Around this time each year, teenagers across the land wonder out loud if summer will ever come. But for the youth ministry community, we’ve been wondering for quite a lot longer than that if this summer will ever arrive. A summer that isn’t dominated by restrictions and cancellations; a summer where we can, for the most part, allow young people to enjoy a bit of normality again. Well at last, thrillingly, that moment seems to have finally arrived.
The last ’normal’ summer before Covid-19 was dominated – in British youth ministry terms at least – by the final (and as such, extraordinarily-well timed) series of Soul Survivor events. Nearly 30,000 young people descended to three campsites in England and Scotland across five weeks, to worship and meet with God together. The absence of these events since has been felt, not just by young people, but also by the thousands of youth leaders who saw them as an essential part of the youth work calendar.
Three festivals years in the making
Two whole summers have passed by since, and it’s only now that the baton can finally be passed between Soul Survivor and its nominated successors. Dreaming the Impossible (Stafford, 30th July- 3rd August), Limitless Festival (Stafford, 6-10 August) and Satellites (Peterborough 9-13 August) will all kick off with a bang in 2022 after literally years of prayer and planning. For all three it has been an incredibly challenging journey – but by the grace of God, all are still standing and looking forward to the summer.
But… if we’re really honest, there are a few reasons why groups might decide to give these festivals a miss – in 2022 at least. For a start, we’re all out of the habit of organising events like this, and the muscle memory of building team, getting consent and payment from parents, and generally sorting out the logistics has somewhat faded. There’s also the concern of launching into the unfamiliar, when Soul Survivor had felt like a such a known quantity (for leaders and young people alike). And of course, though overseas holidays still seem far from assured this August, many families are making their kids unavailable for large parts of the summer as they seek out much-needed time away together.
"What an event creates is a sustained moment of focus, where faith is given unusual prominence, and young people intentionally connect – alone and together – with God over and over again."
There are a whole host of reasons that might prevent a group from taking the plunge in ’22, and it may just feel easier and ’safer’ to wait a year. On behalf of the organisers of all three however, and with great respect to every youth leader who is facing this very challenge, I want to invite you – if you can – to go for it this summer. Here’s why...
A gift to youth work
Festivals like these cannot replace week-in, week-out relational youth work. That is where growth happens; where young people slowly work out their faith and make sense of it in the context of everyday life. What an event creates is a sustained moment of focus, where faith is given unusual prominence, and young people intentionally connect – alone and together – with God over and over again. While it’s fantastic and faith-boosting to stand in a single meeting with thousands of other young people who share your faith, the really profound difference that a festival makes is in presenting opportunities to do this repeatedly over an intensive period. It’s in this context that young people are enabled to consider that God isn’t just one thing but the most important thing in their lives, because over several days they hear about and experience him in a whole range of ways. This isn’t brainwashing – it’s simply maintaining focus on one thing in an age of distraction.
Although it’s a lot of work to organise a trip to an event like this, the results are utterly worth it. Young people so often return from them bearing the seed of transformation – ready to be planted in the soil of all-year-round youth work. That’s why I’m organising a trip to a summer event for my young people this year – it’s why I urge you to do the same if you possibly can.
Book for summer '22
DREAMING THE IMPOSSIBLE (30 JULY-4 AUGUST)
LIMITLESS FESTIVAL (6-10 AUGUST)
SATELLITES (9-13 AUGUST)