SJH Spring Retreat breakdown

So, this past weekend we had an incredible opportunity to run our first-ever Jr.High Spring Retreat.

We met at a camp just around the corner from the church and spent the weekend growing together as friends, and challenging one another to grow with Christ.  It was somewhat of an experiment and I’ll just say, I’m already planning for next year’s retreat!

Here’s what we did.

– Friday Night –

An awesome chance to invite our graduating grade 8s, and any other student in the ministry that has been a part of the leadership team throughout the year.  We played together, had a campfire together, prayed together for each other and for the rest of the students arriving the next morning, and we started things off with  a challenge from John 10:10.

The theme of our retreat was “Survivor” (an awesome setting for team games).  So our challenge throughout our sessions was to not simply go on “surviving” in this life, but to truly live the life Jesus came to give us, an abundant life!  We had everyone that night write a letter to themselves.  The letter said where they were at in their relationship with Christ now, and where they want to be, and what they can do to LIVE A LIFE that will make that happen.  They sealed those letters in an envelope, not to be opened until September 1st.

– Saturday Morning –

For breakfast, we asked the leadership team to wake up early and help in the kitchen and setting up the dining room – what an amazing group of students we have with servant hearts!

By 10am the rest of the group arrived and we began our first main Session together.  We went through rules, played a round of musical chairs, and had a skit performed by one of our 3 skit-teams formed on the Friday night.  HILARIOUS stuff!

*Our challenge for the morning was to be more like the first church, that began out of people giving what they have for each other and sharing life together.  It wasn’t built in buildings and from sermons and ministries, it was built out of people’s desire to be together as believers.* (Acts 2)  This led to a great small-group discussion time talking about how people feel when they come to our church, our youth group, and how we can help make it a more welcoming place.

– Saturday Afternoon – 

We started off the afternoon with a favorite game of ours here at SpringvaleYouth – “SQUAMISH” – basically, full on warfare.  Trying to steal other teams’ tennis balls while defending your own and not getting your flag taken as you run into other zones.  It can get a little wild…this time we had one guy leave with a broken nose.  He did return later that night!

Lots of freetime and an epic Survivor-esque puzzle game filled out the afternoon.  Since we ran this retreat over Mother’s Day weekend we had craft supplies out during freetime and encouraged each student to make a card for his/her mother to take home on Sunday. Most students actually did it I think.

– Saturday Evening –

At dinnertime we ‘punished’ 5 students that showed up late for the meal by taping their wrists to those of the person next to them…making it very difficult to eat the lasagna meal before them.  Lots of fun.

After dinner we had an “Airband Competition” in which we assigned each group a song they had to perform to (as to their interpretation of the song) after a given practice time.

The song choices were; “What Makes You Beautiful” One Direction, “Firework” Katy Perry, “Hoedown Throwdown” Miley Cyrus, “You Belong With Me” Taylor Swift.  The team dancing to “Hoedown Throwdown” took the grand prize!  What an awesome event!

Session #2 began with a great time of worshipping together, and praying individually that God would reveal to each one of us what we are designed to do.

*The challenge for the night came out of Romans 12, that we are all parts of one body.  We were challenged to allow God to get to know you, to introduce yourself to Him.  Tell Him all the things nobody knows about you, and see what He reveals through that conversation about yourself.  Then, as each student placed a Jenga piece they were holding on the tower we saw that each piece matters to the puzzle.  You matter to God, you matter to the church, and you have a place within it that only you can fill*  This led to a small group discussion about what specific talent each student brings to the group, or to the church. Awesome honesty in this.

The night wrapped up with a rainy campfire and late nights in each cabin.

– Sunday Morning –

 Because of the style of the camp and our retreat, each team was asked to sign up for one meal to help prepare and clean up.  In some ways this caused tension with students that didn’t show up, but for the most part it was a great chance to help make the weekend flow.

Session #3 had another skit from our skit-teams, making everyone LOL even though we were too tired to move.  Then we sang together, including what seems to be the new anthem for our Jr.High, Phil Wickham’s “Beautiful”.

*The challenge for the morning was built on Jesus’ words, “love one another”.  We talked about what the church truly exists for, and that is to build God’s Kingdom here on earth by loving God and loving Others.  The question then is, how can we demonstrate love to those around us?*  Our small group time was encouraging as students were asked to think of ways we can change the world around us this week by loving one another as Jesus commanded us to do.

The retreat didn’t end until 4pm, so we had lots of time to clean the camp together, play another wide game, and take all the points the teams had earned into a final auction for prizes.

Will we do this again?  No question – ABSOLUTELY!

Do I encourage other groups to do a Jr.High retreat?  Get rid of the “Lock-In”, put together a retreat, do it, now!

— Thanks to Simply Youth Ministry LIVE curriculum for giving the foundation for our teaching time.

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Signs of Success – #3 – Desire

I’ve come up with a a few things I believe are Signs of Success in any Jr.High ministry, regardless                           of size and placement.

Sign of Success #3 – “Desire”

 I first came out to this youth ministry program when I was 16, I was here because of a girl and I had no idea what to expect…I think I’ve only missed 3 weeks of the regular program since.  Homework piled up on Thursday nights, work opportunities came up, as a leader I even moved an hour away and still drove up here each week just to be a part of what was going on here.  

When people truly show a desire to be a part of something,I believe that is a significant sign                              that you’re doing that ‘thing’ well. 

1. Students showing desire

I have a very complex, strategic way of understanding whether a teen wants to actually be at a program we’re running or not.  It goes like this;  Is he here? –> Yes = DESIRE TO BE HERE!  

Some teens are forced to go places by their parents, and it’s not hard to see who those students are.  Truth is, they will stick around for as long as the parents are willing to put up with the fight to get them there…OR you will soon see a change in this student’s attitude as they show genuine interest and desire to be a part of what’s going on.  

Some other teens force their parents to take them places, and in the same way – it’s not hard to see who those students are.  They will be at every single event, meeting, prayer time, game night, shoe-lacing night, and throw-up party (Doug Fields’ example) you advertise.  These are the students that soon will look for more ways to be involved.  The sooner you can pick up who these students are and begin plugging them into leadership positions, the better, you will only see their excitement grow.

Some (most) are just there.  Have they made the choice to be there?  Yes.  But we all know that when something better comes up – this student is outta here!  Thus, we have the daunting task in youth ministry of making this place (wherever you may be) something different than anywhere else this student would want to be.  *Hear me right* Don’t worry about making it ‘better’ – you can’t compete in that way with what teens want.  If you are aiming to simply be the ‘best’ thing there is, I don’t believe there is an objective scale in this sense in the teenagers’ brain – hence, they choose random tv shows and Facebook stalking over the “BEST PROGRAM NIGHT EVER!” 

Don’t try to be the best.  Put effort into developing leaders that understand how to live like Christ and demonstrate His love to the students walking in the door.  THAT is different, and THAT is what will create a desire within that student to be a part of whatever is going on in this ministry.  

…Stay tuned for; 2. Parents showing desire and 3. Leaders showing desire


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Signs of Success – #2 – Having a team

I’ve come up with a few things I believe are the Signs of Success in any Jr.High ministry, regardless of size and placement.  

Sign of Success #2 – The “Team”

The most often preached saying in teaching the practices of youth minitstry has got to be, “YOU CAN’T DO THIS ALONE!”  

…and it’s true, you can’t.  You may be the ‘perfectly’ crafted youth worker with high relational skills, the ability to sing and play the guitar and drums at the same time, a great stage presence, a part-time job as a touring sound & lighting guy, a love for education and reading, the ability to teach eschatological theories to a chimp, and can bake a mean batch of cookies…but unless you have a team of people around you doing those things, you’re creating a program based on you.  

Having a team is a sign of success because;

1. Teams breed excitement! 

– When people see a loving, friendly group of people that are all doing something they love together…they want to be a part of that!  Volunteers will be more likely to ask to be a part of this ministry when they see their friends/peers truly enjoying what they are doing, and being fulfilled in that.  

– When 5 people get together in a room and share their own ‘WIN’ from the night, it pumps everyone up.  Being able to share experiences together is a key part to keeping a ministry strong.

2. The team is doing things you can’t do/shouldn’t do.

– One of my favorite things is when a leader comes to me with an idea I never would have had, and they want to make it happen!  (tuck shop, praying throughout the program, game ideas, etc.)  My role is to empower and equip the team to do what THEY want to do in this place, for these students.  I love to watch them succeed in their ideas.

– The other side of that is when there is something I have been doing myself for years, and now finally hand off to someone else on the team.  Meetings, prayer, planning, speaking, etc…I’ve done pretty much every part of this program at some point through the years and nothing is better than watching someone else do it, and do it better than I ever did!  

3. When you leave, the ministry is sustainable.

– You will not be at this church forever, what will happen to your Jr.High ministry when you go?  What about when you are simply sick for a week, or go on vacation?  Having a team ready to take leadership creates sustainability for the ministry, and for you (also known as sanity).  Step back, let them take the helm, and watch it succeed. 

Your team may be 2 people, or it may be multi-layered with a few that you work closely with that then filter info down to a larger team, and on and on…the bottom line is;

share this ministry. 

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Signs of Success – #1 – Spiritual Growth

Part of our vision at Underestimated is for students and leaders to see their potential for change.  

I believe we are all constantly changing, you are either going forward or backwards, you cannot stay in the same place.  Why would a Jr.High ministry be any different?  So, how do we know that we are in fact moving forward?  What are the signs?  

I’ve come up with a few things I believe are the Signs of Success in any Jr.High ministry, regardless of size and placement.  

Sign of Success #1 – Spiritual Growth

Sure this might be a little too obvious to catch your attention, but stick with me.

There are way too many fun things we can get away with in Jr.High ministry.  I mean it really is the greatest place on the planet if you like to have fun!  There’s no doubt you can run a great program that kids will come out to…you could even run a terrible program that kids will come out to.  But we are in Jr.High ministry to see these young teens recognize their creative, unique calling from Christ and give their lives wholly to Him.  If this is happening, if you are witnessing this happening, there’s a SIGN. 

I can think of one-time quotes from Jr.HIgh students over the years that I look back on and chalk up as a great demonstration of the spiritual growth of our students in the ministry.  The truth is, the only way to see growth is to mark someone at one place, and some time later mark them again to see how they have changed.  Like measuring your height on a doorframe, you can see where you came from and where you are now. Image

If we are not able to mark a student at one place and then mark them again later in their journey how can we know if there is growth?  

One thing we are working on here at Springvale is something to help our volunteer leaders visualize where a student is at (on a bunch of different scales) in grade 6, and all the way up to grade 12.  We believe this will be an incredible help to those leaders to know that they have a key part at any point of that journey to make a difference in the students’ lives.  

The only way to find out about Spiritual growth in the lives of your students is to ask them.  Ask them where they’re at in grade 6, in grade 7, grade 10, grade 12.  Is there growth?  

Make a survey, listen for this as you discuss other topics, get your small group leaders to ‘report’ where their group is at, as students to rate themselves (1-10)…then come back the next year and do it all again.  Keep the stuff and compare.   


So, what are you doing to encourage spiritual growth in your ministry?  To offer opportunities for spiritual growth?  To push them in their thinking of who Jesus is and what he did?  Start there. Then figure out a way to measure the students’ growth in this area that works in your setting.  There’s an exciting report to give to the board!  



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How Haiti made me fall in love with Twitter OR How Twitter made me fall in love with Haiti *repost*

*This is a repost from Oct. 10, 2010.  As I reflect upon the 2 year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake I thought I would just throw this thought out there again.*

Twitter, obviously, is ridiculously popular among the social networking ‘scene’ (is it even a scene now, more like an era).

When the Haiti earthquake hit earlier this year, the world was praising Twitter for it’s instant news updates, opinions on the situation, and even cries out from survivors for rescue!  I was hooked.  I began to follow some of the major players getting news out from the ground level and I was checking every day, multiple times for what they were saying.
I had visited Haiti in 2007 for a mission trip and absolutely fell in love with Port au Prince, so my draw to finding out exactly what was going on, brought me to Twitter.  Today, I am still following some of the people I started following that week that are still there at ground zero.  (inc. a missionary, a radio personality, and a ‘regular’ citizen of Haiti).  Their tweets remind me to pray for the situation in Haiti.
So what am I supposed to tweet about?  I tweet in spurts, about 2-3 within 30 minutes, then nothing for a few days.  Usually about how I am feeling about Jr.High ministry.  My hope is not simply that this is a healthy release of my thoughts, some sort of therapy, but that somehow, somewhere, someone is reading my thoughts and is encouraged, is led to think, and hopefully led to pray for us.
Apparently 70% of tweets get no response from anyone.  Simply read, and forgotten about.  My question, is what I’m writing leading my readers to another thought…to fall in love with [Haiti] ?
Please follow @troylivesay (missionary, in Haiti), and @realhope4haiti (mission organization restoring hope in this broken country).
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John 15 – Christmas Break Study

Yesterday (John 14) was all about Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the Spirit.  Today, it’s all about you.  Your relationship with Jesus, with each other, with everyone else.  It’s one of the best, most ‘full of life’ chapters in all Scripture.  

January 5th – John 15
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The first thing I notice about this chapter – as we remember that he’s no longer in a ‘challenging’ dialogue with the Religious leaders but is now in an intimate setting with his closest friends and students – is how Jesus really IS a Rabbi, a teacher.  His style here demonstrates a clear way to get to a goal.  “Step 1, then 2, then 3.  Remember, if you’re not doing 2, you can’t expect 3.  Still confused about 3?  If I were to explain it another way, its more like…this.  Then when you are really living that much you will just see step 4, 5, and 6, come into your life.”
Often when I read this it sounds and reads like a bunch of jumbled up statements that go back on His thoughts and is really trying to hit one thing that keeps getting lost in the confusion of His message.  But I’m seeing now, it’s quite linear.  Jesus builds on His previous thoughts with the new ones.  I imagine the disciples sitting around the table, and Jesus seeing on their faces that they may not be understanding a certain part, so He hits it again.  But in reality, chapter 14 told us all about the God that loves us and His omni-presence.  And now we’re hearing about what to do about that love, that guidance, that Spirit being in us.  
Love Jesus, Love others.  

Follow the progression of this chapter, it’s chilling to think of what exactly Jesus is preparing us for.  
Obey my commands – then you will abide in my love – then you will bear much fruit – then you will be glorifying the Father.  Now, go, love one another – then you will be prepared for when the rest of the world hates you – then, “You will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (v.27).

take it one step at a time.  
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John 14 – Christmas Break Study

Buckle up, there may be no more important chapter in the Bible when it comes to understanding the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Want to know who your God is…study this chapter, research it, learn. 

January 4th – John 14
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  After a little while the world will not longer see Me, but you will see Me;because I live, you will live also.  In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

Here’s the truth, if you feel distant from the Lord lately, it’s your fault not His.  
Here’s another truth, you have the very same Spirit that is in our mighty God IN YOU.  

The other day we read John 11 and that has stuck with me, that was a life-altering reading for me, because I think for the first time I truly understand what it means to have life.  We look at the life of Jesus and are amazed at his words and believe the things he did and are amazed that he did them (like most of the crowds that followed Him around), yet we mosey on through this ‘life’ wondering what our purpose is, and sometimes struggling to get out of bed in the morning because we are so in need of rest and energy.  Maybe you’re not there now, but sometime this past year you probably were.  
Today, if you can take a little bit of extra time and just read over Jesus’ words here as he speaks to his very best friends about what is going to happen when He is gone, I believe you will begin to feel and understand the life He is speaking of.  Maybe today all you need is an encouragement that someone loves you.  He does.  And He has not left you as an orphan in this world.  And He ABIDES in you.  
And you live, because he lives.  

*Pray that you can understand the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit deeper today*
*Pray that you can know and experience the life Jesus offers.*
*Ask for anything in His name, and He will do it, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.*

It only gets better, tomorrow is John 15!
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