Friday, August 26, 2016

Investing Extra in Summer

If you are like me you enjoy the ministry opportunities that take you out of the office.  As youth workers it’s in our DNA to want to spend time with students to build those relationships and watch students grow in their faith.  It is what our breed is all about.

Two summers ago I started a gathering on Wednesday mornings at a local coffee shop, we call it Summer Perks.  It is for high school students, those going into 9th grade through graduates.   Its great because it requires no real planning, no curriculum, just takes some publicity and encouragement.  We have had as many as twelve attend and as few as one.  It varies from week to week according to students’ work schedules and family vacations, etc.  

We get together from 9 to 10 and order our breakfast or coffee/smoothies.  The coffee shop we use has a separate room they let us use with a big barn door that rolls shut to give us some quiet so we can talk.

Basically we take time for students to share something they are learning in their daily quiet time or something God is teaching them in life.  Occasionally this will spur some questions or input from others.  After we take about a half hour or so doing in discussion and sharing we share prayer requests and spend some time praying together.  I always love to hear a student pray.

My tips:
1.  Pick a day and stick with it.
2.  It's not about numbers it's about relationships so don't get bummed if it's only one student.
3.  Let them do the talking.  Share one thing from your own quiet time as an example but let them do the bulk of the sharing.
4.  Only high schoolers.  Figure out something different to do with middle school kids.  High school students can drive and need some time away from the middle school students if your group is a mixed group like ours is.
5.  Promote it on social media and at your weekly youth group meeting.
6.  Share with parents in your monthly email to them and let them know what Summer Perks is about.

This week was our final Summer Perk get together.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temp outside was perfect.  We were able to snag the nice outdoor deck seating area to meet for our final get together of summer.  I heard students share about the importance of prayer, forgiveness, urgency to share their faith, discovering how daily Bible reading makes their life better, all very encouraging to hear from high school students.  It was a moment where I sat and thought to myself “this is what student ministry is about”.  Another Summer Perks done and I’m already looking forward to next summer!

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.

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