Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What I did on my Summer Break by Andy Lawrenson

Besides a football camp, two weeks of summer camp, a week of Night Camp . . . 

Our family went on our first family mission trip!  No students, just me, my wife and my kids out traveling the globe.  It was a great trip, not without typical family frustrations and sybling issues, but overall a great experience.

My 7 year old son and a huge spider

For the past two years I have taken a group of students and adults to the island of Eleuthera to serve at Camp Bahamas and to do outreach in the park to the children of Tarpum Bay.  Both trips were great successes and we had a wonderful experience and were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Coming home, as you know if you have been on a trip, you are excited and full of stories.  Sometimes you share stories but you know the persons you are sharing with isn’t getting the full picture, this is how I felt with my family.  

I decided we would go on a family mission trip and my wife graciously agreed with me,
Our twins helping with laundry
so I chose Eleuthera and Camp Bahamas.  What a great time we had serving together.  We served meals in the kitchen and did dishes.  Misha did load after load of summer camp laundry since camp had just finished the week before.  The camp provides linens for over a 100 campers each week and has one clothes washer and clothes lines to dry the linens.  She also sorted through clothes that were left behind discarding the worn out clothes and washing the clothes that were in good condition to be donated to those in need.  On top of that she wrangled our seven year old twins.

My 12 year old helping me build frames
I scrubbed the deck outside the dining hall.  I also built frames for the banners that hang in the gym with each year’s camp theme.  My eldest man-child joined me and helped me rip 2x4’s using the table saw and then cut and drill and screw the frames together.  It was cool to have him helping me.  

My seven year old daughter jumped in with the student team from Thomas Road Baptist Church, they were at the camp serving the first part of our trip, and helped them organize the storage closets in the gymnasium.  She loved getting to help the big kids and I peeked in and she was actually helping and working.  I even got to do my favorite thing to do and cook a little bit.

We were able to join TRBC’s students for the park outreach. It was great for my kids to get to experience the children who live in a totally different culture and environment than my kids live in.

The purpose for the trip was three-fold:
Get away together as a family and experience a different culture
Expose my children to foreign missions
Serve Camp Bahamas and teach my kids more about serving with a hands on approach

Suggestions for planning a family mission trip:

1.  Pick a place you have been before or are familiar with or have connections there
2.  Pick a place you have a passion for
3.  Have conversations in advance with your children to prepare them for what they will see and experience.  Talk about what serving is all about
4.  Plan to have fun while you are there.  Take time out to do something fun together.

Enjoying our "off" day
If you have any questions about taking a family mission trip or have been on one I would love to hear about it.  If you want to know more about Camp Bahamas Missions you can go HERE.

Our daughter and some TRBC students at the Tarpum Bay park

My son out shooting hoops at the park

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Lord's Love

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
Psalm 42:8

I never feel "unloved". In fact, love is not a feeling it is a choice. Amazingly enough the Lord chose to love me. His love does not quit or fail. His love is not dependent on my behavior or even obedience. That can be hard for the human mind to fathom, we live in a world where "love" is often the reward for doing something or being a certain way. The Lord loves me. He even loved me before I was his child, adopted into his family by putting my faith in Jesus as my Savior.

Even more amazing . . . the Lord loves you. Think about what you have done in your past. Doesn't matter. The Lord still loves you.

So the question this morning before we head out to live out our day is this: What have we done with His love?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

After the Students Go Home

Last week we had our first ever Night Camp. This camp came about as the result of a “failed” attempt for another event. So we experimented and Night Camp was born at our church. The great news is that our “failure” became a great success!
What about after the event? You know how it is to come home from a camp, an awesome event or even just an incredible night at your weekly youth large group gathering and having a “ministry high.” But if you don’t capitalize on opportunities after the event, you’ll miss huge areas for growth. Here are some steps to take after the event.

Read the rest over at the LeaderTreks blog

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Night Camp 2016

Last year our older students were ready for a change of venue for their summer camp.  In the fall of 2015 I started thinking about what to do for a camp experience for our older students.  I kept in mind that most of them have summer jobs so I decided a shorter camp of only 4 nights and 5 days.  I also wanted to challenge them to go deeper, so the camp was going to focus more on discipleship. 

I started searching the web for camps to rent.  Found nothing that jumped out at me.  I then went back to a place I always love and that's the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley.  I found a retreat cabin there that was built specifically for church groups.   Great set up in the cabin, fire pit outside, swimming holes in nearby creeks and rivers.  We were going to float down the Shenandoah in inner tubes.  On paper and out loud it sounded like a fun adventurous week for our students.

Then came the sign up.  Three students!!  Three students?!  What was up with that?  I had already booked the airline flight for my friend, Steve Turrentine, to come and teach on prayer during the week.  I had already created the morning prayer journal/devotional for our campers to use.  We had our adults and cooks all lined up.  Deposit paid on the cabin.

What a huge let down it was for me.  I wondered to myself what in the world is going on?  After speaking with others in youth ministry I'm finding out this isn't just our group.  Youth ministry is changing.  Part of what some of us are seeing is students are not signing up for the events, the camps, etc. like they used to.   That's a blog subject for another time.

So I spent a good day or two just thinking about what to do.  Night Camp was born in that process of trying to figure out what was going on.  I decided that if they weren't willing to go experience a fantastic trip with loads of adventure and fun maybe they want to just stay home. 

Here is what Night Camp looked like last week, July 25-28:
7 to 8:15 - Campers arrived; ate supper; played games on the front lawn with music thumpin
8:20 to 8:30 - We moved up to The Loft for a fun interactive game with prizes
8:30 to 9:30 - We had worship with our church band and our student band; Steve taught on prayer
9:30 to 10 - Late night snack and games on the front lawn
10:00 camper went home; slept in their own beds; went to work during the day and then showed back up at night and we did it all over again.

Here is what I saw:
> I threw the invite to Night Camp out to other local churches, another youth group joined us and a few students from a couple of other churches attended.
> Student were engaged.  They loved the fellowship time and meals.  They were active in worship.
> Students prayed out loud in the worship time during times of prayer.  Amazing to listen to them pray my heart was encouraged.
> Missing students returned.
> Students brought friends.
>  The number of campers grew each night.
> Adults and students got involved using their gifts to serve.

Was there room for improvement?  Of course, always is.  But with the list of results I just shared I realized that what I would consider a ministry flop or failure birthed a ministry success.  Night Camp was a great success!

So is there a future for Night Camp?  I'm a dreamer and so I'm dreaming big for next year's Night Camp.  Stay tuned for details!

Night Camp '16 - Night 4 from Nags Head Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Plans Fall Through

I recently wrote a blog post for LeaderTreks about when your plans for an event fall through.  This week we are in the middle of Plan B.  It is going great!  I'll post after the week of Night Camp 16 and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime I encourage you to jump over to LeaderTreks and read the article.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Family Mission Trip

Sorry about my lack of blog posts the past couple of months.  In the last 5 weeks I've been to 3 camps and we are launching our own "Night Camp 16" (which I shall blog about at a later date) on Monday night.   So busy and time is flying by.

If you follow the blog you know that the past two years I have taken students and team members to the island of Eleuthera on mission trips.  I'm so stoked to be going on our first family mission trip to Eleuthera in a few weeks.  Our family will be doing work with Camp Bahamas and in the community.
My kids, 12, 7 and 7, will get to experience missions first hand, and my whole family will get to see what I have been so excited about the past two years.

You can check out more about my trip HERE

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Family and Summer

Here we are in the midst of the summer break months.  For most student ministries this can be the busiest season of the year.  Many student pastors take advantage of the fact that their students have more free time.  It’s camp season!  It’s mission trip season!  It’s retreat season!  It’s  music festival season!  

If you are like me you are finding yourself out of the office more and around students more and this is what we thrive on because student ministry is our passion.

This can also mean less family time for us as student ministers if we aren’t careful about our scheduling and planning.  I get the question from time to time, “Why aren’t Misha and the kids with you?”. 

I have a few reasons why they aren’t with me: 

> Fresh.  I want student ministry events to be something exciting and new when my children enter middle school.  I don’t want them to be “pros” at youth camp or the mission trip.  I don’t want them to have the schedule memorized.

> Focus.  When I’m at camp or even at Student Church on the Beach (our Sunday worship gathering  in the summer months) I want my focus to be on our students and not on my children.  

> Simpler.  It’s easier for my family.  If you have kids you know it’s often easier to take care of them at home and stick to your normal schedule.  It is more work on my wife to care for the kids away from home.  Many times the accomodations aren’t equipped to handle families.  On Sunday night it is a lot of work for my wife to go home from the beach without me and get the kids showered and into bed.  Have you seen my daughter’s hair?   Getting sand out of her head is no easy task.  Beach clean up goes much easier when done in tandem as mommy and daddy, at least it is for our family.

Life can be stressful enough as parents of twin 7 year olds and an 11 year old and throwing a wrench in the routine, for us, doesn’t make it less stressful.

Because I’m at work and the students are my focus on a trip I may see my kids throughout the day but there really isn’t quality time.  In fact I get better quality time conversations with them if I Facetime them once a day from camp or the mission trip.

Doesn’t this take away from your family?  Yes and No.  There are some things that simply come with the territory when you are in ministry.  Your family learns to be flexible.  They get used to someone texting or calling you during dinner to ask a question that could have waited until the next morning when you are at the office. 

Last week I was at camp as the camp pastor.  My only real responsibility was to get up and preach the messages and then when I walked about camp or hung out I would strike up conversations with campers.  On this trip I took my youngest to hang out with me.  He loved being outdoors all week and since I wasn’t responsible for students it was easy and fun to have him along.

How do I cope with being away from my family?  

>Technology.  In the words of Kip, "I love technology".  I sat on the porch of my cabin on our mission trip to the island of Eleuthera with Camp Bahamas Missions and Facetimed with my wife and kids.  Each day I would communicate with them.  I do the same when I’m at camp.

>Church Support.  My church understands that I must first be successful as a father if I’m going to be successful as a minister.  I’m allowed to take some comp time after trips such as camps or mission trips.  I usually take them near the end of the week so I can spend 3 or 4 days at home with my wife and kids.

You may “tick” differently and function fine with your kids running around at camp or on a mission trip.  If that’s you I say “go for it.”

  Figure out what works for your family and make sure there is balance but most importantly keep your family as your priority above your job.