As the school year is winding to a close, I am getting really excited about this summer in our youth ministry. I love summer time, its the change of gears, its the relational time, its students dropping by the office to hang out, it’s magical and for our youth group, its high time for events. We have lots going on because after all,there are students around and many have little to do, so lets harness that energy. Between 6 major events, including day trips to the water slides, trampoline park, a golf tournament and others there is a lot of high energy stuff, but there is one weekly event that has taken on a life of its own.

In the city I work in there are three major high schools and right near all of them in an area commonly know as “uptown” sits a McDonalds location that is always filled with students. Seeing that they are there anyway, we decided three summers ago to launch “Uptown Wednesdays”. From 1-3pm every Wednesday of the summer we meet at McDonalds and if you come we will buy you and ANYONE you bring a soda. Here is what is awesome about that:

Drinks are $1 ($1.05 including tax) – So if 40 students show up, we are spending $42 to have a two hour relational time with them and have them connecting with other Christians and students from other schools. Students love free stuff and a youth event that cost’s $1.05 per students is money well spent.

Outreach: This events is one that so many students bring their friends to in fact last summer multiple students I met in the summer that were guests of our students came to youth and got plugged in because they knew myself and some of our leaders. Building trust and relationships with new students before September is helpful for them to act on the invitation to the group in the fall. This safe off-site space is their territory and thus much more conducive for students to invite their friends to.

Shepherding– Its so great to check in with our students and have some real one on one conversations, ask about their life, how we can pray for them and encourage them. Our regular gather might be off for the summer, but pastoring our students happens every week and happens at McD’s. Real life doesn’t take the summer off and in the midst of a lot of free time and parents busy working, students often open up about things that they have finally had time to think about and process and thankfully we are there to walk with them.

I fall in love with Youth Ministry again – In the midst of a really busy year and working with adult volunteers and attending staff meetings, I often find myself longing to connect with students and with the size of our group that isn’t always possible. Small relational events remind me of what God has called me to do. It’s those conversations that help me see the world through their eyes, and understand for a moment what its like to be in high school in 2013 and hopefully be a better pastor to them.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart