What have you learned makes a serving experience or camp a great one?

Doug Franklin over at Leadertreks has some great thoughts on how most of this is up to the posture of adult leaders. Here are ten of his observations:

  • Mission_TeamGoing is not enough: “…we don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow.”
  • Be a trip mentor: “A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student.”
  • Have a purpose for the trip: “What do you want your students to look like when they return?”
  • Inspire spiritual growth: “Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines”
  • Find teachable moments: “…mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word.”
  • Challenge students: “… [it[ starts with challenging the top performing students.”
  • Get sleep: “Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
  • Add value to your adult volunteers: “… the number one problem I see over and over again is adult volunteers who have no idea what they are doing on the trip. They come because youth trips need adults, but beyond that they are not sure why they are there.”
  • Remember Boundaries = Love: “Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need.”
  • Stay connected to God: “You can’t impart what you do not have.”

(Read the rest of Doug’s solid article here.)

I think Doug is spot on. Just last month we had a major difference in a serving camp experience because of the investment we made into our adults, which in turn helped them better invest into students.

Which of his points most stands out to you?

Is there anything you would add or subtract?


Summer is a great season for youth workers. For some, things slow down a bit and you finally get some breathing room while for others, it’s packed with tons of extra events and activities. And even though the ministry I’m part of falls into the latter category, summer is still my favorite part of the year. So whether you are swinging in a hammock a little more often this summer or staying late getting ready for tomorrow’s youth event there are a few things you can do that will “Up” your summer.

“Grow Up”: Summer is a great time to read the latest youth ministry, leadership or personal growth book that’s been sitting on your shelf or taking up space on your tablet. Fall is a great time to say to folks around you, “This summer I was reading and….”

“Show Up”: Where can you show up this summer where your presence would be a welcomed surprise? Can you pop into the senior adults potluck and love on the oldies of your church? Maybe your parents have grown to expect you to miss family stuff in the summer because of your youth ministry schedule? Taking the time to “show up” unexpectedly in the middle of summer shows others that the ministry you lead isn’t the only item of importance in your life.

“Blow Up”: Summer is a fantastic time to make changes…especially changes for the upcoming school year. Far too many youth groups do way too much stuff simply because they are afraid to blow up an older, ineffective piece of their program. Sometime this summer, escape for three hours and make an honest list of the stuff your ministry still does every school year that it really doesn’t need to. Then, mentally light a fuse and blow that sucker up.

shareThis past weekend we opened up summer camp registration. So we themed this past weekend “Summer Camp Stories Weekend.” We had students share their testimonies about how summer camp impacted their life. They shared on stage in front of their peers during our services. We had 5 students share, and that was the message for the weekend. I will say it is definitely one of our most powerful weekends. Our attendance even increases. It’s just something about a student sharing their life’s story that grabs the attention of their peers.

In order for you to share your testimony you have to go through a process. Now, I started a process a while back that I didn’t know would be so impactful, but it has definitely taken our stories weekend to a whole-notha-level!!! A key ingredient in the very detailed process that I do is meeting with the student parents. I have the student read their story to their parents before they share it on stage. So the student, their parents and I, meet together. Whether they share or not, depends on how this meeting goes. I share with their parents what testimonies are all about and why we do them, and the student reads it right there in front of us. I’ve done a ton of these, and I can tell you that God shows up every single time. I’ve seen him restore relationships over and over. I’ve seen him wake parents up from their parenting slumber. I’ve even seen parents who didn’t care anything about God begin coming to church. I’ve even seen parents recommit their lives to Christ after hearing how He’s been changing their child’s life.

It’s hands down one of my favorite things to do because I get to see, without fail, God move. I get to see first hand how much God cares about my students and their families. I’ve seen God restore relationships, I’ve seen parents come to Christ through the power of their child’s story. This is really just a glimpse into the process, but I’ve been having so many conversations with students about the ripple effect this past weekend that I had to share, and encourage you to utilize and share the life change in your ministry. People are attracted to life change. Students are attracted to life change. So share it!

hope it helps


Okay, I’ll admit it; there are things about junior high ministry, and junior highers in general, that I just don’t like. It’s the stuff that I’ve tolerated for 25 years because of my love for, and calling to, this wonderful age group. Here are just a few things that make me cringe:

– The “Steal The Cute Boy’s Hat” game that girls love to play. You know the one: Girl steals boys cap and boy proceeds to chase said girl all around the youth room. Why do I loathe it so? I have no idea.

– When a junior higher, usually a girl and usually one with sticky hands, sneaks up from behind me, covers my eyes and makes me guess who it is. I know it’s a way of showing endearment, but yuck. Of course, if I was just a little taller my eyes would be out of reach which is why my junior high ministry buddy, Scott Rubin, has no idea this ritual even exists!

– The relentless questions by some students that just don’t need to be asked! Hey, I’m all for inquisitiveness and discovery…that’s a really fun part about working with young teens. But I’m not talking about that stuff; I’m talking about the kid who, while at camp, fires a barrage of unimportant, or previously answered questions: “When is lunch?”, “What do we do during chapel?”, “Why isn’t there any fruit loops?”, “How long is free time?”, “What do I do if I get bored?”, “Am I allowed to get a drink of water on my own?”. You know the kid I’m talking about.

– Close Talkers. I’m apposed to close talkers of all ages, and I think the habit starts in junior high when students are dying for attention and want to make sure they are getting it….in an up-close and personal way. So, in an effort to prevent them from a life of extremely awkward conversations (of course, close talkers don’t find it awkward AT ALL), I simply don’t tolerate the practice. I’m cringing just thinking about close talkers.

– That game they play at the table at camp…the one where they move their cups around and stack them to some sort of beat. I’m sure this dumb game has a name, but I’ve never stuck around in its presence long enough to learn it.

I’m sure there are other things that make me cringe, but those are the ones that came rushing to my fingertips as soon as I started to type.

Here’s your chance to vent (it feels pretty good, and it’s okay to do once in a while…). What about junior high ministry makes you cringe?

I really enjoyed Brooklyn Lindsey’s Packing for Summer Camp list from the other day – great insight and practical tips plus a few laughs as we rocket into summer camp season. Here’s about half the list – head there for the rest!

  • 6 T-Shirts: One for every day, plus one. The “plus one” is vital. One of your shirts will be destroyed at some point during the week.
  • 2 Shorts: It doesn’t matter what’s happening. You just wear stuff over and over and no one cares.
  • Towels: Bring the ones you can throw away. They will smell swamp-ish by the end of the week anyway, just pitch those things.
  • Sandals: Forget the running shoes. You have the rest of your life to work out. Get the extra sleep instead.
  • 2 Sticks of Deodorant: One for you and one for someone else. Because you’re a sweetie like that.
  • Swim Attire: Something you can play ultimate frisbee in and not get totally embarrassed.
  • Sunscreen: The spray kind to avoid the awkward “Can you put this on my back” moments when everyone but the bus driver is in the water already.
  • Bible: The one you write in when you’ve taken giant leaps of faith and decided never to look back.


Here’s the winner from HSM’s Summer Camp video contest – in all honesty we didn’t get a ton of them, but this one was really, really great!


we’re headed out this summer on a road trip of 62.1 miles to get to our summer camp venue – was wondering how far the average was for other churches, too. We’ve gone much further in the past (up to 150 miles away) and right now this one is close but feels far away. How about you – traveling this summer for camp? Vote now how far!



Don’t know about you but in this economy it seems like more and more people are asking for scholarships and discounts to events like camp. We’re trying out an idea this year (with our friends at Mission Shirts) to sell some summer camp-themed shirts to help raise funds for scholarships. It doesn’t hurt that they are fun and also help us with marketing. Just an idea I thought might inspire you, too!