Graduation Stress and Summer Transition

It’s that time again. Summer camp, mission trip, service projects, day trips, amusement parks, concert is part of summer ministry activities. It feels like summer time flips everything upside down in youth ministry. During the summer we see the regular weekly youth gatherings become irregular as the irregular activities become the new norm.

As youth workers this means that our work and stress increases. We are trying to get in those final fundraisers (here are some tips to help with the pain of fundraising). We are getting the important communication pieces out to teens, parents and the whole church (here is a tool that can help with communication). We are trying to get parents ready (here is resource to help). And we try to balance all the change with our family and friends transitioning into a time of vacationing and relaxing.

Our stress in the midst of the summer transition gives us a common ground to relate to the teenagers we serve. Specifically the teens who are graduating and those who have friends that are graduating are transitioning into a new phase of life. All of their hopes and dreams for “after school” are no longer future possibilities but either present realities or disappointments. And those who have friends who are graduating must learn to live life without daily or weekly contact with that person. All of this can cause them stress and make them feel out of balance.

Here are some tips to support the teens graduating and the friends their leaving behind:

  1. Be Available – Let teens know that you’re available to talk. Being available lets teens know that there is someone who is thinking and caring about the transition they are going through.
  2. Be Open – Share the stress that transitions cause you and how you go about dealing with it.
  3. Make Expectations Clear – When counseling teens who are in graduation transition advise them that they need to make their expectations clear to friends and family. They should let those close to them know how much they want to talk, visit, etc. after graduation.
  4. Focus on Relationships – If teens will miss someone after the transition like a friend, teacher, coach, or small group leader emphasize the importance of that relationship. Suggest they communicate to the person or people 1) what they mean to them 2) they appreciate them.
  5. Share your tips in the comments…

Who put the FUN in Fundraising?

We don’t know who decided to put the word “fun” in fundraising but it was one sick joke! But for many youth workers fundraising is no fun and no joke. It is a necessity in order to raise money to pay for the youth ministry. And we typically find ourselves at some point along a spectrum of philosophies regarding fundraising in our local churches. On the one side the church views it as essential and the job of the youth leader. On the other side of the spectrum people view it as necessary and the responsibility of parents and other adults (This is youth workers preferred view.). Yet the reality is that most of us experience a view that’s between the two poles.

Here are some tips to help navigate that middle terrain.

  1. Make it Explicit: Help your adults and parents invested in the ministry to teens to articulate their feelings and views on fundraising. Work with them to set down some general guidelines (financial goals, types of fundraisers, number of fundraisers a year, duration of fundraisers, etc.). The guidelines will help so that you don’t always feel like you’re over demanding or under requesting when it comes to raising money for the youth ministry.
  2. Get Help: We suggest to get help from both adults and teens. Ask a teen and an adult to tag team the administrative work for fundraisers. It gives them time to bond and may equip the teen with new life skills.
  3. Tell Everyone: Fundraising needs to be an issue the whole church deals with because the youth ministry is not just your ministry but the ministry of the church. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to spread the word. Tell everyone and their grandma (especially their grandma) that funding ministry to teens is the responsibility of the whole church. And don’t forget to tell them it is FUN!
  4. Types: Generally “individual-type” fundraisers make more money per person than do “group type” fundraisers (car washes, bake sales, etc.). However don’t discount the fact that a lot of “youth group” happens at these car washes and bake sales. There is something to be said about everyone working together even if you don’t make as much money as an individual fundraiser.
  5. Selling Stuff:Selling items for fundraising can cause pain emotionally and financially. Here are some tips to avoid both.
    1. Before you sell stuff in the public schools make sure that it’s OK.
    2. Only sell things that give 50% or more profit.
    3. Only sell things on consignment or that you can pre-order.
    4. Check local wholesalers for a better deal before going with fundraising companies.

[photo credit: hodgers]

The Pressures of Back to School!

Hey Barefoot Friends,

Many teenagers, whether it’s their first year of junior or senior high school or their last, may wish they had taken a survival course on how to make it at school. Today’s teens face a bewildering variety of pressures at school.
What are some of these pressures?

• Academic pressure leads teens to feel a high amount of anxiety and to cheat in order to make the grade. This was powerfully documented in the film Race to Nowhere.

• Financial pressure leads some teens to have jobs that require them to get up early and/or go to bed late.

• Athletic pressures can lead teens to choose between participation in ministry or games that consume their afterschool hours.

• Relational pressures force them into a dating jungle in which a God-honoring view of sexuality is hard to find and maintain.

Pressures can lead some to addictive or harmful behaviors. Some teens may suffer alone through the anxiety and depression these pressures create. Whatever the form the pressures of school life take and the effects they have on teens, it is important that youth ministry be a place where teens can learn to face the pressures in faith.
Several youth ministries provide the following relational opportunities to apprentice teens through the pressures of school life in faith:

• Mentoring is a great way to provide teens with a guide who can help them navigate the pressures of school life toward adulthood with faith.

• Small Groups can make the youth group a place of refuge where teens can share personal struggles and get help dealing with the stress of school life.

What does your church do to disciple teens through the pressures of school life? Share your insights on the Barefoot Online Blog.
Blessings to you,

The Barefoot Team

Featured Resource

Equip: A Youth Worker’s Guide to Developing Student Leaders

Featured BFO Resource

Life Journey Series: Back to School

Featured Article


A youth worker article on the importance of not just doing youth ministrybut also pastoring teens. Read the full article–>


July BFO Newsletter: You Still Need Sunday School

Barefoot Friends,

Times and methods change. Some churches don’t have traditional Sunday school anymore. Some new church plants have never started Sunday schools at all, and they don’t ever intend to. We’re not really concerned about this phenomenon, for we’re not hung up on the time, place, and format of youth Sunday school. We don’t care what you call it. We don’t care when you have it. We don’t care where you have it. We do care, however, that you have it and that you do it well! 

1. Sunday school is a consistent, systematic, comprehensive approach to Bible study for students. With the emergence of worship-centered midweek meetings with music and devotional or sermon by the youth leader, many youth ministries don’t have a holistic approach to Bible study like Sunday school.

2. Sunday school creates continuity at church between childhood and adulthood. Sunday school is the most continuous church activity for most people. Youth activities like youth group meetings, retreats, lock-ins, concerts, camps, and mission trips are fairly unique to the six or seven years teens stay in the youth group. But Sunday school creates continuity between the various age segregated ministries.

3. Sunday school provides the opportunity to develop a relationship with a significant Christian adult other than parents (or youth pastors). Most churches don’t have the luxury of a professional youth minister. Whatever youth ministry gets accomplished is done by quality, committed lay leaders who spend significant time with teens, sharing faith and life together. In most instances, this is usually a Sunday school teacher.

Questions for your ministry:

  • Does your church have a type of regular Bible study time that fits the beneficial characteristics of Sunday school?
    • Consistent – occurs every week
    • Systematic – challenges teens to discover for themselves the intersection of life and the Word
    • Comprehensive – looking at the whole, not simply our favorite parts, of the Bible;
    • Creates continuity at church between childhood and adulthood
    • Provides the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with adults other than their parents
  • What would it take to implement this type of Bible study time in your context?
  • What could be done to get your students connected to this type of Bible study? What could be done to improve what you already have going?
  • Tell us what you think about Sunday school on the BarefootOnline Blog [link to: blog post]


Blessings to you,

The Barefoot Team


Featured Resource:

Suggested resource from your subscription

Join the Story is a small group series that takes students through the entire Bible, from beginning to end.


Transition into Summer

Spring is winding down, and summer is in clear view. Camp details are being finalized. Fundraisers for short-term mission trips are everywhere. Teens are amped for the school year to get done and to enter into the rhythm of the summer.

So have you thought about parents lately? Why? Because any parent with a teen knows that the school year provides a structure to family life, and that structure can quickly unravel during the summer. As youth workers, the health and vitality of teenagers’ family lives should be a high priority for our ministries. Yet often times, in the midst of all the activity, we can overlook caring for and equipping parents.

We know that youth ministry can be overwhelming and that you can’t do everything. So we put together some tips and resources you can use to help parents with the transition into summer.

Parents need information on how to transition to summer without experiencing an imbalance in family life.

  • Transition Tips: We created this list of tips for you to give to parents to help them think about planning their transition to summer. Email it to all your parents using the mass email feature in the Tracking Assistant section in your BFO subscription.
  • Parent Further: This is a great site to point parents to for practical ideas for creating healthy and vital family practices.

Parents need practical help with transitioning to summer.

  • Transition Night: Host a parent night at your church for the explicit purpose of parents helping parents transition to summer. Ask two or three parents to share their summer family schedules, how they change their daily routines, and what they do to stay connected and encourage family faith practices during the summer months.
  • Ask Parents: See how the church can help families transition to the summer.

Parents need to know they are not alone and that they are valued.

  • Texting All Parents! Add all of the parents’ cell information into the Tracking Assistant section in your BFO subscription.  And send all of them encouraging texts about parenting and faith on a weekly basis.
  • Summer Survival Kits: Create summer survival kits for parents. Include a note of encouragement, a family devotional book, a family movie, and a list of engaging family activities that parents can do with their teens.

Parents need to be involved in all aspects of their teens’ summer lives.

  • Invite Parents: Ask parents to participate in the youth group activities throughout the summer. It will give them more time to connect with their children and will be great for all the teens to see the faith of families lived out!
  • Don’t Compete: Make sure that parents don’t feel like they’re competing with the youth group for time with their children. Communicate clearly and regularly, asking for input from parents about all the summer activities.


Photo credit: ashley.adcox

Time for Graduation – Tools and Tips to Help

It is graduation time, which means teens are thinking about friendships changing, friends’ upcoming departures for college, transitions into the work force, or new life adventures beyond high school. It is a great time to talk about the important topic of vocation, both with teens who are graduating high school and those who have yet to reach that milestone.

There are few topics more important than that of vocation. Our careers not only provide us with the financial support we need but often bring fulfillment to our lives. When we enjoy our jobs and feel as if we are making a difference, then we tend to give more of ourselves to our jobs.

Due to a combination of factors, older generations often believe that today’s students are not interested in hard work. We see them coming back home to live after college, often while pursuing further education. But we have to realize that pursuing a career today is vastly different from the way it was in the last century. Many of the students in your class do have a desire to prepare themselves to be the best that they can be.

What teens need are mature adults who can talk honestly and openly about their careers and calling. Here are some ideas we have put together to help you engage teens in conversation and teaching on pursuing God’s calling on their lives.

  • Graduation Banquet – Honoring graduating seniors with an all-church banquet where younger teens can see adults valuing the accomplishments of their peers is a great way to instill a sense of worth to the hard work of learning. Try to recruit two to three adults to share their life stories of pursing God’s calling beyond high school.
  • Parent Stories – Get a couple of the parents of teens to share their stories of pursuing God’s calling on their lives in the teen classes before graduation time.
  • Pastoral Calling – Invite the lead pastor in your church to come and teach about vocation and their calling into vocational ministry.
  • Teaching Series – Think about doing a four- or five-week teaching series on vocation. Here is a resource from the Barefoot Online subscription.
  • Other ideas – If you have any other ideas on how to engage teens in conversation on pursuing God’s calling share in the comment section below.