

Ready-to-Go School's Out: Youth Ministry Ideas for School Breaks and Summer Vacation

by Todd Outcalt

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One of the biggest challenges in youth ministry is finding effective ways to minister to teenagers during school breaks and summer vacations—those times when the usual routines of education and structure aren’t there. Families are vacationing. Youth groups get smaller. And very often youth ministry takes a noticeable dip in attendance and excitement.

Ready-to-Go School’s Out!: Youth Ministry Ideas for School Breaks and Summer Vacation by Todd Outcalt is a book that can help. Here youth workers can find support and practical ideas that can help them minister to teens during the “down times” such as:

· Fall & Spring Breaks
· Summer Vacation
· Christmas Break
· Special Days such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving
· New Years Eve

Ready-to-Go School’s Out! will be a welcome addition to the youth leader’s arsenal of resources. It includes learning activities, outings, games, worship services, and suggestions for the busy youth worker—in addition to renewal activities for tired youth leaders—all collected in one resource.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426734823
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 10/01/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Todd Outcalt is a United Methodist pastor in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been active in youth ministry for more than 17 years and has led eight youth mission trips in the United States and abroad. He also has led several youth Bible studies and training events.

Read an Excerpt

Ready to Go School's Out

Youth Ministry Ideas for School Breaks and Summer Vacations

By Josh Tinley

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2009 Abingdon Youth
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-3482-3


The Long and Short of Summer Vacation

For most teenagers, summer vacation constitutes the longest and most rewarding break from school. These weeks in June, July, and August give teens some unique opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities and to participate in outings that can have a life-changing impact.

In many congregations, the youth group does a mission trip or the bulk of its outdoor fundraising (such as car washes) during the summer. Other churches hold youth rallies, summer camps, or outdoor concerts. Summer break can also be a time to consider some learning opportunities that fall outside the scope of your usual Sunday school, youth group, and Bible study offerings.

The hope is that you'll find two or three summer suggestions in this chapter that can make your youth ministry richer and fuller and that will provide meaningful, life-changing experiences for your youth.


Preparation: Find an observatory or amateur astronomer to host your group.

Supplies: Bible, a few flashlights

If you want to create an event that is both educational and fun, arrange for a high-quality stargazing event for your group. Many universities will open their observatories to groups if you call in advance. And many highly qualified buffs, with large, portable telescopes will be willing to set up an evening for your group for a small honorarium or on a volunteer basis.

Arrange for the expert to focus on some of the best and brightest stars in the night sky, giving commentary about each one and allowing time for questions and answers. If the moon is in the right phase, your group can also have fun looking at craters and other lunar surface features.

Bring a Bible and a few flashlights to this event.

Begin your devotional time together by reading aloud Genesis 1:1-19. Then ask:

-> What does this story of creation tell us about the heavens?

-> Which questions about the formation of the universe does this biblical account answer? Which questions does it not answer?

-> What questions about the stars and the cosmos does this Scripture raise?

Read aloud Psalm 19, then ask:

-> How do the stars reveal God's glory?

-> What does the vastness of the universe tell you about God and creation?

-> Does knowing that you live in a vast universe make you feel more intimately connected with God, or less so? Explain.

-> How might looking at the stars increase our faith in God?

Close your stargazing experience by reading aloud Psalm 8.


Preparation: Locate and gather information for a nearby cave that is open to the public.

Supplies: Bible, flashlights, pens, pocket-size notebooks

Caving is a popular summertime excursion. A cave visit on a hot summer day will provide a cool place to visit and will provoke some lively discussion afterward. Check with the National Park Service or your state's department of natural resources to learn what nearby caves are open to the public.

During or after your caving adventure, talk about 1 Kings 19:4-18, in which Elijah, on the run from Queen Jezebel, hid in a cave.

To begin, ask the youth to write in their notebook some of their impressions about the cave: sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and so forth. Ask:

-> How would you describe the cave?

-> What fears did being in the cave provoke?

-> What kind of refuge or protection would a cave provide?

Read aloud 1 Kings 19:4-18, then ask:

-> Why was Elijah spending the night in a cave?

-> How did Elijah experience God in the cave?

-> What is significant about the way God chose to be revealed?

-> How do light, air, and water play a part in our awareness of God?

-> How might silence be important to a life of faith?

Close with a prayer thanking God for being present with us even in times of darkness.


Preparation: Secure a dunk tank; advertise the event.

Supplies: dunk tank, promotional materials

To have fun and raise money during the summer, have a dunk tank. You can usually rent these tanks from a party store. Line up several people in your congregation who are known for having a good sense of humor to sit in the tank. (Make sure that these people are willing to get wet for a good cause.)

Advertise the event well in advance, and let the community know whom it will have a chance to send falling into cold water. Have an enthusiastic person at the tank who can serve as a barker to invite passersby to "step right up" and try to hit the target. (Youth could take turns being the barker.)

You may also use the dunking booth in conjunction with another fundraising event, such as an ice cream social or a fish fry.

Important: A dunking booth is a large object with several moveable parts. Therefore, it requires adult supervision at all times.


Preparation: Locate and gather information about a nearby hiking trail. Check with your local parks or recreation department to obtain a list of national, state, county, or city parks in your area that have hiking trails. Ask the parks in advance for trail maps.

Supplies: trail maps, copies of Scripture passages, pens, pocket- size notebooks, plenty of drinking water, food and other supplies for a cookout (optional)

Summer is a great time to take a youth group on a nature hike. Your group can take a simple hike, or you might choose to make a list of trees and wildlife that you'd like for the youth to identify during the outing. Have plenty of adult chaperones to help.

Trail hiking helps to form special bonds among teenagers. Consider beginning or ending the outing with a campfire cookout.

Before, during, or after the hike, your group might read and reflect on a Scripture that speaks of the beauty of creation (such as Psalm 104) or of getting away from the busyness of daily life (such as Matthew 13:13-23).


Preparation: Mark off garden plots on your church lawn (with your church leaders' permission). Be sure to secure access to water at the same time you obtain permission to use the church's land.

Supplies: Bible, tools to till the ground and to mark off garden plots, a convenient source of water

If your church has lawn space that is not being used, see whether church leaders would be willing to allow your group to set up a garden plot. The youth group can use wooden boards to outline 10-foot-by-10-foot garden plots. Leave walking room between the plots.

Across the country, in towns large and small, people are looking for garden plots to rent for the summer. Many people no longer have space in which to grow their own vegetables or flowers and would be willing to rent a garden plot for a few dollars. So the garden plot can help generate money for the youth group. If the goal isn't to raise money but to provide garden space as a mission project, provide rent-free garden plots to persons who might be open to this unique expression of love and care from the church.

Unused plots can be tended by the youth group for the summer and can be used to grow flowers for homebound persons or vegetables to donate to a food bank or raise money for a fundraiser. Your congregation probably has expert gardeners who would be willing to put their time and energy into this kind of endeavor.

As you prepare your garden project, you might study a relevant Scripture such as Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ("Do not glean what is left [from your crops]; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow" [verse 21]). (See also Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 19:9-10.)


Preparation: Plan a trip to the fair, and prepare a scavenger hunt list.

Supplies: scavenger hunt lists, plastic grocery bags to carry the bulkier finds, small plastic bags to carry small items in

The summer months mean county fairs and state fairs. Many youth have never been in a fair environment and are quite taken with the sights, sounds, and smells of this unique summer experience, which can help group members form some new bonds with one another.

If you are looking to create a fun experience at the fair, try this unusual scavenger hunt game. Divide the group into teams, and give each team some plastic bags and the following list of items that they must find at the fair.

Feel free to add to or change this list. Also decide ahead of time whether teams may earn points for finding more than one of a particular item. For example, if the youth find 2 soft drink cans, will they earn 2 points or just 1? Consider too the time it might take to count, for example, 359 pieces of straw.

1-point items

-> Candy wrapper

-> Ice cream stick

-> Corn dog stick

-> Soft drink can

-> Paper cup

-> Napkin

-> Packet of ketchup or mustard

-> Packet of sugar

-> Coffee stirrer

5-point items

-> Sawdust (about 1 teaspoonful)

-> Bird feather

-> Piece of straw

-> Ear of corn

-> Pie

10-point items

-> Ticket stub

-> Badge

-> Unmelted ice cube

-> Sunglasses

-> Umbrella

-> Whistle


Another fun summertime destination is the mall. Here are some fun summer games that you can do at the local shopping mall.


Supplies: Bible, one dollar for every few youth

Divide the group into teams, and give each team a dollar. Specify a time limit and a meeting place. See which team can purchase the most items with its dollar. After the groups have purchased their items, challenge them to think of ways to put them to use. (For example, if they were to purchase plastic bug rings, bouncy balls, and toy whistles, they might decide to give these samll items to the children in the congregation.) Follow this up, if you would like, with a devotion on stewardship of what God has given us. Consider using Matthew 25:14-30 (the parable of the talents) or Mark 6:30-44 (the feeding of the 5,000) as a key text. Both of these Scriptures are about getting the most out of what God has given us, even if what God has given us seems meager.


Go to the mall food court and have a progressive dinner, eating appetizers at one place, main course at another, and dessert at a third. Add another fun element (and good stewardship) to the mix by setting a spending limit.


Supplies: one dollar for each youth

Give each teen a dollar, and invite everyone in the group to purchase a small item that can be given to a friend along with an invitation to attend youth group meetings and events. This is a fun and simple means of evangelism that can help your group grow and to minister to new members.


Most malls have a cinema inside or nearby. Watch a movie together. Afterward, discuss the film, using questions such as:

-> With which character did you most identify? Why?

-> What Christian themes (such as love, grace, and redemption) were at play in this story?

-> What positive lessons can you take from this movie?


Preparation: Gather church camp flyers and other supplies (see the list). Fill a small suitcase with the flyers.

Supplies: Bible, church camp flyers, suitcase, firewood and kindling, a means of lighting a fire (optional if you have a safe place to have a campfire), a means to extinguish a fire (necessary only if you plan to have a campfire)

Summer provides ample opportunity for youth to go to church camp. If you are looking to stir up some excitement for the camping opportunities in your area, give this interactive devotional a try. This devotional is best used before the end of school or at the beginning of summer vacation and is best held outdoors.

Before the meeting, stack the firewood on the ground as you would set up a campfire. Set aside one piece of kindling for each youth. When the youth arrive, ask them to gather around the unlit fire and spend some time thinking about their summer vacation plans. Pass the suitcase around the circle. Have each teen, when he or she has the suitcase, offer a brief explanation of his or her summer plans. These plans might include vacations, family outings, or work opportunities.

Once the suitcase has completed the circuit, read aloud Ecclesiastes 5:18: "This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us."


-> Why is relaxation important in our summer plans?

-> Why are enjoyment and relaxation important to our spiritual growth and learning about God?

-> Are you planning on or considering attending a church camp?

Following this brief discussion, give each youth a piece of kindling.

Say: "Perhaps some of you have considered going to church camp this year. Church camp is a wonderful opportunity to bond with other Christian teenagers and to grow in your faith. If you have considered going to church camp this year, please go to the suitcase and take out one of the flyers. These flyers contain the dates of the summer camps in our area. If you will commit to going to camp, I ask that you place your kindling on the firewood as a sign of your commitment. The fire inside our circle remains unlit; but when you get to camp, you will find that there is a new fire that God will kindle in your life." Close in prayer.

If you are looking for creative ways to encourage your teenagers to attend church camp, consider one of the following options:


Preparation: Gather addresses of church camps that your youth will be attending.

Supplies: postcards, stamps

If you are looking for a quick way to stay in touch with your youth who attend summer camp, send out camp postcards. Most camps have post office boxes that will handle mail sent to campers.

Your postcard might include greetings from others in the church youth group, a message from you, and/or a few pertinent and encouraging Scripture verses.


Supplies: envelopes, stamps

Before a teen leaves for camp, give her or him a stamped envelope. Invite her or him to write a letter to herself or himself during his or her time at camp, reflecting on what she or he has learned and experienced and what commitments she or he has made. Tell the youth to mail the letter from camp to her or his home address.


Preparation: Prepare a bowl of assorted fruit chunks, trying to get the chunks about the same size and shape. (Be sure you know about any fruit allergies your youth might have.)

Supplies: Bible, blindfold, food service gloves (or plastic, food storage bags), bowl of assorted fruit chunks

Ask a volunteer to put on one food service glove or to put a plastic bag over one of his or her hands. Blindfold the volunteer and ask him or her to reach into the bowl and pull out a piece of fruit. Instruct the volunteer to taste the fruit and attempt to identify, based on taste alone, the type of fruit. (To take away the volunteer's sense of smell, which would help him or her identify the fruit, have the volunteer use the unbagged hand to hold his or her nose before choosing the fruit and while eating it.) You may choose to repeat this with other volunteers.

Then ask:

-> Why is it easy or difficult to identify a piece of fruit from the taste alone?

-> What other attributes might help you identify a piece of fruit?

-> Following these questions, invite another volunteer to read aloud Galatians 5:22-25 (the fruit of the Spirit). Then ask:

-> What is the apostle Paul talking about when he refers to the "fruit of the Spirit"?

-> What "fruits" does Paul mention?

-> How are these fruits related to one another?

-> In what ways might these fruits of the Spirit help sweeten our lives or make us more productive in our faith?

-> How easy or difficult is it to identify fruits of the Spirit in other Christians? Explain.

Allow the group to enjoy the fruit chunks. Close by asking someone to again read aloud Galatians 5:22-23.


Preparation: Acquire a trophy or trophies.

Supplies: Bible, one trophy for one person or a small trophy for each person in the group

For this summer devotion, you'll need a Bible and one small trophy (or a small trophy for each person in the group).

Begin by asking each person in the group to describe a personal achievement that was particularly satisfying. Pass the small trophy around the circle and have each person, when he or she is holding the trophy, tell the group about his or her achievement. Or give a trophy to each person as he or she tells the group about an achievement. Make sure that everyone participates in this portion of the devotion.

Then ask:

-> Why are goals important?

-> Why, do you think, does achieving or reaching a goal feel so satisfying?

-> What type of goals are most difficult to achieve?

-> Read aloud Philippians 3:10-16. Then ask:

-> What words does the apostle Paul use here to describe the difficulty of obtaining the goal? (press on, forgetting the past, straining forward, and so forth)

-> What is the goal that Paul is referring to here? (the resurrection from the dead, salvation—see verse 11)

-> Why, do you think, did Paul describe this goal in athletic terms?

-> Where or to whom can we look for help as we press on to achieve this ultimate goal?

Close by asking members of the group to tell their prayer concerns or other insights about the Philippians passage.


Preparation: Gather a small supply of back-to-school items.

Supplies: Bible, index cards, pens or pencils, back-to-school items to distribute to the youth group

This is a great devotion to use near the end of the summer break, as students are ready to begin another school year.


Excerpted from Ready to Go School's Out by Josh Tinley. Copyright © 2009 Abingdon Youth. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Long and Short of Summer Vacation,
Fantastic Fall Break,
Christmas Break,
Worthwhile Winter Breaks,
Spectacular Spring Break,
Youth Leader Breaks and Renewal Adventures,
Photocopiable Handouts,

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