Thursday, October 22, 2015

One Insane Day in Youth Ministry

Happy Throwback Thursday! I have mentioned on many occasions that youth ministry often causes you to push the limits of sanity in order to increase excitement and attract students.Over the years many of those days have occurred during the summer, especially during Youth Week.  Today we remember one very wild and wacky day.

Tuesday, July 8th, 1997 was a part of Youth Week '97 at FUMC-Kissimmee which featured the theme It's Good To Be Alive!  At the end of this particular day, I might have questioned that! We began the day by meeting at FUMC-K at 9 AM and heading over to Disney's Yacht Club Resort and the character breakfast at the Cape May Cafe (see group picture above). The all you-could-eat buffet featured every breakfast food you could imagine, including Mickey Mouse waffles. One of my favorite parts of the meal was that I could get orange juice, coffee and chocolate milk all at the same meal without paying extra. Plus, you got to eat with Pluto, Goofy, Chip, Dale and Donald. It was a great start to the day...but it was only the beginning!

We returned to the church around 11:30 AM, where many of the youth just hung out until 1 PM and the next phase of our journey. Others joined us, and we headed to The Florida Mall for another of our famous Mall Scavenger Hunts, including the search for The Pink Panther (for an explanation, click here!). After a long afternoon of invading every store in the mall in search of the answers to trivia questions, we returned to the church around 5 PM and the students went home...for a while. In the meantime, summer intern Jerry Hanbery and myself had more work to do to be ready for the final event of the day.

We had rented a huge, World War II era searchlight to use as part of the grand finale. After the kids went home for supper, we hauled this gigantic light out into a large pasture on the outskirts of Kissimmee and prepared for the big finish. When the crowd returned at 8 PM, we divided them into vehicles and gave them one task-find the giant searchlight. As darkness fell, the light was turned on, and you could see it for miles around. Determining where it was coming from was a bit more difficult. Our original plan had been to have worship at the site of the searchlight, but it was brutally hot and there was thunder and lightning, so as groups found the site they were sent back to the church. Some groups were able to find it fairly quickly; for others, it took a while. Once everyone made it back to home base, we had snacks and settled in for a time of worship. We finished around 10:30 PM and sent everyone home. It was an amazing day. Well over 100 students participated between the three events. The Spotlight Search was another of those weird things we did that had the whole community talking, and had our youth saying once again, "I can't believe we just did that!"  And the day ended with dozens of students praising Jesus. It just doesn't get any better than that!

I don't know that any of these events, taken on their own, were particularly memorable to the youth who attended, but days like this were very important to the ministry.  They were days that Jerry and I looked forward to every summer. The great Tony Campolo once wrote a book entitled The Kingdom of God Is A Party. I hope we communicated that feeling in our ministry, and in those wild, wacky days.

Because of Jesus,

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