Final installment, for those of you following.

Friday night was our final night at Spring Hill. After working all day on various projects like building a bridge, cleaning bathrooms, setting up a big tent, and washing yet MORE dishes, we finally settled in for the evening.

We wrapped everything up by focusing on a strategy for making good decisions. Our strategy including committing our ways to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3), asking for help on difficult situations (Proverbs 15:22), and not being quick in making life changing decisions (Proverbs 21:5).

Following that we talked about making decisions using situational ethics (basically reducing a decisions down to one principle – such as love – that trumps other truth) and majority ethics (if everyone is doing it then it must be okay).

Then we gave them a chance to think through everything from the week and apply it to their own personal decisions.

Overall it was a pretty good series to use for the week but I’m not sure if I would use it again. There were parts that were confusing and redundant (and repetitive). I wonder if more could’ve been covered. I did like the various quotes and stories that it used. I don’t always spend a good deal of time on those when I’m writing my own stuff. For the past 4 or 5 years I’ve written our own quiet time and lesson series for Spring Hill. This is the first canned curriculum I’ve used in a long time.

After our teaching we had an extended time of praise and adoration that was really sweet. At one point one of the boys fell asleep and started snoring. That was pretty funny (and definitely expected after a long week).

Then came the long-awaited game of “Capture the Flag.” I’ll just be straight forward. It didn’t go well. Our group is too competitive and has too strong a sense a fairness to just let things be. Add to that being very tired and having a bit of a restricted area to play in and it just made for a rough game with a lot of emotions out of whack by the end.

Saturday morning left us tired with a few more hours of work to knock out. We left after lunch and enjoyed a quiet, uneventful ride home. Many thanks to the parents who helped out by driving.

But, all in all it was a good week. There were a lot of significant conversations that took place and many were challenged. A lot of work was accomplished at the camp. Relationships were built, strengthened, and renewed. And, no one got hurt too badly. That’s always a plus.

As always, it was a good kick-off to our summer.

Whew! We are dragging today! It’s been a good week but I think I will be ready when we go home.

Yesterday afternoon was a good hard work day. It got nice and warm and most of our group spent the afternoon down by the lake digging deep holes with a huge auger and putting large posts in them. They must’ve dug 20+ holes! They were all hot and tired. Towards the end they got to test out some of the water games though so I think it made up for all the hard work.

This morning they’re out at it again in three different groups. We have a bathroom crew, dining hall crew (dishes, all things kitchen), and hole digging crew. Later on they are going to set stakes and put up a tent. They may not always like what they are doing but they have been doing a reliable job. I continue to hear positive comments from all the different staff that I talk to.

Last night was a good night. We changed the location of our meeting place so everything seemed to go more smoothly. Our time of praise and adoration was sweet. If only the church, as a whole, could have opportunities to praise like this all the time. I know it’s available but we just don’t give our best when we do it normally. Why don’t we (as a church)?

Our lesson last night was on taking the “road less traveled.” We took a deeper look at Titus 2:12, our theme verse for the week. Our goal was to challenge the youth to take the road that led to self-controlled, godly, and upright lives. One of the pictures that I kept painting was the picture of a “choose-your-own-adventure” story. Every decision we make leads us down this path where we choose our own adventure.

Following our teaching time we set out on our own little adventure around the camp. We were split into four groups and we visited four different people. Each person played out a different scenario where the youth had to make decisions.

The first scenario was a guy who was really struggling with his connection to God and the church and he was trying to get some advice from the different groups about how to connect.

The second scenario was trying to decide what a youth group should look like to a new visitor. What would the youth want their friends to see if they came to visit? One of the things that could carry over for those reading this is “what do you want your church to look like?” The next question that followed that was “what are you willing to do about it?”

The third scenario was pretty interesting. The group “accidentally” stumbled upon a homeless man while they were walking down a dark gravel road. He talked to them about making the decision to love all people as Jesus loved them and he challenged them about their responsibility.

The fourth scenario was a guy who had an interest in Christianity and needed help in how to make his decision…

So this was our goal last night – in all of this we tried to get them to think about a wide variety of decisions that they would have to make.

Following that we went to our campfire. And you really can’t have a campfire without smores! Out by the campfire there was a white sheet where they wrote out all the different decisions that they wanted to make when they got home. After they had gotten a chance to write out their decisions we took the sheet and threw it on the fire. We threw it on the fire for a couple of reasons. First, the fire represented the purifying process that we all want to go through with our decision making. We prayed that our motives would be made clean and holy. Second, I read from Hebrews 12 where it talked about God being a consuming fire. I prayed that we would be consumed by the holiness and awesomeness of God. When we are consumed by God then our decision making takes on a different perspective.

Finally, we gave the youth an opportunity to talk one-on-one with any of the youth staff regarding questions or decisions they were dealing with. All-in-all it was a great evening. People were challenged and I can’t help but think lives were changed. I’m praying that this doesn’t stop as they leave tomorrow.

Your prayers this week have been invaluable. Thank-you! I don’t know what the rest of the summer holds when we return but I do know who holds the summer. Our goal is authentic, godly relationships that reflect biblical values.

Last night coming up! Please pray for us…

It is about lunch time and it has been pouring all morning. It is so wet that we are sitting in the dining hall watching “Kung Fu Panda.” I’m getting some good lesson material from the movie but really not much else is happening. The YFC camp finished up this morning and they are all gone. I’m wondering if the next few days will bring a bit more normalcy.

Last night we talked about the battleground of decision making. We looked at black & white and gray issues. To address those things we talked about using biblical facts for the black/white situations and biblical principles for the gray areas.

I think many times we know the answers to black & white situations but just don’t do it. When it comes to decision making we need to take advantage of the objective truth that the Bible offers and use it to make decisions based off of those facts (and not our feelings). That can be so difficult sometimes!

Last night 2 of our graduated seniors joined us and this morning 2 of our freshmen joined us. That brings us up to a grand total of 16 which includes our 2 college interns, myself, and Alison (one of our female youth workers).

We had another visitor yesterday as well, one of our pastors. He came down after lunch and spent the afternoon with us. He enjoyed a bit of dinner with us and then took off. Seems that he didn’t want to spend the night in a cabin with no air conditioning or electricity. I can’t understand why he would not miss the creature comforts of home!

Our group is definitely tired. They’ve been working really hard and staying up really late. Seems like we just can’t figure out a way to call it a night at a decent hour. I continue to be proud of them. They are doing a great job. They are flexible, willing to go with the flow, and ready to jump in whenever a new task arises.

Please continue praying for us. Tonight has the potential to really challenge them. Pray that they would receive a second wind and be open to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to them through the Word and other conversations. Pray that they would continue to show patience with each other. And one other thing… Pray for Alison’s foot. I just ran over it with a whole big rack of tables. Oops!

Again, thank you for praying!

This is what it’s all about (and I ain’t talking ’bout the Hokey Pokey).

Yesterday was an off-and-on rainy day. There wasn’t as much work for us to do so we ended up with a few extra hours of free time. So far, in our free times, we’ve been playing Farkle, ultimate frisbee, and six-square. Six square seems to be a Spring Hill tradition.

Last night was supposed to be our skit night with the guys versus the girls. It became apparent as the evening wore on that the skits were only going to be mocking each other. The guys were going to mock the girls and the girls were going to mock the guys. It also became pretty clear that a few people were getting their emotions hurt because of a lack of unity. Because of this we decided to cancel our skits and have a “family time.” This family time was exactly what we needed. We were really able to address some things and, I hope, set a foundation for building a deeper loving, caring community. This, in my mind, is what youth ministry is all about; helping the youth to learn how to love each other authentically using biblical principles.

Last nights lesson was on “compromise, the enemy of decision making.” Here is the definition of compromise that we were using; decisions based on setting aside the objective truth of God’s Word and basing them on subjective evidence. After coming to that definition we began to work through what objective truth and subjective evidence were. Then we took a look at 3 stories from the Bible and asked ourselves whether the decisions presented were based off of objective truth or subjective evidence. Then we closed with some time of personal application.

It turned out to be a really good day. Our evening ended with a couple hours of stimulating political conversation (for most of us) and a few hours of rest.

For those that are praying, thank you! Your prayers, the prayers of righteous people, are accomplishing much. This kind of evening doesn’t normally happen on a Tuesday, if ever!

Keep praying… Tonight we look at “black & white” or “shades of gray.”

Alright, here we are, Spring Hill day II. I’ll be honest, yesterday was difficult for me. I was (am) really tired because I was up late the night before. I’ve gotten some great opportunities to talk with some of the youth and one of them was late on Sunday night! In addition to being tired things are a little different this year.

Spring Hill is hosting one of Youth For Christ’s regional camps. That means there are over 250 middle school students and staff here already. That has changed the way EVERYTHING looks. It’s Tuesday morning and, for the most part, we still don’t know when we are supposed to eat or where! It’s not a huge deal. It’s just that I like having a little more detail and information about what we’re doing.

Our work groups are split up to work with Spring Hill’s work groups. In one sense that’s really good because they get to know other staff and don’t have to do the same things they’ve done in the past. In another sense it’s really weird because all we have to do, as youth staff, is sit by and watch as things function.

Our cabin experience is a new one too. We are in the Grouseland Hilltoppers. If you don’t know what those are, they are cabins on stilts out in the middle of the woods. What makes it even more fun is the cabins don’t have electricity! For the past several years we’ve had electricity and even air conditioning. This is a change! We are making it work and it has been pretty fun – so far.

It rained Monday evening and it is raining Tuesday morning as I write this. It looks like our cars may need a little work after our work at Spring Hill. I’m really thankful for car washes.

Our meeting times are different too. We are trying to work around YFC and their schedule so we try to remain flexible and grab our times where we can. I hope we can settle into something more reliable as the week moves on.

Last night we talked about decision making and examined 2 different stories; Adam & Eve and Jesus Christ. We decided that a diagnosis needs to be based off of three things… Was truth known? Was truth understood? And, was decision based off of biblical fact or feeling?

If you are following this please pray for us. Pray that we would get the rest we need. Pray that we could really develop authentic loving relationships. Pray that we would be flexible and keep a heart of service. And pray that these truths of decision making would take deep root in our lives.

I love this week at Spring Hill. Every year God stretches us in different ways. It’s in these times when we are beyond ourselves that we see God in a greater way. Yes, it can be painful – but it is good!

This week starts our annual trip down to Spring Hill. This year we’re taking about a dozen high school’ers down to camp to help out in any way the camp needs. This year I got to bring a few of my Decatur students who just graduated. This is one of the other reasons why I love being able to teach in the public school!

This year our theme is “diagnosis,” how to make decisions. I’m really excited to see what this week will bring. I will try to give regular updates so check back often.

Today our youth are divided into 3 groups: bathrooms, kitchen, and other random projects. They are working from 9-12 and then 1-5. After that we all pitch in and finish off the dinner dishes and do our stuff together as a group. Our “stuff” ranges from ultimate frisbee, different walks, worship time, teaching time, and team-building stuff.

More stuff as it happens!

In my last post I began to tell about our annual trip to SpringHill. In this post I’ll share a few more things that were memorable.

6. Every year, for the past 3 or 4 years, I have written a devotional for the youth to follow all week long. This devotional not only gives them a daily focus but also guides our evening messages. This years theme was “Who Am I.” We took a look at where we get our identity, why we chase after the world’s version of identity, and who God says we are. After that we spent some time on spiritual gifts and how to serve the broader body.

7. We had several disappointing situations that came to light throughout the week. Quite honestly, it made for a very hard week. Many of them were resolved with a high amount of integrity once they confronted though.

8. There were a lot of storms that week. We spent a lot of time in the storm shelters. The was one question that kept coming to my mind. Where do you go in the midst of the storm (figuratively)? There were a lot of physical storms and spiritual storms that week. What do you do when you face the storms of life?

9. We stayed in a place called TST Village. It is an area that has four cabins surrounding a big tall light post in the middle. At night, after dark, bugs were attracted to the light. Because of the bugs, bats were attracted as well. Because of the bats, high school boys were attracted too! I was amazed to see the bats come in to catch the bugs (and the rocks thrown into the air). The bats never ventured too close to the light though. They always caught the bugs on the periphery.

One night it struck me that, spiritually, we are the bugs, moving towards the light. The closer to the light we are, the safer. The bat is Satan, prowling like a lion, looking to devour those who stray too far from the light.

Many of our youth (and us) get caught up in the periphery of the Christian life. They don’t want to live too close to the light because of the commitment it would require. On the other hand, they are just far enough out to be in a grave amount of danger.

There is so much more to comment on about this week but I’ll stop there.

Pray for our youth. Pray for our churches. Pray for our families.