Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RETHINKING camp for high school students

Our team here at Relevant Student Ministry is rethinking lots of different aspects of student ministry and one of those issues revolve around camp during the summer. Reaching teens in high school has become more and more difficult for us. Jobs, athletics, academic camps, family vacations, and band pull on so many of the high school students we reach during the year. It's not that they don't want to go to camp it's that they can't get away or choose not leave their summer commitments. Many times they have coaches, bosses, and family pushing them not to go to camp for many different reasons. Our middle school camp continues to grow while our high school camp has remained flat for three years even thought we are reaching more high school students during the school year than we ever have. We have finally realized we have to reformat what we do for high school students during the summer and we are ready to mix things up this coming summer. We are ready to do our own high school camp but give it a different spin with different goals. We are going to reformat our camp experience for high school students so we can...
  • Take every small group leader with us to camp >> By doing our own camp for high school students we will now be able to bring every high school small group leader. Small group leaders will get to work toward camp all year and we love that idea of ending the year with groups at camp!
  • Make space for true small group time >> We have not found a camp that allows to block the proper time and have the proper space for small groups...now we will make it happen every day of camp. Small group is the main thing in our ministry and camp needs to continue that push.
  • Control content >> When you control content on stage and in small groups you have a better shot at communicating a specific message to your teens. We are ready to take on this aspect of camp. We already do this in middle school and we are ready to hit a different audience with high school students.
  • Move the focus to mission work during the afternoons >> We are not taking camp to the mountains or the beach, we are taking camp to a city so we can serve the needs of the city and make an impact. Mission work transforms all of us from the inside out. We are changing the focus from entertainment to service.
  • Control the date >> We think this may be the most needed change. We have to control the week in order to reach the teens we want to reach. Doing our own camp will help us make that happen.
  • Maximize the budget >> We have found that we can better control the cost of our camps when we do our own camp. Sure we add more work but we also have less overhead than many camps across the country doing amazing things. Our camp does not have to make any profit, just break even!
  • Define the win >> If we are going to do camp in the summer we want to make sure we aim for a specific target so we can all understand what a win is for high school camp week. When we control the schedule, content, and focus we can work toward a set target every year!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Never do the typical camp "church group time" again

We just wrapped up 2 weeks of summer camp here at Relevant Student Ministry and wisely I'm on vacation in the mountains with my family getting some rest and getting excited for the rest of the summer. Looking back on our 2 weeks of camp one things stands out...we never had any time where we fostered or pushed a typical "church group" session. No time where we gathered everyone and had a open floor for people to talk and cry. We did not have a time like because we push those experiences to small group. We think when people share what God is doing in their hearts at an event that belongs in small group. When teens need prayer for an issue we feel that belongs in small group. When teens need to vent, that time comes in small group. Why? In small group we create a safe space, with a trusted leader where teens can let their guard down and encourage one another. I hope if you still have a camp coming up you will consider pushing your "church group" time toward small group. Here are a few ways we help transition "church group" to small group time at camp...
  • We huddle as a large group first // it's really important to huddle your group up before you break to small groups just so you can set the tome. Some nights are light hearted. Some nights are intense. Huddling up allows you to set the direction for small group time.
  • We never re-preach the message // we never never never re-preach the message. At most camp experiences at night the teens have just heard a message, they do not need you to re-teach it.
  • We take care of details // we use the huddle to make sure and take care of announcements for the next day. 
  • We share one thought // we always share one verse and one big idea to take to group.
  • We give questions to our small group leaders // we provide our group leaders with questions so they know where to take the small group time. With cell phones we just email those out or text them!
  • We let God work // we trust God to use group time to do what He wants to do. We have to trust the process and allow teens to let their guard down in small group.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Best Fathers Day gift ever!

Today is probably one of the best days of my life as a dad. Today I get the honor of baptizing my youngest daughter Kelyn. She is 6, she loves Jesus, and her faith is simple but profound. Kelyn became a follower of Jesus a year ago and we have been helping her find clarity over the past year. Today is just the day she gets to share her faith with her church family at Grace Community and she is pumped...so is her Dad. Both my daughters love Jesus, love the church, and support their mom and dad as we serve as pastors. I am so blessed to know both of my daughters know the Father who will never fail them. I am also blessed to be their dad and help them grow into the young women God wants them to be. As a dad I am just going to keep letting my girls know God loves them, I love them, and they are the most beautiful girls in the universe!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

REthink high school ministry

I am right in the middle of our high school summer camp at Relevant Student Ministry and we are having an incredible week here at BigStuf Camp in Panama City. Even in the middle of an event I find myself in the RETHINK process when it comes to how we serve high school students in the coming school year. We serve a generation that is in a constant state of change but many times our ministry setting never change. I am betting that we probably need to rethink much of what we do if we serve an age group that is in a state of constant change. Sure, we are doing a ton of things the right way. When things are working is the best time to look ahead and see what adjustments are going to be needed down the road. Here are a few areas we are evaluating and working on implementing changes in the coming months. Look for a few posts in the coming weeks on each one!
  • Summer programming / it's getting harder and harder to get high school teens out of town for camp and for mission trip experiences...we have a few changes we are working on.
  • Connecting with the campus / in order to connect with teens you have to go where teens are. We have a few ideas we are working on to spend more time on the school campus in the fall and at the same time give teens needed space.
  • Challenge, challenge, challenge / we are working on ways to call high school students to go further with their faith than we have in the past. We are working on ways to make sure teens are reminded to spent time on what matters most.
  • Partner with the family / high school parents sometimes feel left out of their teens life and we hope to find more ways to keep parents in the process of spiritual growth even in high school.
  • Small group / small group is the heart of accountability and life change...we have a few ideas we are working to be better at fostering connection and community
  • Fun / I know it is not cool to talk about having fun in student ministry but why can't we create fun experiences where we communicate truth, connect with new teens, and change the pace? We have a few ideas.
How are you rethinking high school ministry? These posts are on the way this summer! Would love to hear some of your ideas.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When life is too busy for writing...

It's really hit and miss with my writing schedule in the summer. I blog because I love to share ministry ideas and think out loud as I write. Camp and mission trip weeks consume everything. The week before and the event week are just slammed because I am working with our team to pull off the event and carve out time for my family. Busyness can really get in the way of the habit of writing. When you write regularly you feel bad for these seasons but it just has to be OK. I enjoy writing and it's a regular part of my life but there are just times you have to step away. When these seasons hit there are a few things I try to do...
  • Give myself permission to take a break. // Because writing is a regular part of my life now taking a break feels like cheating. Truth is taking a break so you can focus on other things is not cheating.
  • Read what others are writing. // I may be too busy to write but I try to still keep up with what others are writing.
  • Take notes. // When I am on a break I still write down topic ideas in Evernote for writing later. Some great ideas some in seasons of intense ministry.
  • Start some posts but leave them as drafts. //  Write it quickly and then leave it. There will be time later to finish the post.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

my week at Middle School camp...

There are a few weeks of the summer when blogging just does not happen and NEXT CAMP for middle school students is one of them. Super proud of my team here for all the work they have put in. We have seen over 20 teens accept Christ as Savior, we have watched small groups come together and connect, and we have watched middle school students have the best week of their summer. Just wanted to give you a small peak into our week. Check out MESSY DAY at NEXT CAMP!