Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheerleading & Volleyball

Hello?  Is there anybody out there?  If you are reading, I'd love to hear from you!  Comment, sign the guestbook, or e-mail me at youthguy07@aol.com !

For the Floridays 1993 trip to Walt Disney World, we had 6-day park hopper passes.  This meant that we had access every day to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, the Disney/MGM Studios, the Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, River Country Water Park and the Disney Village Marketplace/Pleasure Island.  We could go to multiple parks each day if we wanted.  We could (and a few of us did) go to all three main parks on the same day.  We had limitless possibilities for seeing all of WDW and for doing our favorite parts again and again.  For some of our group, however, happiness was never leaving Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort!

Ken Hill and Gilly Douglas (they are now married) were adult leaders on our trip, and they were college students at Appalachian State University.  Both of them were cheerleaders on an ASU squad that had done quite well in the national collegiate cheerleading competition that spring.  Several of the girls on the trip (especially Bree Clapp and Lisa Crabtree; Holly Harward was our main cheerleader at the time, but I don't remember her being too invloved in this madness) were also cheerleaders, and when they discovered the expertise of Ken and Gilly, they went nuts.  All the ever wanted to do was learn how to do stunts and practice them in resort pool- which was at least a reasonably safe place to do such a thing.  Safe for them, I mean.  The other guests trying to swim while our kids were cheerleading were taking their lives in their hands!  Fortunately, both Gilly and Ken had the good sense to limit what they taught them, and the even better sense to leave the resort and go the parks.  It is safe to say, however, that when our group headed for the pool, the other guests at Aruba scattered!

I have mentioned that there was a beautiful beach volleyball court at Old Port Royale in the center of the CBR, and many of our youth took advantage of it.   David Mercadante (and I think Will Rees and perhaps his friend Jay?) became obsessed with it.  Almost any time there was "free time" when the students were on their own to be at any park, you could find Big Dave playing volleyball- sometimes by himself!  David later became a big fan of WDW and came to stay with us and do Disney after we moved to Kissimmee.  But on this trip- volleyball ruled!

As you can see, this was not a homogeneous group, with everyone liking the same things.  But this Friday and Saturday you will read of one night we were all together at Pleasure Island and made memories that will last a lifetime.  The amouont of food we ate was amazing.  Our laughter must have shaken the foundations of WDW.  We also may have destroyed a travel company...  You be the judges.  See you tomorrow as my CCM Countdown hits number 6!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Firecrackers"


I hope some of you have been checking out my Lenten devotional blog The 40 Day Adventure.  As we head down the home stretch towards Easter, it is important that we spend time focusing on what Jesus did for us.  The scripture above, from 2 Corinthians 6:11, has been our theme for the adventure.  I hope that you are living your life WIDE OPEN!  Now on with the show...

My friends and readers understand my deep love for Walt Disney World.  There are so many things about the parks, the resorts and everything else on property that make me smile and make me feel like it is indeed the "happiest place on earth."  But I do have to admit that not everyone feels the same way I do...

The group from Holly Spring Friends Meeting that joined us on the Floridays 1993 trip added quite a bit to our adventure.  Aside from their van (that story is still to come) they contributed mostly good things and positive energy to our group.  The six students- Darrin Allen, Justin Hinesley, Steven Brady, Shelly Brady, Beth West and Devon Cox, were all great and became friends with many of our youth from Springfield Friends.  One of their adults leaders, Sharon Caughron, ran around with us most of the week so she could see all of WDW.  She had to do this because, quite frankly, her husband and my fellow youth pastor Mark Caughron was a party pooper most of the week. 

You see, Mark didn't quite GET Disney- or if he got it, he didn't really like it!  He complained about the crowds, about the cost of the food, about the lines and about the attractions themselves.  He was always ready to go back to the CBR for a nap.  He never had any sense of adventure about being at WDW.  It just wasn't his kind of place.  The story that best illustrates his feelings happened one night at the Disney/MGM Studios.  It had been another long day in the parks for our group, and as 11 PM approached it was time for Sorcery in the Sky (see picture), the amazing fireworks display choreographed to movie music and narrated by Vincent Price.  We had secured a good viewing location (by standing and waiting; this is what you have to do at WDW) and the group was very excited.  Veterans from our 1990 trip had told everyone what an incredible show they were about to see.  As we neared the starting time for Sorcery, Mark told his group that it was time to go back to the resort.  They didn't want to, and we began telling Mark (again) what an awesome show he would miss if they left.  Mark decided his wife and his youth would stay, but he was leaving.  His reason?  "It's no big deal- I've seen firecrackers before."  Yep- he actually compared the greatest fireworks show in all of WDW to "firecrackers."  What could we say?

I am sure Mark enjoyed more of that trip than I remember.  I certainly hope so.  But it really didn't matter.  Mark was an excellent youth pastor, and he would have been the first to tell you that he signed his youth up to be a part of the trip because he thought THEY would enjoy WDW.  For a good youth minister, youth ministry is ALWAYS about the students.  That may sound obvious, but you would be stunned at how often it is not true.  I'm glad Mark and Sharon brought their group with us, and even more relieved that Sharon didn't bump Mark off that week!  See you tomorrow.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Aruuuuubaaa!

The Floridays 1993 adventure had one constant every day- our home base, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.  As I mentioned once before, the CBR had over 2,200 rooms divided into several "islands."  Each "island" had its own pool, beach and bus stop.  We were staying at Aruba (our pool is pictured at left.).  In addition to our the amenities on our "island," there was a central big pool, restaurants and marketplace at Old Port Royale.  We ate breakfast at the food court there most mornings before catching buses to whatever park we were visiting that day.  We also played on the cannons and the water slides at the pool there, and took advantage of the beach volleyball courts.  As a matter of fact, for a couple of our guys the volleyball courts became their favorite part of the trip- but that is another story for another time.  In any case, we were all very fond of our home at the CBR and in Aruba.  We could not have asked for more!

Early in the trip (I want to say on our return from Hoop-de-doo, but I am not certain) we were riding a crowded Disney bus back to to our resort.  As we entered CBR property, the bus began the long circle around the property that would end with Aruba as the final stop.  As with every day on one of our Disney trips, it had a been a long day and we were tired and a bit punchy- and I guess a little loud.  The bus driver became aware of us and asked over the intercom which stop the large group was getting off at.  Someone shouted back "Aruba," but he didn't hear it and so he asked again.  The details of what happened next are fuzzy, but somehow a group of us answered by yelling (in unison) "ARUUUUUUBAAAAAA!"  It sounded just like it is written- long, loud and a touch obnoxious.  The entire bus began to laugh,which only encouraged us to do more.  And so we did-  for the rest or the week.  Every time we arrived at the CBR gate, we began to let everyone know which "island" we belonged to!  It was one of those little things that became an important part of the memories of the trip.  I still have trouble saying Aruba like a normal person...

We never had any trouble getting the group into their comfy beds (see picture) once we reached Aruba.  The long, hot days were wearing us out. Even with group members choosing to break up the days by returning to the CBR and taking advantage of the pools, the beaches and nap time, I could see Black Thursday coming.   Some folks were getting a bit grumpy.  One person was actually getting tired of Walt Disney World.  One of the Holly Spring group was loosing it.  And I'm not talking about a youth...

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hosanna!

Happy Palm Sunday everyone!  Holy Week is a week full of highs and lows, a week that helps us to remember events that changed the world and changed our lives.  Palm Sunday is a day that, to me, contains the full range of emotions.  We read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, of the multitudes waving the palm branches and shouting "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!"  The Pharisees tell Jesus to quiet the crowd, and He rebukes them by saying that if His followers keep quiet, "even the stones will cry out."  This is the Christ at His most popular.  This is Jesus Christ, Superstar.  And we celebrate in many of our churches by having the children wave palm branches as we sing songs of celebration.  We, like the original Christ-followers, believe!  And we shout out His name and would follow Him anywhere.

Yet we know what is coming.  No matter how great our celebration is today, we know that this week holds stories of betrayal, denial and death.  We know that these same people who shouted "Hosanna!" will in a few short days be screaming "Crucify Him!"   We know that on Good Friday the world will turn very black, and all the hope of Palm Sunday will seem to be lost.  And just when things seem to be darkest, we know there is the great light of the resurrection still to come.  This is the advantage we have over those early disciples.  We KNOW how it ends.  We are a Resurrection People!

So today, the question is this:  Will we live our lives like the early believers, shouting "Hosanna!" one day and denying Jesus the next?  It is one thing to sin; we all sin.  It is another thing to live our lives ashamed of the One who saves us from that sin.  This week I encourage you to re-write the story of Holy Week in your lives.  Let there be no denial or betrayal.  Show the world that Jesus is alive, and that He is now and forever your LORD and Savior.  Living for Jesus in the here and now is certainly something to scream "Hosanna!" about!  I hope you all have a blessed day!

Tomorrow we return to tales of Floridays 1993 with another word we enjoyed screaming:  Aruuuuuubaaaaa!  See you then.

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"BUT NOW..."

I mentioned in a previous posting that many of the girls of my Springfield Friends youth group were heavily into the movie Grease.  This may or may not have been because it is also one of Marilyn's favorites, but in any case, they knew most of the songs by heart.  I remind you of this so you can appreciate the following fiasco...

Late one afternoon a group of us took a boat from the Disney/MGM Studios over to Disney's Beach Club Resort so that we could eat at The Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe (the sign above is newer- it used to be a Shoppe!).  Beaches (as Marilyn and I still refer to it) is famous for hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream.  The setting is much like a 1950's soda shop, and it has a juke box.  We have eaten there literally 50 times or more, so forgive me if I don't remember whether we ate dinner that afternoon or just had dessert.   But I know we had dessert!  Beaches has lots of special sundaes (all of which are gigantic), the best root beer floats anywhere, great milk shakes and malts, and of course, the Kitchen Sink (see photo above).  The Kitchen Sink has nine scoops of ice cream, every topping known to man, and every thing else they ever put in a sundae.  Plus, as you can see, it is served in a little sink.  A group of us ordered one and tried our best to eat it that evening.  We failed, but we sure had fun trying!  Beaches is just an amazing place to eat ice cream.

But that's not the story I am here to tell you.  The juke box at Beaches is free, and at some point some of the girls (I am betting Mandy, Beth, Jill, Holly, Erin and Woodhead had something to do with this) went over and played some songs.  Among the selections was Hopelessly Devoted to You from Grease.  As the song began to play, I could see several of our girls mouthing the words and "acting out" the hopeless devotion being expressed in the song.  The singing grew audible as the verse approached the chorus, and when the lyric reached the intro to the chorus, the girls all sang at the top of their lungs..."BUT NOW..."  This, needless to say, startled the other patrons and the servers in the restaurant.   But as the girls kept singing, smiles spread to the faces of the employees and the customers alike, and others began to sing along with them.  It was one of those special moments that could never be planned or repeated, but one I will never forget.

The gospel of Jesus is not always spread through preaching, scripture reading or other "religious" acts.  Sometimes, in moments of spontaneous joy, we share the light of Christ through lifting the spirits of those we encounter.  After the song I got a chance to share who we were (a church group) with some of the employees and customers.  They were all moved by this group of students bound together in Christ's love.  We shared Jesus that day-  by singing along with Olivia Newton John.  Who would have guessed? 

Because of Jesus,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chicken Man

One of the regular features on my Youth Group Hotline over the years was a character called Chicken Man.  Each week he would be introduced the same way, with me saying in my best game show announcer voice, "And now...another amazing adventure in the life of the greatest superhero the world has ever known...CHICKEN MAN!!!  (He's everywhere, he's everywhere!)."  In my imagination, CM looked something like the guy in the chicken suit on the right- a real superhero type.  Little did I know that I would meet the Caped Clucker on our Floridays 1993 trip- and he would be nothing like I imagined!

Mark Rumley was an unassuming married man, father of two girls at the time (and one son since), and uncle to a number of students involved on our youth ministry.  Mark and his family attended a local Methodist church, but they often hung out with us Quakers for special events.  I knew Mark to be a good (and pretty normal) guy.  He had asked if he could join us on this Disney trip and I was glad to have him along.  I had no idea what we were about to unleash on WDW...

At first I wasn't suspicious of his costume.  It seemed like typical tourist clothing- a t-shirt (tucked in), shorts, sun glasses, fanny pack and fluorescent pink baseball cap.  We all commented that having Mark with your group was like having a secret signal, because his hat could be seen from all over the parks.  But it wasn't until later in the week that his true identity became known to us.  We were at the Magic Kingdom, near Cinderella's Castle, waiting for one of our daily check-ins when someone mentioned being hungry.  Quick as a flash, mild-mannered Mark Rumley changed in front of our eyes, opening his fanny pack to reveal...FRIED CHICKEN!  And not just any fried chicken- the amazing chicken that he had gathered from the tables at Hoop-de-doo several nights before!  We were all a bit stunned.  It was 95 degrees in the shade, and this man was carrying two day old fried chicken in his fanny pack.  Needless to say, we were a little hesitant to accept this offering.  But Mark, now fully in Chicken Man mode, pulled out a piece and began to eat.  I don't remember if anyone else joined in- I just know I didn't.  I know that Mark did indeed have super powers, because he never got sick from eating that bird.  For the rest of the trip, we would wonder what miraculous things he might have in that fanny pack. 

We kidded Mark unmercifully about the chicken and about his hat, and he was always a great sport about it.  When we presented the slide show of the trip in August of 1993, every time a picture of Mark came on the screens the soundtrack was playing the theme music from The Twilight Zone.  One of my parting gifts when I left Springfield Friends Meeting in 1994 was a fluorescent pink hat, just like the one Mark had worn.  I have many great memories of that trip, but without a doubt the discovery of the true identity of Chicken Man ranks high on my list. Thanks Mark, for the memories and the friendship.  I hope you are still using your powers for the good of humanity by distributing only the very best fried chicken...  Join us again tomorrow, when we won't have any superheroes but you can hear the tale of our performance of the musical Grease at the Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe!  Don't miss it!

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CCM Countdown: 7

We're taking a break from the tales of Floridays 1993 to continue the countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music albums that had the greatest impact on my ministry and my life through 2006.  Today we are at number 7.  To see last Thursday's post and get links to go all the way back to number 50, just click here!  Come back tomorrow for the story of Chicken Man!

8)  i 2 (EYE)-  Michael W. Smith-  1988
I was a big fan of MWS from Friends and his live album when I purchased i 2 (EYE), but I had no idea what I was in for.  From the minute the opening harmonica from Hand of Providence came soaring from the tape player, I was hooked.  I gave away lots of copies of this project as prizes at TNT, and used several of the songs in slide shows and for worship services over the years.  I still listen to the CD on a regular basis, and it NEVER gets old!

FEATURED SONGS
Few songs in the 40 year history of CCM have as strong a message or as lasting an impact as Secret Ambition (see video at bottom).  The lyric tells of Jesus' desire to "give His life away" for us.  So powerful.  Other classics include the aforementioned Hand of Providence, I Hear Leesha, Help You Find Your Way and The Throne.  One of the great headphone songs of all-time is the instrumental AshtonLive and Learn is a song with a tremendous message and a powerful horn section.  And perhaps no song was ever more appropriate for endings- graduations, moving, leaving youth group- than Pray For Me, the final cut on the album.  "Pray for me and I'll pray for you, pray that we can keep the common ground.  Won't you pray for me and I'll pray for you, and one day love will bring us back around...again."  It's a truly inspirational song that I have to admit can still bring a tear to my eye.

OTHER RECOMMENDED ALBUMS FROM MICHAEL W. SMITH
Michael W. Smith Project-  1983*
The Big Picture-  1986
The Live Set-  1987
Go West Young Man-  1990*
Change Your World-  1992
I'll Lead You Home-  1995
Live the Life-  1998
This Is Your Time-  1999
Worship-  2001
Worship Again-  2002
Healing Rain-  2004
Stand-  2006
*indicates album also featured on this countdown

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Whole New World

As mentioned in previous posts (The Plan, The Magic Touch) one of my goals for Floridays 1993- The Magic Tour was to make sure that the students experienced all that Walt Disney World had to offer, including the food at some wonderful restaurants.  We had meal tickets that allowed them to try an appetizer, entree, dessert and beverage and that also included tax and tip- so there was no need to worry about money.  They could just eat and enjoy!  One of the meals we planned was dinner at EPCOT.  I had the group sign-up ahead of time for the EPCOT restaurant of their choice and I got all the reservations for the same night.  I can't remember for sure all of the different places people ate that night, but I do know that groups dined at Mexico (The San Angel Inn), Italy (Alfredo's), Japan (Yakitori House) and The Living Seas (The Coral Reef).  All of those are very expensive and very wonderful, and I was excited for the kids to experience them and the cultures they represented.  And for the most part, they loved every minute of it.

I do not remember who all was in the group that went to Alfredo's, but I will never forget that Jill Gilbreth was with them (see message #27 on my Guestbook for more details from Jill!).  Alfredo's was (it has changed a lot since then...) a very authentic Italian restaurant, as opposed to say, Olive Garden.  The kids were unsure of many of the items on the menu.  Listening to Jill describe her food later was hilarious.  The salad, she informed us, was made up of leaves someone had gone outside and ripped off of a shrub.  It looked nothing like any salad she had ever seen before.  She also described eating "panarama ham," which we are still unsure about.  Whatever it actually was, she didn't care for it.  Still, as I remember, none of that mattered to the girls because their Italian waiter was hot and the service was great; plus there was a bit of a show with singers and some dancing.  Marilyn and I still refer to mystery meat as "panarama ham" on occasion...

I was with a group that visited the San Angel Inn.  This was a life changing experience for Marilyn and I thanks to a waitress who made a couple of wonderful suggestions.  First, she suggested that we try Queso Fundido, a melted cheese and chorizo sausage mixture on tortillas, as our appetizer.  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  I think almost everyone tried it, and all of us found it amazing.   We still look for it at every Mexican restaurant we eat at- but no one can match the San Angel Inn.  We tried a variety of entrees that were awesome.  After dinner, we again asked for suggestions from the dessert menu, and were told to try the Chocolate Mousse Kahlua Pie.  Again- OH MY GOODNESS!!!  In the years that followed Marilyn and I ate there many times with friends and family, and we never failed to order those two things.  Eventually they took the pie off the menu, and Marilyn and I had to have a word with the manager.  I don't know if it ever came back...

You may wonder why I thought these extravagant meals served any purpose for a youth ministry seeking to help students connect to Jesus.  Again, it was because we were seeking to minister to the WHOLE person, not just some special little spiritual box inside of them.  We wanted them to experience new things, to share new adventures and to create memories with one another as a part of understanding that "every good and perfect gift comes from God..."   I don't know if we succeeded or not, but that was our goal.  And trust me, Chocolate Mousse Kahlua Pie is a good and perfect gift!!!

Speaking of food...remember the leftover chicken from Hoop-de-doo?  Learn its' fate in Friday's edition.

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prudence Irwina & Tigger

There were lots of excited students on The Magic Tour '93, but none more so than Ashley Goad.  Ashley was a young woman who had not had an easy life to that point; her parents had divorced, and at various points her relationships with both of them had been strained.  Many of the girls in our group were related to each other and had attended different schools than she did, and they were a very close knit group.  Ashley often struggled to fit in.  But she never gave up on us.  She and I developed a close relationship that included me calling her Prudence Irwina Goad (PIG for short!).  The excitement she had for this trip had very little to do with me, however.  For Ashley, this trip was all about Tigger!

Ashley was completely obsessed with finding Tigger at every park and getting her picture made with him.  She stalked the poor creature all over WDW, and I took a ton of pictures of the two of them. And each time we found the character, the smile on her face brought one to mine.  Unfortunately, I took only slides that week, and those slides are lost forever.  But trust me- there were plenty of pics of PIG and Tigger! 

Ashley and I shared a lot of good times- and some bad.  But we always had Tigger!  We both knew the correct way to spell it- T-I-Double Grrr-er!  We both could sing the Tigger song (see video below).  She was a very special part of that trip and my life.  When we left Springfield Friends Meeting, I worried about her and prayed for her often.  I didn't need to worry; she was in God's hands already.  She is now a youth pastor herself and has changed the life of many a young person through her love of Jesus.  I am so proud of all that she overcame and all that she has become.  Every time I see Tigger, I remember Ashley, and I thank God that I got to be a small part of her life.  Even if she did spend one week as a stalker...   Ashley, you and Tigger are a lot alike-  there's only one of each of you!



Because of Jesus,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hoop-de-doo!

On Monday night, the third night of our Floridays 1993 trip, we finally got to experience the fun and food that is the Hoop-de-doo Revue!  We boarded a boat at the TTC and shuttled over to the Fort Wilderness Campground.  We found our way to Pioneer Hall and our seating of Disney's most popular dinner show.  I still could not believe we had been able to get in.  We were seated at tables for eight, and greeted with chips and salsa.  Our waiters and waitresses then began bringing our drinks and salads.  Everything was served family style.  The entertainment began shortly after we were seated, with lots of traditional American music and bad puns from the Pioneer Hall Players.  And the food just kept coming!  Ribs, fried chicken (the best I've ever had!), cornbread, baked beans, corn on the cob and more were brought to us as often as we wanted- and we wanted a lot!!!  Then, as our servers joined in the entertainment, strawberry shortcake (the best I've ever had!) was delivered and the meal was finished.  The entertainment cranked up with the audience twirling their napkins and shouting "Yahoo!  Hoop-de-doo!" at the top of our lungs. There was a melodrama about Davy Crockett and a bear, featuring some of the worst puns and jokes you will ever hear. It was almost unbearable, but you just had to grin and bear it...   It was just an amazing evening, and the kids loved it.  We talked later about how exciting it is to dream dreams and pray prayers and see them answered.  It was so cool to be able to remind our group that God is good all the time!

Before we left Pioneer Hall and headed back to the Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Mark Rumley collected some of the left over chicken from the tables for consumption at a later time.  That chicken would come back to haunt us...

Tomorrow we will take a look at how one famous Disney character had to deal with a stalker from our group.  In the meantime, keep signing my guestbook, making comments and sending those e-mails!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Splash Mountain

The Magic Kingdom is the most famous of the Disney parks and the one people think of when you speak of Walt Disney World.  So naturally it was the first park we visited as we continued our first full day on The Magic Tour.  Everyone was very excited about such classic rides as Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and the Jungle Cruise.  But the biggest anticipation was reserved for the newest ride at the MK, Splash MountainSplash Mountain was the newest ride at the MK, having been open for less than a year.  The ride was a boat trip through the stories of the movie Song of the South, featuring such characters as Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit.  The rides climaxes with a huge climb to the top of the mountain and then a monster drop into the "Brier Patch" below.  Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is with words from the back of a t-shirt my wife Marilyn has had since those early days, pictured below.

We rode the ride over and over again that week, waiting in lines as long as two hours to do so.  Every ride was better than the last, and each one left us soaking wet.  We discovered that if we went to the ride during the 11 PM parade time we could avoid the lines and ride a couple of times before the park closed at midnight.  It was also, of course, the perfect ride in the heat of the day.  There was little question that Splash Mountain was one of the hits of the trip.

Our first day had been a huge success.  And on Monday, we were off to Hoop-de-doo!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Unwilling Catholics

Quakers and Catholics share much in common in their faith in Jesus Christ, but almost nothing in common in their practice of that faith.  Catholic worship is made up of pomp, circumstance and ritual; Quaker worship is simple and sometimes silent.  A Quaker who walks into the celebration of Mass unaware is in for quite a shock.  Witness the following account...

On the Sunday morning following the Luau, we were headed back to Disney's Polynesian Resort for worship.  WDW sponsored two worship services each Sunday at the same venue where we had been for the Luau; an early Catholic Mass, and an 11 AM Protestant service.  I had told the group to get breakfast and meet us at the Polynesian.  They were all very clear on how to get there- take the bus to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and the monorail to the Polynesian.  I was with a group that headed over around 10:15 AM.  We arrived a few minutes early and had to wait outside for the Catholics to exit.  As we were standing there, I saw a very unexpected sight.  Two of our guys, David Mercadante (pictured in the red sweatshirt) and Will Rees (in the tye-dye), were exiting the Mass- and looking exceedingly confused!  I stopped them and asked what was going on, and they informed me they had just been to church and could not find us anywhere.  Plus, they told me, the service had been really strange, with a lot of standing and kneeling and reciting things they did not know.  We were dying laughing.  They had no idea what they had just done.  They were then very disappointed to learn they had to go back in and worship again-  with the rest of us.  They were still mumbling about all the odd stuff they did at the first service, but they had to admit they had enjoyed getting a snack during church.  It seems our two young Quakers had just taken their first communion with the Catholics.  We never informed the Pope of their transgression!  We don't know how this may have influenced David's calling to the pastoral ministry among Quakers, but that is what he is doing today.

After church, we headed for our first park- the Magic Kingdom!  Something new awaited us there that would be one of the highlights of the trip.  Come back tomorrow to read more!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Saddle up your horses..."

The final preparations were finished.  People had chosen which EPCOT restaurant they wanted to eat at.  I had taught a class on the best way to see all of Walt Disney World.  Rooms were assigned.  The U-Haul was packed.  At 6 AM on June 19th we departed Springfield Friends Meeting for sunny Florida.  The trip down was fairly uneventful.  We travelled by caravan, with three 15 passenger vans and one Suburban.  Mark Rumley drove the Suburban and had memories of a vehicle filled with "gassy girls."  The Holly Spring Friends van had a flat tire, but we changed it and kept going.  It didn't seem like a big deal at the time...but it would come back to haunt us on the trip home.

We arrived at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort and were greeted by Frank, our representative from the Walt Disney Travel Company.  He helped check us in and find our way to our rooms.  The resort has over 2200 rooms and is broken up into "islands."  Each "island" has its' own pool and and own unique identity.  We were staying at Aruba.  As everyone was getting settled in, Frank gave me some very disturbing news.  From the very beginning of my trip planning I had wanted to do something amazing on the first night (Saturday).  We had been able to book the group for the Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue, and I could not imagine a better start to the week.  Now Frank was telling me that dates had been mixed up, and that we actually were not going to Hoop-de-doo until Monday night.  I was devastated at first...but fortunately, Frank was not through talking.  To make up for the mistake, he had booked us into the Luau at Disney's Polynesian Resort for that night, an all-you-can-eat dinner show.  And it would be on them!  That was $35 per person, covered by the travel company.  This week was off to a flying start!  We went to the Luau and loved it, eating all kinds of Polynesian dishes and drinking frozen drinks while watching hula dancers (see picture at top) and fire dancers do their things.  It was an awesome first night.  And it was free! 

Our theme for the week was The Great Adventure, based on a 1992 song by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The song begins with the line "Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace..."  We were going to blaze our trail through WDW and try to shine our light for all to see.  The great adventure had begun, and on Sunday morning we were going to church at Disney...which turned out to be an interesting thing in itself, especially for David Mercadante and Will Rees...

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CCM Countdown: 8

We continue the countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music projects that had the most influence on my life and ministry with number 8.  To see number 9 and get links back to the beginning, click here.

8)  EVOLUTION-  Geoff Moore and the Distance-  1993
I became aware of Geoff Moore through the National Youth Workers Convention in the early 1990's, but it took this album to make me a fan.  Featuring one of the goofiest covers ever (what the heck was Geoff thinking with that hair...) and some great music, this album featured a number of songs that we used in Kissimmee as themes for various events, including the infamous Live To Tell weekend at Myrtle Beach in 1996.  In 1997, we hosted Geoff and the Distance for a concert as well.  I was presented a framed copy of the words to Geoff's song Only A Fool (from the CD Threads) to recognize my 20th year in student ministry.  Geoff Moore was a huge part of my life and ministry.

FEATURED SONGS
The song that defines this album for me is the rocking Life Together, which we used as a summer them in 1997 when we had Geoff do the concert for us.   With its message of sharing life with each other and with Jesus, it could easily be the theme song for my entire ministry.  The classic If You Could See What I See has been sung at hundreds of weddings.  The title track, Evolution...Redefined talks about how it is an evolution of the heart and the soul that Christians need to be concerned about.  The aforementioned Live To Tell and Heart To God, Hand To Man (a tribute to the Salvation Army; see video below) both speak of how our lives are the most important witness we have to share.  Finally, the band's rocking cover of Larry Norman's Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? is one of the greatest songs ever written.  And as Geoff yells out in a live version of the song, "Aren't you glad he doesn't, ya'll?"

Other Recommended Geoff Moore and the Distance Albums
A Friend Like You-  1992
Home Run-  1995*
Threads-  1997
* indicates album is included on this countdown

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A New Kind of Family

It would be a massive understatement to say that the the group (many of whom are pictured above) we took on the Floridays 1993 trip was different from previous trips.  First, there were the 8 participants from Holly Spring Friends Meeting, led by Mark and Sharon Caughron.  Most of my Springfield group did not know these folks at all.  Then there was our cast of characters.  Let me break down the group for you:
Counselors-  My lovely wife Marilyn and Barbara Moran were veterans of our two previous Florida trips.  Ken Hill and Danny McCorquodale had been on both trips, but had been participants.  They were now college students serving as leaders, along with Ken's girlfriend (and current spouse) Gilly DouglasJennifer Wood and Wendy Mattocks were serving as part-time counselors after having been on our second trip.  Joining us for the first time was Mark Rumley, who didn't attend Springfield but was brother-in-law to Barbara and uncle to several of our students.  I was very comfortable with this group of leaders, and they did a great job of helping things run smoothly- even if Mark did get a little weird on us at times...(cue Twilight Zone music...)
The Vets-  We had a handful of students who had been to Disney with us before, but most of the core of those first two trips had moved on.  Jon Moran was on his third trip.  Natalie Whitaker, Erin Moran, Ben Moran and Justin Whitaker were all on the first trip with their parents, even though they had been too young for youth group.  Ben and Nat had been on the second trip as well, along with Jill Gilbreth and Beth Brown.  This group was very solid, very much a youth group family, and very helpful.
The Newbies-  Mandy Beggs, Ashley Goad, Ryan Simmons, Holly Harward, Marie Allen and Noel Cecil had all been an important part of our ministry for awhile by the summer of '93.  Cheryl Deal and Tammy Edwards were friends of Marie who we knew well and loved, even if the three of them tended to fight like cats and dogs when together for long periods of time.  David Mercadante and Will Rees had just aged into the group the previous August, and at times on the trip their youth would show, but they were an important part of our group.  When you added this bunch to the Vets, you had the new core of our student ministry, and I was very excited about having them all share in this trip.
The RecruitsTNT continued to bring in new faces, and a number of them joined us for this, their first major trip with us.  Jennifer Davenport was Danny's girlfriend at the time.  Matt Walden was a friend of Ben's;  Jay McLauchlin was a buddy of Will's.  Brie Clapp, Lisa Crabtree, Amber Elks and Kristen Clayton were all TNT participants to whom I had been giving rides home all year. And then there was Keith Murphy.  A friend of Jennifer Wood, he invited himself on the trip and proceeded to prove himself a bit strange...more on that in a later post.  This group would provide us with some interesting moments during the week in Florida!

So there you have it. The stage was set.  I used to tell my groups on every trip that this was an experience no other group would ever have, and to full enjoy it, they would need to become a family.  After our regular Thursday countdown, I'll share the stories and let you decide if we became a new kind of family...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Magic Touch

As time drew near for the Floridays 1993- The Magic Tour trip, I continued to seek ways to make the trip special. There were 32 of us from Springfield Friends Meeting planning to attend, and another 8 from my friend Mark Caughron's group at Holly Spring Friends.  Step one had been booking rooms at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, which meant we would be staying in a beautiful, safe hotel with bus transportation to everything we needed.  It also meant that if we chose we could come back to the hotel during the day and enjoy the pools or take a nap, and then return to the parks at night.  Step two had been to secure park-hopper passes that would allow us to visit the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, The Disney/MGM Studios, River Country and Typhoon Lagoon as often as we liked- even all in the same day in we wanted to!  Step three had been to get reservations for the group at the Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue, an immensely popular dinner show at the Fort Wilderness Campground.  Step four was purchasing deluxe meal tickets (see yesterday's post) for four meals.  These tickets would allow our group to eat at places they otherwise would never have gone.  Things were coming together very well.  But there was still one last thing I wanted to do...and it was going to be a challenge!

In addition to all of the places listed above, our passes were also good for admission to Pleasure Island, Disney's center of adult nightlife.  You had to be 18 or accompanied by a parent to enter at night, and most of our group would not fit that description.  At first I didn't care, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to get us in to one place on Pleasure Island- the Comedy Warehouse.  It was a club that did a dozen shows each night, each one different because the comedy was improvised based on suggestions from the audience.  It was another experience I thought our kids would really enjoy, and so I asked our travel rep about it.  He said it couldn't be done.  So I called WDW and asked who I should speak with about such a request- and they had no idea.  I was given the number of a guest services supervisor- and she had no idea.  In fact, she told me no one had ever asked her that before.  This continued several more rungs up the WDW corporate ladder, until finally I spoke with a woman who was in charge of RENTING Disney parks to big companies for private parties.  I explained to her I didn't want to rent the Comedy Warehouse, just to go to a show there using our passes.  She had never heard that question before either, but she felt certain it could be done.  The next day she called back with an answer-  YES!!!  Once we decided on a night and a time, she would arrange for guest services to meet us at the gate and walk us in to the comedy club.  I was ecstatic!  I now knew for certain that we were about to embark on a trip unlike any a group had ever taken to WDW.  Over the next few weeks you will read many stories of what happened once we got there, but for me, adding the "magicical touches" was a huge part of the trip.  My excitement was contagious, and the group was catching it.  It was a very different group this time...but that is tomorrow's story.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Plan

In late 1992, as I began to try and finalize the details of our Floridays 1993 trip, my ideas were becoming more grandiose by the day.  I knew I wanted us to stay on Disney property.  At the time, there was only one hotel on-site that we could possibly afford- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (pictured).  Marilyn and I (and my Mom and Dad) had stayed there a couple of times and loved it.  But even this "value" resort would be twice as expensive as the motels we has used on previous Florida trips.  Plus, the company I had used for those trips, Destination: Orlando, did not work with Disney directly, so I would have to find a new travel company to work with.  I also wanted to find some way to include some nice meals at the amazing restaurants of WDW in the cost, knowing that the students would eat only fast food if they were paying out of pocket.  I wanted to do six day park-hopper passes that would allow us to enjoy the water parks as well as the three main parks.  Put simply, I wanted it all!

A little research and a few phone calls led me to the Walt Disney Travel Company.  This Orlando based business was not officially associated with Disney, but they did all of their work for groups who were coming to see Mickey.  When I told them what all I wanted to do, they became very excited.  Very few groups came to them with leaders who knew as much about WDW as I did.  They had not booked many groups into the Caribbean Beach Resort, but they could.  They could offer us meal coupons good for ANY restaurant on Disney property, including appetizer, entree, dessert, beverage, tax and tip.  Our youth could eat like royalty once a day!  They could get us the passes I wanted.  They might even be able to get us into the almost impossible to get Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue!  They could get us discounts for all of this, plus they showed me how we would be saving money by staying on property by not using gas or paying for parking.  When we finally got down to the bottom line, the price per person was much less than I had originally thought.  I met with some of our parents and students, prayed about it, and signed on the dotted line.  The Magic Tour was really going to happen!  I suddenly began to feel just a little sorry for all of the youth who had been on the first two Disney trips and would miss this one...

Why was it so important to me to make the 1993 trip so special?  Looking back, part of it was ego.  I just wanted to do this amazing trip to make people say "WOW!"  Part of it was having been at Springfield Friends Meeting for six years and feeling like we needed something to really get us jazzed again.  Like it or not, student ministry is often an ongoing battle to hold the attention of your youth against all of the options they have in our world.  We entertain so we can educate.  Our ministry was all about Jesus; this was simply another way to keep the kids connected to each other and to Him.  These types of events also helped us share the lesson that our faith is a part of our entire lives; not a little box we let Jesus out of on Sundays or at church.  This entire trip was going to be a teaching moment; Jesus was going to Walt Disney World!  Now I just needed some youth and adults to go with Him...

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Magical Beginnings

In August of 1991 Marilyn and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary by taking the same cruise we had taken for our honeymoon, going to the Bahamas aboard the Oceanic, The Red Boat of Premier Cruise Lines.  My Dad and Mom (pictured above; that's Dad on the left of me, and Mom on the left of a clearly demon-possessed Marilyn, along with the rest of our dinner table crew.  The other guy we only remember as "Fish" because we thought he looked like Abe Vigoda!) also joined us, and because they did, we were able to afford an upgraded cabin.  The package also included three days at Walt Disney World (WDW) following the cruise, and because of our upgrade we got to stay at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, a very expensive (and at the time, fairly new) hotel right by EPCOT.  Staying there for those few days opened our eyes to WDW in a whole new way, and changed the way we thought about the place completely.  But I am getting ahead of myself...

I have not always been infatuated with WDW.  My love affair with the House of Mouse was a gradual thing, not love at first sight.  The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and until 1978 I had never been to Florida, much less to Orlando.  Then during Spring Break of our freshman year in college, my best friend Steve Semmler and I headed down to Jacksonville to visit our adopted family, the Perrys.  Our friend (and little Sis- that's what we called her) Sabrina and her family had moved the summer before and we couldn't wait to see them.  We spent most of the week there, including a day trip to see Mickey.  I remember very little about that day except for a cast member at the Jungle Cruise hitting on Sabrina and Steve and I not liking that at all.  As for WDW...it was OK.

My second visit was in August of 1986 as part of our honeymoon.  Marilyn and I really enjoyed our time there, and when I needed a big trip to jump start the youth ministry at Springfield Friends Meeting, it was a no-brainer.  We took a group in the summer of '87; we took another group in the summer of '90.  By the time of the cruise in 1991, we were already starting to plan another group trip in 1993.  But our experience staying on Disney property in '91 changed everything for us.  We went back in the spring of '92 with my Mom and Dad and all purchased annual passes.  After that we went as often as we could, including spending Christmas there.  We were hooked.  And the more we were there, the more we learned about all of the amazing restaurants and other things you might not discover if you didn't stay on property.  I knew what had to happen.  The Floridays 1993 Magic Tour was going to be a totally different trip than the previous two, because we were going to stay in a Disney hotel on Disney property.  This much I knew.  Now I just had to figure out how...

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Number 200

I have now been blogging for 200 consecutive days on my way to my goal of one year, and it just never gets old!  Just yesterday I experienced a first- a threatKeri Vinson informed Marilyn on Facebook that if any more pictures of her like the one from yesterday's post show up here, she is sending a large man named Guido to do a tap-dance on my face while wearing golf shoes- or something like that!  My only response is that she, Heather Beggs, Shelley Godwin and everyone else who was part of the 1989 Myrtle Beach trip had better PRAY that I never get the VHS tape from that trip into a format I can use here...remember the fake strip tease to Dream On?  Remember all the talk about "total babes?"  Remember the KISS concert?  Remember "Lori's Massage Parlor?"  Remember the obsession with Wal-Mart?  Remember the water slide close-ups?  Live in fear...

I was looking back at the 100 most recent posts, thinking I would list a few you might want to check out if you missed them.  Here are my suggestions; just click the link and go!
Starting tomorrow and continuing for the next few weeks I will be blogging my memories of my favorite youth trip ever- the Floridays 1993 Magic Tour to Walt Disney World.  Discover when my obsession with WDW began;  see how the trip was planned and who went; and then remember all of the amazing times and adventures (including Mark Rumley and the chicken!).  I look forward to taking this trip (again!) with you.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid...

Before we get into today's post, there are a couple of things I want to mention.  In Tuesday's posting entitled It's Game Time I left out one of the more popular games we played over the years.  It was called Current, but almost no one knew that.  You would simply remember it as the game where there were two teams, I sat at the end of the rows and flipped a quarter, and the teams would race by squeezing hands.  Several e-mails pointed out my oversight...  Speaking of which, PLEASE keep the comments and e-mails coming!  I love knowing who is reading and what you think.

Over the years I had at least as many bad ideas as good ones.  We tried all sorts of things in an effort to keep from being boring and predictable, which is often how people think of the church.  One idea that I refused to give up on was the early morning student kidnapping (It just sounds like a bad idea, doesn't it?).  Here's how it was supposed to work:  We would announce to the youth that they needed to be at the church at a very early hour on a Saturday morning, and we would not tell them why.  We would just issue a warning:  If you were not there, then you should be afraid- be VERY afraid!  I would then arrange with some parents of youth who were almost certain not to show up for our group to come to their homes and kidnap their child and take them to breakfast.  The deeper idea- and it was a good one- was to find creative ways to get kids more involved.  We would certainly at least get their attention.

The first time we tried this was early in the Springfield years.  We rented a gorilla costume, dressed Jamie Robinson in it, and set out to do damage!  I really remember very little about it, except that we caught very few people by surprise- the parents had ratted us out.  One who we did get was Keri Vinson who was not only surprised, but violent, ripping the head off our gorilla (see picture)!  I have no recollection of what we did for breakfast or anything else about that morning- but Keri stayed involved with our ministry for a few years after that...

After arriving at Kissimmee in 1994, we decided to try it again.  This time we dressed Jerry Hanbery as Chewbacca.  He was so excited he arrived at our house next to the church at 5 AM- we weren't gathering until 6.  Marilyn still brings that up with him from time to time...
Anyway, he did his thing and again I really only remember really surprising one person- Erin AugenblickChewbacca yanked her out of bed and threw her over his shoulder.  She was more confused than scared, but it was still hysterical.  Again, Erin was a longtime regular in our youth programs after that morning- and Jerry had fulfilled his dream of being a Star Wars character!

The final time was the most eventful, as a Pink Gorilla (see picture) went on a rampage in Tampa.  But that is a very long story best saved for another time.  Like the other two events, it didn't go as planned.  I always thought I had it all set for these to be amazing mornings, but they never happened the way I envisioned them.  But you know what?  They still had some very positive outcomes.  In many ways they accomplished what we set out to do.  Just because it didn't happen the way I had it planned didn't mean God couldn't use it for His glory.  Somewhere in that last sentence is one of life's great lessons...

Because of Jesus, 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CCM Countdown: 9

We've reached number 9 on my countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music albums that had the greatest impact on my life and ministry.  To see last week's post and get links taking you back to number 50, click here.

9)  AGE TO AGE-  Amy Grant-  1982
Amy Grant had been on the CCM scene for 5 years and 3 albums by the time Age To Age dropped in 1982, but the "Queen of Christian Music" ascended to new heights with its release. Produced by the legendary Brown Bannister, this project marked the beginning of a larger acceptance of CCM and catapulted Amy to super stardom.  I used several of these songs (especially El Shaddai) in a variety of ways over the years, and I still love this CD.

FEATURED SONGS
This remarkable album featured songs of faith and praise of a manner seldom seen on any one project.  In A Little While reassured us that God loves and is always there.  Sing Your Praise To the Lord (written by Rich Mullins) reminds us that in every stage of life, in every circumstance, God is to be praised.   The classic Fat Baby reminds us that unless we seek to grow spiritually we will always be babies in our faith; it's still a fan favorite at Amy's concerts.  I Have Decided (written by Michael Card) rocks and features the amazing chorus:  "I have decided I'm gonna' live like a believer, turn my back on the deceiver; I'm gonna' live what I believe.  I have decided that being good is just fable, I just can't 'cause I'm not able; I'm gonna' leave it to the Lord!"  And finally, this is the album that introduced us to one of the best songs ever written to honor God- El Shaddai (also written by Michael Card; see video at bottom).  the words El Shaddai mean "God Almighty" and the song chronicles the work of God among men throughout the Bible.  It ends by reminding us "though Your Word contained the plan they just could not understand that Your most awesome work was done through the frailty of Your Son..."  The song still gives me chills every time I hear it or sing it.

OTHER RECOMMENDED AMY GRANT ALBUMS
Amy Grant- 1977
A Christmas Album-  1983
Unguarded-  1985
Lead Me On-  1988*
Heart In Motion-  1991
Behind the Eyes-  1997
Simple Things-  2003
* indicates albums featured in this countdown

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yolanda & Richard

I have mentioned several times that during the Springfield years we became involved in a ministry called Our Fathers Table (OFT).  OFT was the feeding program of High Point Urban Ministries, a coalition of faith-based organizations and churches that provided outreach to the homeless and under-resourced of our community.  Beginning in 1988, we would take a group of five or six students and myself across town to work in the soup kitchen and serve lunch.  A couple of summers we went every Friday; after that, we went every other Friday.  Eventually Springfield Friends Meeting as a whole took up the ministry and started taking groups of adults on a regular basis. We would arrive a few hours before opening, make soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, set up the tables, wrap the plastic utensils, and then serve the meal when the patrons would arrive.  We would also clean-up afterwards. I may not seem like much, but it was always very important to me that the students in our ministry learn to serve.

The director of OFT at the time was a fireball of a woman named Yolanda Jackson.  A short, attractive Hispanic woman, Yolanda loved that ministry.  She poured her life into the hundreds of people who passed through each week, often taking care of much more than just their hunger.  She was a deeply spiritual woman who did what she did because she felt Jesus had called her to that work.  She also ruled the place with an iron fist.  People seldom got rowdy at OFT, because if they did, they knew they had to deal with Yolanda- and that was never pretty! 

We often had interaction with the clients who would share lunch with us, learning their stories and sharing with them our faith and our lives.  There was one particular individual who we all fell in love with, and for whom OFT had become both a home and a ministry.  Richard would be there every Friday when we arrived, usually inside sweeping and cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash.  He was the only patron allowed in before the doors officially opened, because he would come in and work until it was time to eat.  Richard was homeless, although he sometimes got to sleep at the house of a relative; he had some mild mental issues and a major speech impediment.  You had to listen very closely to understand anything Richard was saying, and if he got excited you had no chance.  Yet we spent hours talking and listening to Richard.  We often gave him a ride after lunch to wherever he needed to go.  We would bring him clothing and other things when we could.  For us, Richard became the official "mascot" of OFT.  Through him we could relate to many of the issues that faced everyone who stopped in for lunch.  For those few years, Richard made a major difference in our lives and in the ministry of Springfield Friends Meeting.

Today on my Lenten devotional blog, The 40 Day Adventure, I challenge us all to live out Matthew 25:31-46; to reach out to those who are hungry, naked and sick, and to do so in the name of Jesus.  Every time I donate a can of tuna or some used clothing, I remember Yolanda and Richard and the impact they had on my life.  As so often happens in ministry, I am sure they influenced us much more that we did them...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's Game Time!


Over the years we played hundreds of different games at youth group, from the sophisticated to the stupid.  I assume most student ministries are like that; I could be wrong.  I think our games always had a lot of variety and creativity, and I know that some of them are quite memorable to the kids who played them. If you happen to be a former youth of mine who is reading, I'd love to hear which ones you remember. I bet someone from every group I was ever a part of remembers the Egyptian Mummy Race (see pic at right).  Let's take a stroll through the game Hall of Fame:
  • The grand poobah of all my games was Sardines.  I learned it as a kid from my youth leader, DB3, and then passed it along to every group I ever worked with until Waycross, where we had no decent place to play without disturbing people.  This was hide and seek in pairs, and it was a riot.  The kids at Springfield were really good at it. 
  • At TNT we often played versions of TV games shows.  We played Remote Control, a game of TV trivia based on the MTV show.  We did our own versions of the Dating Game and the Newlywed Game.  The Newlywed Game was especially fun because we would partner students who barely knew each other and make them guess at the answers to the questions. It was often hilarious.  We also used board games such as Taboo, Win, Lose or Draw and Outburst to create games we could play with a large group.
  • We had a great game we played on the pool tables at Springfield and Kissimmee called PIG.  It involved rolling a pool ball and sprinting around the table, and it was awesome.  We played a similar game on a ping-pong table called Round Robin.  Other active indoor games for the groups included classics like Fruit Basket Upset, Shuffle Your Buns (a musical chairs variation), Broom Hockey and Do You Love Your Neighbor?  All of these required lots of movement and lots of noise, so they were very popular!  And I haven't even mentioned the cults of Four Square players that sprung up at Springfield, in Kissimmee and in Tampa...
  • We played Brain Games, too.  These were always fun, but there was always someone who just never figured them out, so they often took a VERY long time to play.  "It can be Snoopy, but it can't be a dog..."
  • We played dozens of different Name Games designed to help students learn each other's names.  These games, at every stop along the way, were pretty much universally despised...
  • We had some outdoor games that were favorites as well.  Go Tag was a classic that used tons of energy and created mass confusion.  It also allowed lots of opportunities for creative cheating (Best creative cheater ever?  Todd Willis in Kissimmee), one of my favorite things about youth group games!  Wild Softball was another favorite, featuring a softball bat, a kickball and running the bases backwards or playing without a third base.  We also tried Wet'N'Wild Softball, where you were hosed down between third base and home plate.  We occasionally played football and basketball like normal people...but not soccer.  Don't get me started on soccer!
  • Over the last few years of my ministry, at Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa and in Waycross, we had a lot of fun with a device call The 4-Way Grinder.  It was basically a tug of war between 4 individuals with inner-tubes wrapped around their waists, all pulling in different directions (see picture at right).  Only minor injuries were recorded...
Why so many (and such weird) games?  For fun.  For exercise.  To build group unity and give the students a shared history to talk about.  All of those reasons and more add up to the main reason- being strange and unpredictable helps put butts in the seats so we can talk about Jesus.  It's pretty simple, really.  And it helps convey the message that following Jesus is NOT dull, boring or predictable.  It's a wild ride... and one with a GREAT finish!

Because of Jesus,