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2020: The Summer of Love! Create a Virtual Training Program for Your Students

San Francisco, CA 1967: The epicenter of the so-called “Summer of Love” when thousands of hippies arrived with flowers in their hair to get high on sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and Vietnam protesting. Even though I’ve stood at the exact street corner where it all started, I couldn’t quite conjure up the vibes!

Los Altos, CA 1976: A mere nine summers later, a free spirit named Steve Jobs decided not to take off again to Asia, chasing after another dose of Buddhist “nirvana”, but instead hunker down in his parents’ garage where he and his buddy invented the first usable personal computer, curiously naming it after a fruit: “Apple”

Summers. Like Steve Jobs, and the “flower children” of yesteryear, the few months between Spring and Fall have been especially meaningful to me. In fact, every single year of my life has been lived in three segments: Fall, Spring, and yes, Summer. Why? Well, it coincides with the way most of us do our schooling. And if you, like me, are a college ministry worker, you will probably be stuck in that spin cycle the rest of your life too!

So how do you view summer? Option One: Totally exhausted, you collapse on the sofa, click to begin marathon Netflix series, thanking God you get a whole three months of freedom and time to yourself before the 24-hour circus begins again in September. Or Option Two: You are about to explode with motivation as chills of excitement run up your spine, in anticipation of a once in a lifetime opportunity to forever change the spiritual destiny of myriads of young potential world changers.

Well, maybe we are all somewhere in between those two extremes, but as a college ministry hack, I have always viewed my summers through the lens of MASSIVE potential. Yes, an inner tube floating down a “Lazy River” reading a beach novel sounds appealing to me sometimes, but it doesn’t compare to the sense of satisfaction of laying your life down for a few key months to prepare the next generation for spiritual battle. And while many church-based and campus-based college ministries have traditionally geared down for the summer, I always thought it was the ideal season to gear up—BIG TIME! Which camp do you fit into?

Summer 2020

But the summer of 2020 is different than any of us have ever experienced, isn’t it? We’re all quarantined and hopefully practicing (a strange new phrase!) “social distancing” from each other. School, church, sports, weddings, really any kind of gatherings have been cancelled or at least substantially postponed.

Instead of allowing yourself to slip into depression and hopelessness regarding the gloomy prospects of the upcoming summer, what if you were to affix a different lens on your mind and perspective? Could the drab and dusty 2020 “Summer of Loneliness” be transformed into an incredible, life-altering, never to be forgotten, “Summer of Love 2—the Sequel”? No, I’m not talking about supplying students with drugs or stirring them up to oppose wars. I’m talking about you taking that 1967 brand of creative passion combined with that 1976 “can do” technology and creating an online Summer Training Program (STP) for the ages.

I was on a Zoom call last week with key leaders from most all of the major U.S. based campus ministries. The largest had already called off all of their summer projects and trips—everything! The other groups were in the process of making decisions. I don’t know what the various churches and ministries will do about their planned summer projects and trips, but I wanted to be as honest and realistic as possible. There is a very strong possibility that most, if not all, of those face to face excursions will be canceled. Why? Besides the fact our whole economy and summer job opportunities will be squashed, there are two main reasons:

Parents—Most of them are already frustrated their son or daughter isn’t looking for a resume-building internship and instead talking about spending the summer with friends at a so-called “Christian Training Program” on the beach and working at the local A&W. Now, the whole coronavirus crisis gives well-intentioned Mom and Dad a fresh load of double-barrel ammunition to strictly prohibit their precious child from going to a terrifyingly unknown “foreign country”, or caravanning across state lines to a resort location where 100 students are living/eating/playing in close quarters for eight weeks. In their mind, either option is a recipe for total disaster.

Liability—Think about it. If just one single student gets the virus (or worse, dies) while on one of these mission trips or summer projects, the sponsoring church or organization could be held liable for negligence. As much as the pastors, ministry executives, and board members would love to see a happy, healthy, productive summer trip or project take place, not sure many will be open to taking the risk in fear of potentially bringing the whole ministry down. Their solution? Better to be safe than sorry and delay the next project to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, now moved to summer of 2021!

What’s the game plan?

So how are you to respond? Fall into a spiritual coma and six-month hibernation…or rise up as a champion and think outside the box? If you choose the latter, you may need to perform an intervention to transform the “woe is me” symptoms your staff or students are exhibiting in order to come up with the cure for these upcoming “summer time blues”. Yes, whether you are stateside ministry or work with students in one of the many countries who subscribe to this blog, you and your staff and student leaders should start right now to dream and plan the greatest virtual STP known to man!

Have I got you fired up about the immense possibilities of impacting your college students this summer? I hope so, because even though they all are living apart from one another, and at this oh-so-fragile moment may have already predetermined this summer will be one big dud, you and your team of “mad scientists” are quietly and secretly creating something so great, so deep, so mind and heart expanding that they will forever call it “the summer of my life”.

If I’ve convinced you to even consider this wild and crazy scheme, where should you start?

Here is a sample game plan:

    • Have your staff and student leaders read this article and make some notes, questions, and jot down thoughts and suggestions. Every idea will be considered.
    • Get the team together (virtually of course) to pray and fast about the possibility (and content) of a 2020 STP.
    • Look at the virtual STP’s that already exist out there. Download them and send them out to staff and students to consume. Here is a STP template that Clayton Dye and Campus Outreach Houston has created.
    • Be diligent to craft something that fits your DNA. Just make sure there is a lot of Evangelism, Disciple making, and Missions Mobilization mixed in! #EDM
    • Decide together on what the purpose and vision and theme will be for your STP.
    • Break this kind of intense spiritual training down into these four categories: Knowledge, Skills, Character, and Vision. Have your leaders fill this list of Leadership Training Objectives I created to help them evaluate their own lives in these four categories. Then let them rank the top three areas in each of these categories they think the students most need this summer. Focus on tangible ways to practically build those top areas into your student’s lives.

      In each of these areas, come up with your specific and measurable goals and outcomes. For instance: “At the end of this project each student will have learned how to inductively study a book of the Bible for themselves; each will have shared their personal testimony and gospel presentation with at least five non-Christians; each will have developed a daily discipline of quiet time, etc…” What books, resources, activities, experiences, speakers, preparations should you utilize to help each student meet these outcomes?

    • Map out a week by week, day by day schedule for the summer. Delegate everything out to the rest of the staff and student leaders. Don’t make the summer about you. Make it about empowering and developing your other staff and students by giving as much authority, responsibilities, and opportunities away as possible. You must decrease and they must increase!
    • Have every staff and student leader put their top five list to get her as to which students they are going to recruit to this STP. Agree on a script you will use to challenge/invite them to participate. Don’t twist arms or guilt students into participating. Make it a privilege for them to be part of your summer discipleship group. Pray and turn your leaders loose to recruit.
    • Get on a conference call every week with your leadership to pray and update and strategize together. Keep talking and dreaming and adjusting things as the spring wears on, making sure there is a ton of fun, craziness, friendships, and lasting memories baked into the cake. If so, when you get your troops back together face to face on September 1st or so, they will be a tight-knit band of brothers and sisters in Christ ready to reach your campus for Christ!

OR—You and your ministry considering jumping in this summer with our GLOBAL PROJECT.

We have been brainstorming with various campus leaders how we could most serve and resource all the church-based and campus based college ministries across the world right now and we think crafting a Virtual Global Summer Training Project for any group that wants to join in and utilize it, thus taking the pressure off you to start from scratch and implement your own. It is 8 weeks long, you have to have at least four committed students (including a designated leader) and agree to the STP requirements. One unique thing about this project is that these participants will be the very first group to have and go through the all-new Student Version of our campus ministry book, The Fuel and the Flame. Click here to give us your contact info so we can get you more info about this.

The ball is in your court

So what kind of summer will 2020 be for you and your students? In many ways, it is up to you. The ball is in your court. I hope you don’t say you are just going to “wait on God” because I believe He is actually just waiting on us! Waiting on us to rise up, be bold, take a risk, and even though we are afraid, we will walk toward the unknown in the power of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we are Colossians 2:6-7 men and women of faith who care for these students and yearn to see them experience the fullness of Christ; and thus we proclaim:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”


2020 — Let’s make it the “Summer of Love 2—The Sequel”

You with me?