As a youth pastor summer camp is a must. It provides the greatest opportunity for relationship building and spiritual development and serves as a launching pad for he rest of the year. I have literally seen a youth group go from blah to BAM over the course of a single week of camp.
Summer camps are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. There are a lot of theories and methods behind how to do summer camp. Some choose to do their own some go to camps that have a lot of structure, some little structure.
But the key thing is summer camp done right is a big deal.
Two years ago today I arrived at summer camp. Specifically at Crossroads Summer Camp a ministry of Clayton King Ministries. it would be the third year I had brought a group to Crossroads but it would prove to be a defining year in the philosophy of how I do ministry and how I choose camps and conferences.
As we arrived at camp, I was a wreck. My grandmother had just been murdered a few short weeks before, there were struggles at our church that had become unsettling and overwhelming, we had just had VBS which meant two solid weeks of 70 hrs of work for me. So I was toast.
I. COULDN’T. WAIT.
You see, I knew that when I got to camp my students were going to be ministered to, they would fall in love with Jesus all over again and they would fall to their knees and worship Jesus in sweet and beautiful tears.
I also knew that I would too.
Many times camps for youth are filled with good quality stuff but, if you have been in church for any considerable amount of time in church, it can seem superficial or elementary.
But, and this is where I have defined my philosophy, Crossroads doesn’t settle for superficial. They dig deep, they challenge students and adults to reflect on the truth of God’s Word.
I will never forget falling to my knees on the second day not able to sing a word sobbing into the shoulders of one of my students as we were led in the chorus of “You Hold Me Now”. As God ministered to my broken heart and I began to heal I realized that camp was as much for me as the students.
And now I know that a camp, conference or service that is going to be great will be great for both your students AND your leaders. And year after year I have experienced that with Clayton King and Crossroads Summer Camp.
And that is why for the first camp with my new church we are in Anderson SC for #CRSC15.
God is good and I already have so much to say. More on that later.
I see it all the time.
I get on social media and one person is calling a public figure a godly person while someone else is calling the same person ungodly.
Sometimes it is a prominent pastor, or political figure or actor etc
And then it gets ugly.
People start back and forth defending their position and someone else who shares the views jumps in and adds fuel to the fire and at the end everyone walks away mad.
Why? How can people be that sure one way or the other?
Well it starts with how we read Scripture and how we interpret the Scriptures
Now most Christians agree that their are issues that are negotiable and non-negotiable when it comes to certain doctrines or beliefs and can overlook differences over what we call non essential beliefs (If you want to know more about those you could start HERE) but what most people don’t realize is that those “nonessential” doctrines really change how people approach life in this world.
Then it happens
Down the long trail of extrapolation two individuals find their positions in conflict with each other, ready to tear each other to pieces and they don’t even know why.
A great example is the interpretation of the end times and the Millennial reign. Read over this CHART comparing the four major Millennium positions.
Anything stand out?
What do you think would happen if person A, a good church going individual, with a faith built on a Pre-Mil foundation became a politician and started debating person B, also a good church going individual but with a Post Mil foundation, about how much support to give to Israel?
Suddenly, what we claimed was “non-essential” to us is very very essential.Now do not get me wrong please I am not saying that we cannot fellowship with people who don’t share the same views of non-essential doctrine as we do. What I am saying is that we must all be careful when throwing out accusations against the spiritual condition of someone based on their positions on things that we don’t agree with them on.
Interpretation is THAT important. And I wager that most of us don’t truly understand our own beliefs and couldn’t defend them if we tried.
Maybe instead of starting with arguing over issues that are born from the foundation of our beliefs we should engage in conversations that help us to understand where the conclusions are coming from.
We can argue politics all day, and honestly we can argue Biblical interpretation even longer, but politics will never change someone’s heart nor will it determine someone’s eternity.
But the Bible?
The Bible changes everything
Years ago I had an idea.
I am not sure where it came from, I may have heard of it from another youth minister or I may have just been inspired one day.
But I had this vision of the youth ministry no longer feeling and acting like they were in opposition to other ministries, especially senior adult ministries, in the church.
For many years I watched other youth pastors gripe and moan about how the “old people” were holding the church back and ruining the church for the next generation. And this saddened me for two reasons, first the shortsightedness of the youth pastors that were saying these things and second the fact that there was some truth to what they were saying.
Then the idea.
What if we taught our students that instead of viewing the senior adults as problems we taught them to see them as heroes?
The Honor Banquet was born.
The concept was simple. The student ministry would plan, prepare and host a banquet for the adults in our church who were over the age of 55. The adult leaders would help oversee this event but the students would do all the work. We would roll out the red carpet and go all the way to make the senior adults of our church feel special. Everything, from the decorations to the meal to the clothes that would be worn by the students would reflect how special the occasion was. The students would help cook and plate each course of the meal, wait tables and provide entertainment.
This past week the student ministry at the church I just started serving with in October had the chance to put on their very first Honor Banquet. After all was said and done, I could not have been prouder of our students and adult leaders. The banquet was executed flawlessly and those who attended had nothing but praise for the students who waited patiently and attentively on everyone in attendance, going out of their way to make sure everyone had a great time.
More importantly the students had a chance to express a great and emphatic “Thank You” to all the members of our church who have given so much over the years and acknowledge that without the senior adults’ contributions to the church in years past there would be no church here today.
This has been the seventh year I have been able to lead a ministry in doing an Honor Banquet and it gets better every year. If you are a youth pastor our a student ministry leader let me encourage you to take time to honor those in your congregation that have done more than you can ever know to serve the kingdom.
You won’t regret it
As I was driving around the other day I began to think about fatherhood. My two oldest children will turn 12 in a couple of days and it has me in a reflective state of mind.
Here are these two pre-teens that I have nurtured and disciplined, loved and cherished for the last twelve years and I the question that comes to my mind is “Am I doing a good enough job?”
Of course only time will answer that question but it is one worth thinking about (and one that more parents should consider) because if we don’t take pause to evaluate what we are doing we can never improve.
So I began considering our Heavenly Father.
And I came to a very quick conclusion
I do NOT want to raise my children the same as God raises His!
I know that is shocking but hear me out.
I have a few goals as a parent. These goals are modest and are by no means revolutionary and most parents would probably agree that they are sensible. In addition, there are traits I want my children to develop but these traits are not the goal they are a means to an end. A few of these traits are
1. I want my children to grow in their faith
2. I want my children to learn to think for themselves
3. I want my children to become responsible
I nurture my children and discipline them in order to teach these traits. Eventually, the application of these traits will lead to the accomplishment of the goals I have.
1. My children will become self sufficient, independent adults
2. My children will establish their own lives
3. My children will have their own families
My goal is to raise my children and send them out.
Our Heavenly Father does not have the same goals
Yes He disciplines us
Yes He nurtures us
Yes He teaches us to be strong minded
Yes He teaches us to be responsible
But His GOALS? They are NOTHING like mine.
God does not raise His children to be independent nor does He raise them to establish themselves apart from Him. No, quite the opposite, everything our Father does is to make His children MORE dependent on HIM and to bring ALL of His children BACK to HIS home.
Earthly fathers raise their children to send out. Our Heavenly Father raises His children to be drawn back in
I’m just putting this out there…..
I HATE when people ask what I do.
It might be at a coffee shop, or the hair cut place, or a salesperson, or a parent at my kids school.
They always ask!
And I HATE answering.
It isn’t because I am ashamed of what I do (I’m not proud of it either but that is for another post) because I’m not. It is because of the inevitability of the reaction on the part of the person who asked the question when I answer “I’m a Youth Pastor”.
It is always “Oh”
Sometimes “Oh” is followed by a smile and a polite gesture of a compliment about my life’s calling and sometime the “Oh” is followed by a subtle (or not so subtle) groan. Sometimes it is the last word that person ever speaks to me….
But worse than the verbal reaction is the non verbal reaction and that is why I hate answering the question. In the micro second it takes for the person to process the word pastor (and usually the youth part isn’t even acknowledged) everything about the interaction I am having with that person changes. They become defensive, illusive, private and standoffish. There is something very unnerving about quietly having my motives for EVERYTHING questioned. Suddenly I am the enemy. Either I am trying to corral them into a gospel presentation or I just want their money or I am looking to condemn them for their sins.
You know what I hate about it most?
I lose the chance to know them. Who they really are, what they are really like and what they struggle with. They hide it all.
It’s not their fault though….
It’s ours….and by ours I mean the Church.
Jesus loved people and desired to KNOW people and to lead people to His Father.
Sometimes the church treats people like a herd of cattle. We just want to tag them and let the world know they belong to God and move along to the next herd.
So please, let’s change this
Or at least just stop asking me what I do!
I have been serving in ministry in some role since I was 17. I have served as an intern, part-time staff member and full time pastoral staff. As I look back on some of my experiences I have thought about all the struggles I have faced and while it would be easy to point the finger and place the blame I believe it is more important to identify my failures. As I am in a transition period I have had a chance to reflect on my most recent ministry experience and I have identified 3 HUGE mistakes that I want to share (NOTE I’m not sayin I only made three mistakes just that I want to talk about these three)
#1 Failed to have a realistic understanding of the identity of the church.
When i first started at my previous church I walked in taking everything at face value. If I asked a question I just accepted the answer as truth. What I realized shortly after starting is that sometimes the truth is hard to explain and even harder to admit and that people don’t always paint a clear picture for you. This was a HUGE mistake because when I walked in I walked in with a truckload of expectations and excitement that could never be met because it was based on a false understaning of the identity of the church. And it wasn’t the church’s fault, it was my job to understand what I was walking into and to form my expectations based on that not vice versa. I wound up being frustrated very quickly because of my expectations not being met and what was worse is I didn’t realize until much later that it was my fault to begin with!
#2 I set the bar too HIGH.
I am sure you think this is ridiculous we are supposed to set the bar high shoot for the stars and never accept anything les. Right? Well, ok, sure go for that but watch yourself. Like I said before about identity expectations need to formed on truth not fantasy and so do goals. The problem with aiming for lofty goals is that you may be ready to aim for those goals yourself but those around you may find those goals (and the path to those goals) overwhelming and will start to jump ship very quickly if you are not careful. And if you start losing your crew you will soon have a sinking ship. Make goals that aren’t easy to achieve but not so aggresive that people can’t handle the idea of tackling those goals
#3 I started believing the negativity and criticism.
There are always whispers and rumors floating around and, if you are in the position of leadership, alot of it is going to be about you. After a while I started believing that all the negativity I was hearing was truth and I reacted to it and in the process I recoiled away from those I was entrusted to lead, not because I didn’t want to lead, because I was fearful that I might perpetuate the negativity that I was accused of. When faced with negativity we should seek the counsel of people we trust and then rely on our convictions to guide us. In other words I stopped trusting my gut and in the end it was proved that my gut was right all along.
I made many many mistakes in the last fifteen years and will make many more. Hopefully we all can grow and learn from the ones that are already passed.
These post got pretty popular on Facebook so in case you missed it.
*My family wants me to find a church soon….or a hobby. I don’t know what their problem is I think it is perfectly normal to gather your kids and dogs together once a week for “small group”
*I told my fam “Hey if Josh Devinney can baptize dogs so can I!”
*My wife \wasn’t real happy with my idea to put a pulpit in the living room or replacing the windows with stained glass
*I might not be able to have my living room/ sanctuary but I bet I could convert the garage to a youth room……Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind
*My kids aren’t homeschooled but they are homechurched
*I made my 11yr old son a deacon. He promptly called a business meeting and made a motion to have me fired #TrueBaptistKid
*My son’s twin sister is head of personnel she seconded the motion #TrueBaptistKid #IJustCantWin
*I have been passing the plate all night…The kids still won’t give me any of their allowance #AGuysGottaEat
*I wouldn’t mind having my sermon critiqued by the music minister but she’s my daughter….and she’s 7…..
*I think I created a monster…The Hostess Committee voted to eat ice cream for dinner and the Building and Grounds Committee just voted to change the locks…..and not give me a key
Hope you enjoyed!!