Friday, July 30, 2010

The Church of Tomorrow?

For years we've heard how students are the church of the tomorrow. To be honest, I hate the statement for all kinds of reasons. First of all it assumes a definition of the church that is inaccurate. If the church is a group of people following Jesus and living life together, would we dare say anyone under 21 isn't a part of that experience?

Saying students are the "church of tomorrow" assumes students will lead someday, not today. Middle school and high school students who are growing in their faith are ready to lead now. We simply have to challenge them and give them space.

Here are a couple of examples.

Worship Experience For Student By Students

Last Sunday night we had our first student lead worship worship experience. I know, late July is a horrible time to try something new. That's one of the reasons it was so cool. You wouldn't have been blown away by the event being cutting edge or highly creative, it was actually pretty simple.

About 6 weeks ago we invited some students to think about what they would like to communicate to their fellow students. They chose 1 Tim 4:12. The "don't let anyone look down on you because you're young" passage. Pretty appropriate I thought.

We asked students to be a part of the music team, asked some students to pray consistently for the event, asked some students to help with tech and asked someone to teach. One student was mc and a girl who recently came to faith shared her story.

It was incredible! The sense of excitement was great from the students who were leading as well as the ones who were participating. Yes, I'm downplaying the work that went into the event a little, but the impact it had on our ministry was worth every ounce of effort our team put in.

Sandwiches For The Hungry Of Dallas

On our summer trips we challenged our students that mission trips and summer camp isn't a destination but a doorway. In other words, if those trips didn't somehow effect the way they serve at home it was a waste, well believe it or not they heard what we said.

Last Tuesday a few of our students showed up at the church to make over 600 sandwiches for a mobile soup kitchen. It wasn't my idea, they came up with it. I didn't discover the soup kitchen, they did. I didn't buy the sandwich stuff, they did. (I did provide my credit card). I wasn't even at the church when they met and made the sandwiches, the did it all on their own.

And yes, I'm really proud of them.

The interesting thing about 1 Timothy 4:12 is that it challenges the younger to set an "example" to the rest of the church. Setting an example means leadership. It means charting a course and showing the rest of us old people what it looks like to live out a radical life. A life that is consistently being transformed from the inside out by the gospel.

Students are the church of today. We must give them space and resources to live out the passions and gifts God has given them, then we must follow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is / Was Your Youth Camp Cheesy?

I’ve had the privilege of doing a lot of Summer Camp this year. I’ve spoken at 2 camps and my own church’s camp is this week. It’s truly been a blast so far.

To be really honest with you, I think camp is kind of cheesy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love camp and believe God uses those experiences all over the country to move students towards his heart and I actually enjoy the cheesiness. As I’m staring down the barrel of our camp this weekend here are some things I’m thinking about to embrace the cheese but more importantly position our students where they’ll rub up against Jesus.

Camp should reflect your overall student ministry strategy

In other words, if you’re a ministry driven by adult leaders and small groups, your camp should have those opportunities. If your ministry is highly missional in nature, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to provide some missional experience at camp or at least expose students to injustices in the world. If your ministry is all about production then do that to the max. In fact, it might be better to go to Big Stuff or something that does production at the highest level.

The point is this, your camp should mirror what your priorities are in your ministry. Summer camp isn’t a stand-alone event, it’s connected to the rest of your ministry.

Work hard at having fun

To be honest this is a tough one for me. Fun is a high priority for my ministry, it just can’t be dependent on me to pull it off. This weekend one of our key leaders is the mc. She is absolutely hilarious and extremely fun. If you’re a fuddy dudd like me find someone who is fun and put them in charge.

Camp isn't a destination, it’s a doorway

You know this already, the challenge with camp is helping students process and live out what God does at camp when they get home. What about taking the entire last session or 2 to help students process and imagine what God is going to do when they get home? Many times camp builds towards that “last night” experience. Why not have that experience earlier in the week to help students unpack what God is teaching them and helping them prepare to go home?

If our camp is just about camp and not life change where students live work and play we have missed an incredible opportunity.

Focus on the gospel not the experience

Students (and adults) can easily be lured into worshipping an experience instead of God. The story of what Jesus has done on our behalf must be the centerpiece of every camp no matter what the theme.

Jesus doesn’t only live at your camp location. If students come home embracing the gospel and all that means in their life then their walk with him will have been truly deepened.

So, embrace the cheese and enjoy how God seems to work in a special way at our summer camps. By the way, I met Jesus at our church’s summer camp in Jekyll Island, Georgia. It will be cool to hear stories over the years of how God has worked at your camp this summer.