Monday, March 7, 2011

Live Out Loud!

Myrtle Beach, 2002
 My first summer (2002) at Wesley Memorial UMC was fast approaching, and never before had I faced so many challenges and had so many things I needed to accomplish.  The group was not very close.  There were strong cliques and a number of outcasts.  The ministry had been seen as boring, except for the youth choir Antioch- which no longer existed after the departure of our senior pastor and his wife.  The Antioch tour had also been their only trip.  Our new pastor had arrived, but he had other issues to worry about.  I was famous for my wild and woolly summers programs and trips, and I needed to blow the Summer of '02 out of the water.  For our theme we would use the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Live Out Loud!  My hope was to help these youth understand that in order to turn this thing around we could not keep the same old attitudes.  We needed to live life as Jesus taught us.   As I looked at our needs and what I might do about them, here's what I put together...
  • A mission trip.  I wanted to use the Center for Student Missions and serve in Nashville, but we would wind up in Washington, DC instead. I felt getting the kids out of their own lives and invested in serving others would be a great start to improving the way they treated each other.  It turned out very different than I expected, but that story will come later.
  • Spiritual Renewal.  The summer would begin with 12 hour Chain of Prayer, with students signing up for 30 minutes at a time.  We would crank up our Wednesday Night Live program with more Bible study.  We used the theme of Believe It Or Not Bible Stories.  Each study would be followed by a fun event.  It was important to form good spiritual habits, especially with a lot of new students joining the group.
  • Fellowship Events.  I fell back on many of the things that had worked for me in the past.  Things like Dudes Night Out, Girls Night Out, SHO-Time, One on One and The Lunch Bunch would help me to connect with them, and hopefully help them find new friendships outside of their cliques.
  • Fun Trips.  This was something they had really not done much of at all at WMUMC, but I was determined to keep trying after the very stressful Ski Camp.  There was great excitement about a possible Myrtle Beach trip, and even though the Betsy B was not available I began to put together a week-long adventure.  In addition, I invited the youth to join me on my annual pilgrimage to Atlanta to see the Braves play.  Just offering these 2 trips changed a lot of the atmosphere and attitude about our youth ministry.
  • Youth Week.  The first Youth Week at Wesley would be pretty low key because of a lack of funds, but I wanted to set a tone for future events and make sure our students and adult leaders learned that this would be the focal point of summer for years to come.
I prepared for the summer with fear and trepidation.  Summers had been so amazing at Springfield Friends Meeting and FUMC-Kissimmee, but had bombed mightily at the Union Church of Hinsdale.  Things were off to a rough start over my first few months in Tampa.  My prayer was that summer would rescue us.  And first up was our Mission Trip.  That story Wednesday...

Because of Jesus,

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