Kurt did a brilliant job of teaching an “after camp” message during our summer Midweek series in HSM. It was one of his best talks I’ve ever heard about coming back after the camp high into the real world. The video above has a few clips from it – thought you might like to hear some of it as well!


The worst part of summer camp? The crash! You squirrel kids away for a week, take away all their technology, and pump them full of nothing but Jesus and they conclude that week connected, hopeful, and holy.

A few weeks later….the camp-drug has been filtered out of their systems and the camp high is crash landing.

Conferences for youth workers can sometimes have the same aftermath. We attend; we spend a week away from ‘normal’. We take the wise counsel offered by Kurt, Josh, and other trusted youth workers to glean the most from our week ‘in the bubble.’ We go home. And after a few weeks of board meetings, parent confrontations, and pastoral smack-downs, our camp high has waned.

How do we make the conference experience more than a camp high?

1. Reflect. Journal. Blog. As God reveals truths to you, write them down. On days when you question His existence, those notes will be important to you!
2. Buy a CD or DVD from the sessions that impacted you most. On dark days, pull those out and revisit what was most inspiring to you.
3. Grab some downloads of sessions you wanted to catch, but had to miss because of scheduling (or napping!) Consider this your ‘nicotine patch’. Schedule some time every month to listen to a new session. Not only do you get continuing education year round, it’s sure to remind you what was best about the conference you attended as it sharpens you personally and professionally.
4. Continue the relationships you built through that week. (Yes, you should be building relationships throughout the week.) We’ve all watched those camp friendships go by the wayside a few weeks after camp has concluded. But with so many ways to stay connected, there’s no longer excuse for that. Maintain those relationships — maintain community.

I’ll confess. I’ve been in youth ministry for 23 years. (Yes….old.) I’ve been to at least 23 conferences. No one — NO ONE — does it like Simply Youth Ministry Conference. They embrace core values that really set them apart from every other educational experience I’ve ever had as a youth worker. That’s probably because they so skillfully intertwine education with relationship. I left that conference feeling valued, known, and understood. I left with ideas, tips, and truths that I am still applying today (3 years later.) I left with friendships that are deep and life-changing for me. I had never known a true connection with other youth workers until SYMC. (I’m going to blog some of those stories over the next two months!) After two decades of bouncing from conference to conference based largely on the quality of the brochure, I left with a commitment to return to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference annually.

Conferences no longer should be solely about playing a better game or building a better Bible study. You can get more than that. You can grab a year-long lifeline that pushes amazing education and training while embracing you, friending you, knowing you, and loving you. Go register….right now!

Darren is a veteran youth pastor (that’s code for old and in it for a long time) and co-founder of Millennial Influence – a resource for parents & youth pastors, including Mi Podcast – a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers. Check out his blog at http://everyonescalledtoyouthministry.com/

There’s a lot of talk in the student ministry world about how to cultivate a good relationship between the student ministry and the “big church” ministry. People write blogs about it. There are break out sessions at conferences about it. And I’m pretty sure that there’s a 37-point plan in a book at a bargain bookstore to make it work exactly right

We talk a lot about that relationship, but we don’t talk a lot about the relationship inside of the student ministry house. What relationship is that? It’s the relationship between the high school ministry and the middle school ministry.

At most churches where the student ministry is split, the middle school and the high school ministries rarely ever do anything together. They each have their own band, their own leaders, their own traditions, and generally just do their own thing.

We combine our middle school and high school for our fall camp each year. Over the past couple of years we have noticed a really cool vibe between them. All of our students interacted really well together. The high school students modeled what worship looked like to the younger students. The younger students reminded the older ones that were “too cool” to worship what it looks like to worship Jesus without caring what people think about you.

It was an environment that we realized needed to happen more than one weekend a year.

Last week we combined the two ministries for a worship night. We took over our worship center, combined bands, and planned a night that we thought could be very special. We wanted to base the entire night around baptisms and what came from that surpassed any of our expectations.

  • We were able to baptize 18 students and a leader.
  • We had at least five students accept Christ for the first time.
  • We were able to “recreate” that camp/retreat experience where students put everything aside and focus completely on Jesus.

One of the coolest moments of the night didn’t happen between two students. We invited family and friends of every student that was getting baptized. One grandma brought a friend of hers to the service. At one point during the night, the friend leaned over to the grandma and said, “I think it’s time we bring Jesus into our conversations.” This friend had no connection to our ministry other than being friends with the grandma of a student that was getting baptized but she still heard the Gospel and still was able to meet with Jesus.

The pictures from the night blew up on Facebook. Students were talking about it all over Twitter. We were able to get a recap video in “big church” this past Sunday to celebrate the night. All of the attention was able to be focused on Jesus and students making the decision to follow him and be baptized. We were able to build up our students and celebrate their decisions in front of our entire church.

Oh, and as for the whole relationship between the student ministry and “big church,” I haven’t written a book but having your senior pastor and executive pastor witness a ton of students worshipping together is a pretty good way to establish that relationship.

Have you ever combined your high school and middle school ministry? Do you do it consistently? Why or why not? How does it work?

Jonathan Carone is in his second year of internship at Two Rivers Church in Knoxville, TN. See video, pictures and a photo recap of the weekend he wrote about here, here and here.

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