“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” Shakespeare
Summer marks that time when people take vacations and generally pull themselves away from their normal routines. I love summer — reading books in a hammock, reclining by a pool, and taking time to reflect. Summer seems to bring out the youth in all of us.
We also see a change in the summertime in our churches as well, as many talk about the “summer slump” in attendance. But if you are in student ministry you know how the summer offers unique opportunities for students to step up and step out in their faith. Youth camps, mission trips, and other activities that focus on Christ in a season of leisure offer phenomenal times of growth. But you, as a student pastor or leader, can slip into the mindset of letting weekly, consistent discipleship decline in the busyness of preparing for those activities. I believe summertime can offer a great time of growth for students who are out of school. And I have just the resource for you.
The Gospel Project offers a specifically Christ-centered approach to learning the Scriptures. If your church is not currently using it, summer offers a time to walk through the materials and give them a “trial run” while teaching some important truths to your students. Notice the focus of the summer study:
- Knowing God: The Role of Theology in the Life and Mission of the Christian
- The God Who Is: The Existence of God
- Our Great God: What God Is Like
- The Omni God: God’s Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence
- Good God: The Goodness and Love of God
- Holy, Holy, Holy: God’s Holy Righteous Character
- Jesus’ Deity: The Son of God
- Jesus Humanity: The Son of Man
- Jesus Work: Prophet, Priest, and King
- The Spirit’s Identity: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
- The Spirit’s Work: The Work of the Holy Spirit
- God in Us: The Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit
- The Trinity: The Mystery of One God in Three Persons
You could teach this in your normal Sunday time. Or, you could have a summer Bible study where you focus on theology (as I say in my new book As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students, students learn trigonometry in high school, they can learn theology in church!). You could have a Sunday evening study or a weeknight study in homes, or go outdoors, or another creative time and place.
One of the most popular features of the summer for students is going to see movies. I remember stellar movies the summer my friends and I got our driver’s licenses. Movies like Aliens, the first one with Sigourney Weaver. Freaked me out.
I love helping students see movies and their storylines from a biblical lens. Storylines we love, like a man falling in a hole and getting out (action movies from the Avengers to Transformers), rags to riches (Cinderella, Princess Diaries), and boy meets girl (Hitched, most romantic comedies), all feature a general storyline of beginning, rising action, some form of intrigue or danger, and a denouement, or a rescue/resolution/some form of heroism, ending in the ubiquitous “and they all lived happily ever after.” We love these, because there is something in the Imago Dei within us that yearns for a happy ending.
Movies weakly reflect the the gospel seen in the Story of Scripture. God created an amazing world and created man to worship Him. The fall broke creation and separated us from God. Jesus came to rescue us by His substitutionary work on the cross and His resurrection, and we have the hope of the happily ever after in the restoration. This redemptive theme is critical to The Gospel Project, which is a reason I love it. What if you taught The Gospel Project series and used it to explain our love for movies and stories and happy endings comes from our yearning for the hope found in Christ?
The summer of my youth I mentioned above offered me more than a time to watch movies. It gave me a time to grow deeper in my faith. We took a long choir tour (that was our version of a mission trip back then) where we had to memorize Scripture and songs, go through devotional work, and minister to peers in several states. We saw God change lives. I saw God change mine. Instead of joining the movement of leisure and checking out on learning, why not use the summer as a time to dig deep in the Word? The Gospel Project summer study may be just what you need.