They Loved Me – They Really Loved Me.

springhillI spent a week at 5th and 6th grade camp.  I think I’ve done that almost every year since I WAS a 5th and 6th grader.

As I walked down the hill from my cabin last night, I could hear sponsors trying to call the kids to order; trying to herd those cats into their respective cages. And just like that, I was transported back to Spring Bluff.  The ringing of the bell meant it was time to head to the next thing.  And the flashlight of Brother Bill signaled how much trouble we were in for being out of our cabins!

Brother Bill – a true saint departed – roamed those grounds all night with his flashlight…sometimes masquerading as the pitching mound on the baseball field as the moon reflected from his rotund, white T-shirt clad midsection.  He roamed because he loved us.

Mitch and Cindy – our ‘parents’ in almost every sense of the word – allowed us each a small glimpse of a healthy happy family, whether we needed it or not.  They laughed with us.  They cried with us.  And now that I’m a youth pastor, I know how much they prayed for us.  They prayed because they loved us.

Larry, Julian, Burt, David, and 100 other partners in crime – my youth group ‘posse’ – tolerated, tortured, and sometimes teased….more than any of us ever should have.  And we listened to each other.  We listened because we loved.

And that small, round older lady – our ninja grandma whose name I cannot recall but whose face I still see clearly – made us clean our own tables, do the dishes again if we did a bad job, threatened us with a wooden spoon when we needed it, and treated every condition we ever had with water, band-aids, patience and a fierce kindness.  She bossed because she loved.

I don’t remember a single camp theme.  I no longer have any of the awards I got (not even Mr. Underpants…or whatever it was.)  I can’t even remember how many times I went to church camp as a kid.  What I do remember?  Those people loved me.  THEY changed my life forever.  Because they loved me.  And when you spend a week at camp, you become a lover who changes lives.  Never forget the role you play…it can rewrite legacies.

Preteens Are Precious

watchdog-groups-urge-facebook-not-to-target-ads-at-preteens-92ddcfe36cPreteens matter – and if your church does not have a program specifically for them, it’s time to add another plate to your spinning stick!

Kids are maturing (I use the word loosely) more quickly than ever before.  They’re grabbing hold of technology and truth earlier than any of their leaders ever did.  And they’re struggling to stay engaged at church!

Create something specific for them.  (In our format, it’s 5th & 6th graders).  Whether it falls under the kids ministry umbrella, the student ministry covering, or a weird hybrid of both (which could be awesome if you love your kids pastor), just make sure it happens.

In our context, we use junior high material.  (Yes, our kids are ready for 90% of it.)  We keep it very conversational.  We play more games, hit one primary teaching point (most days), and utilize a structure similar to student ministry so when they promote, they’re already familiar.  Our preteens have their own summer camp – and our 6th graders do not promote into the student ministry until the summer has concluded.

We also ask our preteens to attend ‘regular’ worship (as opposed to kids worship.)  We give them journals and do a series on how to glean from sermons, worship, and personal time with God.

Yes.  It’s more work.  But it is incredibly rewarding to watch those little minds opening up to the bigness of God as they prepare for adolescence.