Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Short Term Mission Trip - A Horrible Thing to Waste

Do you take students on short-term mission trips?  

If you do, you know the incredible work that happens in the hearts of students and also in the hearts of those receiving ministry.  Kids can make a huge impact across the street and around the world.

I just got home from an international mission trip with our students so this is very fresh.  Here are some important questions I'm trying to answer in my own heart...

How do we maximize and inject discipleship into our short term mission strategy?

How do our trips fit into the rest of our ministry strategy?

How do we help students see and trust Jesus more through our short trips?

How do we use our mission trips to teach kids theology?

A short-term mission trip is a horrible thing to waste.

Some quick and very random thoughts...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Should I Tell The Parents? - 4 Thoughts To Consider

It's a tough question isn't it?  

If your ministry is going well it's good and natural for students to trust the adults around them.  As trust is developed sometimes they'll share struggles and failures with a small group leader or a pastor that they might not share with their parents.

So what do we do with that information?  

Should we tell their parents EVERYTHING?

Do we tell parents NOTHING?

Last week some smart people chimed in with some thoughts and ideas worth considering.

Should You Tell The Parents?

As I've listened to their wisdom here's some thoughts I've been considering when faced with the question, "when should we include parents?"

Some situations are black and white

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Should You Tell The Parents?

I had a discussion with a volunteer small group leader that I have often in student ministry.  It went something like this.

"Susie (generic girl name) says she no longer believes in God, should I talk to her parents?"

Other questions that come up are, "he tried cigarettes, should I tell his parents?" or "she's dating THAT guy, should I talk to her parents?" or "he said a bad word..."

You get the idea.  

As we seek to disciple students and partner with parents when do we bring parents into these kinds of conversations?  Our small groups are governed by principles of confidentiality but as you know that doesn't mean you never share what's going on in a kids life.

So, here's the question...

When do you bring parents into the loop as it relates to "confidential" conversations with kids?

I have some ideas but wanted to hear what ya'll (I'm in Texas) have to say first.

Let's learn from one another...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is Your Summer Camp Cheesy?

I’ve had the privilege of doing a lot of Summer Camp this year and currently I'm in Gulf Shores at my church's high school camp.

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 reflect 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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

3 Quick Camp Thoughts - Sweat the Details AND Get Out of the Weeds

We're right in the middle of final preparations for Beach Camp 2013.

When you're responsible to get over 200 people 12 hours away there are tons of administrative details.

Busses, vans, food, production, adult leaders, communicating to parents, rules, speakers, bands, budgets, schedules, booklets, rooming assignments...

As you know this list is just the beginning.

To pull off an effective camp you have to take care of the details.  Let's be honest, youth pastors / workers are not usually known for their administrative effectiveness.  It's very important we make sure all the details are accomplished.  Let me say it again, SWEAT THE DETAILS.

However, I've found that as we get closer to camp it's easy to get stuck in the weeds.  Here's what I mean.  Sometimes you get so overwhelmed with the details you just focus on the WHAT for the trip, not the WHY.

What about some balance?  

Here are some thoughts our team has been considering as we try to balance the vision of camp with the details of camp.

Camp is about God changing individual lives...

As we've looked over the lists of kids who have signed up we are constantly brainstorming who isn't on the list and why.  We even grab last years sign up list to compare.  If we haven't heard from a kid in a while it gives a great excuse to reach out and invite them to attend.  The response has been incredible.

At the end of the day it isn't about the total number of kids at camp but each individual student and the potential of God's gospel work in their lives.  We want them at camp because we believe there's something significant about taking a few days away to connect with God and one another.

Camp is about adult / student relationships...

The student ministry philosophy where I serve is built on Godly adult leaders investing in the lives of kids.  Our camp reflects this philosophy.  As important as getting kids there getting the right adults is crucial.  

We've also found that having key leaders at camp gives them great momentum in going into their fall small group ministry.  Is there a better place to deepen relationships than camp?

Camp is about God...

These few days in Gulf Shores are a part of the tremendous story God is telling.  As our camp story reflects and contributes to God's story he is the one who receives the glory He is due.  It's not about a person, church or even an experience.  It's truly about God doing his transformative work in and through us.

It's important to get our heads above the clouds to remember what happens at camp echoes in eternity.

So, we need to make sure we take care of all the details.  Communicate well and take time to work on administration but don't forget the why of camp.  

Remind yourself and others about the tremendous potential that's sitting right before you.  Don't miss the forest because of all the trees.