Got back from an incredible weekend up in the mountains here in Southern California. We took our students on our annual Winter Retreat. Thought I would share a few of the highlights -

  • We stayed 2 nights up at Mile High Pines Camp – no snow, but nice and cold this time of year.
  • Ron Merrell was our speaker. We had him 2 summers ago at camp and loved him, had to bring him back.
  • Student-led workshops (30 minutes each, students could pick 2) were also really strong. Students prepped really well for them and did a great job.
  • Simple music – just a guy and a guitar. SUCH a great change of pace.
  • It was incredibly fun to honestly sit back and watch our volunteers really pastor our students. At this simple 48-hour camp volunteers drove pretty much everything.
  • We’re developing a pretty strong sense of story. Whenever we gathered together the leaders the first question we would ask was looking for stories, and we were never disappointed.
  • Fun to have some longevity! Been doing camps for quite a while now – fun to have old friends there every year as leaders, and break in some incredible new rookies as well.
  • The event broke even! Woohooo! We didn’t lose money!

Great weekend for sure. Are you doing Winter Camp/Retreat this year?


Enjoyed stumbling across this old blog post from Ron Merrell (he was our camp speaker this past summer) about the 4 P’s of Church Stickyness. Program, People, Placement and Promise. Here’s a clip of his thoughts on one of them – head there for the rest:

PEOPLE – Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?

This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.

Is your church … your youth ministry … sticky?


Here is the bumper video we used at HSM Summer Camp – simple but sweet take on Fulfilled – Escaping the Empty.


Day 4 highlight video from HSM Summer Camp!


Day 3 highlight video from HSM Summer Camp!


Day 2 highlight video from HSM Summer Camp!


Weekend Teaching Series: Thread (summer camp registration kickoff weekend 1-0ff)
Sermon in a Sentence: You are God’s masterpiece.
Text: Psalm 139:13-16
Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in this summer’s HSM camp speaker to promote this summer’s big event in HSM. We had picked Ron Merrell and were so excited to have him teach what has now become the official registration kickoff weekend. Now, we’ve never done a weekend like this before, and honestly hadn’t heard or seen much from Ron so it was a risk. To some degree, this was going to be a preview of summer camp. It was awesome! Ron is a great communicator and students were introduced to his heart and passion for Christ. Students walked away challenged about their identity in Christ and many were already buzzing about HSM Summer Camp. Mission accomplished, great weekend.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week had some fun on stage with a game of “Let’s Make a Deal” and a cover of a OneRepublic song. We had lots and lots of balloons (goes along with the summer camp theme) and a huge camp signup/info table. Lots of student greeters and energy, especially considering we were coming off the week break from Easter.

Music Playlist: OneRepublic opener, Our God, Divine and Holy, Your Love is Enough

Favorite Moment: I think we just established a new tradition in HSM – the summer camp kickoff weekend. Really inspiring and awesome, proud of the team and excited for our students. The only way it could have been better was if we had the summer calendars to handout, too (my fault, I’m a little behind from vacation still). I spent some of the weekend up in big church doing the announcements and promoting summer camp registration to parents, too.

Up Next: How to Raise Your Parents (series premiere, week 1 of 3) [read the whole series are here]