For youth leaders, spring is fall

Steve Argue, PhD | Apr 22, 2021

Okay, ministry leaders.

Let’s just admit what we already know.

Spring is here … which means fall is here.

Seriously, I’m not joking.

Unless you are one of those near-Jesus-like youth leaders who are not swayed by the allure of the summer break, you’ve likely lulled yourselves into believing two mantras.

These mantras aren’t true.

But they feel good.

They take the edge of us having to face fall when we’re not even sure we’re going to make it through spring after a long ministry school year.

I know. I’ve been there.

Rejecting our favorite summer mantras

So here are my comfort mantras. I bet you already know them (and have evoked them yourself):

Mantra #1: This summer, my schedule is going to calm down so I can give more attention to __________.

I would tell myself this blissful, deceptive promise every spring. Typically, I was tired and really wanted to believe that summer delivered me from over-programming and the weekly ministry tempo. Yet every year, my summers would fill up with camps, summer programming, and the beautiful yet demanding reality that students, out of school, were even more available. My “typical day” governed by the school year beautifully blew up every summer. I never had more margin—only less—for the planning that needed my time, reflection, and attention.

Mantra #2: Fall is so far off! I have plenty of time to prepare!

Not only were my summer days fuller than I anticipated, my summers were always shorter than I envisioned. The fall kick-offs that seemed “way out there” actually needed my attention now if I wanted any prepared volunteers, informed parents, or interested teenagers. Every summer, my faux-timeline translated into a panicked fall that left me even more exhausted than spring.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself caught in this cycle, fueled by these mantras.

They hurt me.

But I realized that they hurt my volunteer leaders just as much (which hurt even more).

You see, when I came into a new school year feeling behind, exhausted, and unfocused, I found that I tried to do everything myself—it was too late to ask anyone else. I made decisions that alienated others (because it was too late to include anyone else). There may be nothing worse than trying to invite volunteers into a desperate ministry with a panicked youth leader. Some may join you out of pity, but few will commit to an absent vision.

I wanted more—something meaningful that demonstrated that our youth work mattered.

My volunteers wanted more—something formational that allowed them to not only serve, but grow themselves.

And so I had to change my thinking, my planning, and how I viewed my ministry calendar.

Reimagining youth ministry timing and training

Youth leaders, let’s admit what we know is actually true: the time for fall planning is now. It can’t wait if we truly desire to prepare our leaders and serve our students well. In fact, we can’t let our summer distract or derail our fall ministry preparation.

The great news is this: FYI can help you.

This past year Caleb Roose and I wrote a book we’re really proud of called Sticky Faith Innovation. This book captures the fruit of over four years of FYI research with more than 50 churches and hundreds of youth leaders just like you.

We discovered that innovation is more than a trendy buzz-word or one more concept calling for you to change everything. In fact, you might even be a bit (or a lot!) tired of “change” after the year we’ve all been through. The good news: innovation is more exciting than that.

Innovation is the posture you and youth ministry need.

It’s an intentional way to draw on the compassion, creativity, and courage you and your ministry leaders already have, bringing the best of who you are to the teenagers you care about.

It’s a way to remain committed to serving teenagers in the ways that they say they need you the most.

And it’s a commitment to not only doing good ministry but also becoming a healthier team in the process.

So here’s the great news: 

Not only have we written the book, we have developed the Sticky Faith Innovation Online Team Training that guides you and your team through the book and through the process.

In just six lessons, we’ll take your team through the Sticky Faith Innovation process, guided by me and taught by some of the best ministry leaders I know.

Now you can prepare for fall by leaning on our work and resourcing to give your team what they need to prepare for a great year of youth ministry.

I’ve experienced that the youth ministry teams (and youth leaders themselves) who remain for the long haul are those who feel like they are growing. They’re serving teenagers they care about while also experiencing their own spiritual formation as they trust God, take risks, enjoy community, and serve young people.

Shepherd your team with your preparation.

It’s spring—but for you, youth leaders, it’s close to fall.

You can be ready.

And FYI can help.

We’re cheering for you every step of the way!

Tweet this: Planning for your ministry year can’t wait if we truly desire to prepare our leaders and serve our students well. The Fuller Youth Institute has created a new digital team training that can help.



You want to lead change.
We want to help.


Our 6-session, self-paced online training will guide you and your team as you compassionately listen to your young people, respond creatively with fresh ideas, and take courageous steps to implement a new, purposeful approach in your ministry. Get Sticky Faith Innovation Online Team Training today!


Take me there



Photo by Jody Hong Films

Steve Argue, PhD

Steven Argue, PhD (Michigan State University) is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and Associate Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Steve researches, speaks, and writes on adolescent and emerging adult spirituality. He has served as a pastor on the Lead Team at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI), coaches and trains church leaders and volunteers, and has been invested in youth ministry conversation for over 20 years. Steve is the coauthor and contributor of a number of books, including Growing With, 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult, and Joy: A Guide for Youth Ministry.


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