last year i took a big risk. well, i took a bunch of them; but one of them, for sure, was to put on the first-ever national event just for people who work in churches with junior highers. this is my tribe-within-a-tribe, my people. i love middle school youth workers maybe even slightly more than i love middle schoolers themselves.
four amazing organizational partners believed in the dream and took the risk with me (simply junior high, christ in youth, group mission trips, and springhill camps). i called in favors from middle school ministry friends (who, frankly, didn’t take much convincing, because they couldn’t stand the idea of missing it). and 75 people trusted us enough, or were desperate enough, to attend the event. honestly, i was worried — a month out — that it was going to be too small. but as the event drew near (last october), i had this deep sense that the size was going to be just perfect for the first time out. i still figured, at that point, that it was a one-time thing.
then the middle school ministry campference happened. and all of us who were there felt like we were on holy ground. we could tell we were onto something. every single one of my hopes and expectations were surpassed. it was like no other youth ministry training event i’d ever been to. “speakers” stayed for the entire event, hanging out, having meals and conversations and laughing fits with the level playing field of attendees. even michael flaherty, the CEO of walden media, instigated late night shenanigans.
people who attended said things like:
MSMC was everything you love about camp – fireside chats, laughing until your sides hurt, worship, and the felling you’ve made an entire army of new friends who love random, awkward, authentic, and deeply impressionable middle schoolers. I left refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to go back and love middle schoolers and their parents to Jesus! (elizabeth)
The MSMC just confirmed the importance of middle school ministry and confirmed my calling from God to continue in this work. (andy)
Wait! There are other people like me? I think this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed the campference. To hang, talk, laugh, pray and cry with like-minded people. (mark)
and, people begged us to do it again.
honestly, i kinda put out a few fleeces to god. i don’t know that they were hard-and-fast fleeces. but they were questions i needed god to answer for me.
first, i needed to know that at least a couple of the partner organizations would support the idea. i checked with them, and was thrilled to find out they were all ‘in’ for another year (that was a huge confirmation from god, actually).
second, i felt we needed to find a good location for the campference that was farther south. this was a conflict for me, because springhill camp in evart, michigan, had been such a generous partner, with a facility that rocked. but springhill came back and offered their south camp, in southern indiana. check.
finally, i wanted to hear from my inner core of middle school ministry peers (a.k.a., the “speakers”). 100% unanimous, they were all in, and certainly not with reluctance!
so, here we go! the 2012 middle school ministry campference is a reality, and the site is live. we’ll take registration live in a couple months (though you can enter your info if you want us to let you know when that happens, or keep you informed of other developments). just yesterday i invited a very special guest to join us, someone i would be so completely, off-the-charts stoked to have join us.
much more to come in the months ahead. but i hope — if you care about junior highers and middle schoolers — that you will join us this year.