A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to take a retreat with 19 of our students to Santa Cruz, CA. It was an incredible trip! This retreat was put on for the students on our Student Impact Team. These are the students that show up every week early for youth group to set up and stay late every week to tear down. These are the kids who are leading worship, speaking, and planning events for us! Without them, it would be impossible for us to run! So we wanted to plan a special event for them to say thank you and to pour into them.
The retreat started July 5th and ended July 7th. We arrived at Camp Santa Cruz at noon on Thursday and the kids all claimed their bunks! Camp Santa Cruz is a tiny Christian campground within walking distance from the beach, so we quickly prepped and ate our lunches and walked down to 26th avenue beach. Our goals for this trip were to help our students grow in leadership and grow in relationship! We worked so hard to see that happen throughout the weekend, but you could hardly call what we were doing work. If your work involves being in flip flops and playing volleyball for hours on the beach, it’s not work, it’s a dream come true. Friends, I am living the dream. As much fun as we had, we had just as much spiritual and leadership progress. After being down at the beach, we all came back for our first service. Pastor Chris and Sara Rogers led us in a time of incredible worship. Our students worshiped so passionately and the anointing was tangible. Pastor Roger spoke the first night about the leadership of Nehemiah and how to work through work through opposition when you have a vision in your heart. This was by far every students favorite message! The whole weekend they were quoting it! After service, we all went to Maryanne’s Ice Cream on Ocean St. in Santa Cruz. It was a memory I don’t want to forget! I loved seeing 30 of our people completely take over that place!
The Second day we had 2 services and 4-5 hours hanging out on the beach! Pastor Tony, a good friend of mine from Napa spoke for each of our services on Friday and with each word he poured out incredible wisdom. I loved seeing our students with their notebooks and bibles writing down notes. It shows their level of spiritual hunger. They wanted to remember everything that was said so that they could apply it to their lives and leadership. Saturday night we had the opportunity to sit down and talk about how to apply all of these concepts to our youth ministry. What really stuck about to me about this time was the level of leadership that our older high school students took. These older kids were once the younger kids in the group, leaning on the leadership of those older than them. Sometimes it’s hard for them to transition to being the one that others lean on, but for this group it seems so natural for them. This generation desperately needs leaders to rise up. Our kids are rising up and being those leaders.
The last day is always the hardest day. It’s so hard to see camp come to an end, but in order for our work to be complete, it was important that we took advantage of every last moment we had with these kids. That morning I gave our students a message called “you’re incredible.” It was a message based out of 1 Corinthians 12 and it was all about the spiritual gifts that God has given us. I encouraged them and told them “God has gifted you with incredible gifts to bless the church with, USE THEM! Be a worker for the kingdom, don’t be the kid that comes into youth service and just sits.” I told them: “in our family, we work. That’s what it means to be a part of this church family. We all participate and use the gifts that God has given to us.” I think this was a great way to close out this camp, by sending our kids back embracing the call of leadership that God has placed upon all of us. After service they got to put that message into practice by scrubbing down every square inch of Camp Santa Cruz. We closed our trip by taking over yet another famous Santa Cruz eatery. The 30 of us exceeded our daily carbohydrate intake in one meal at pleasure pizza. Let me tell you friends, it was worth every calorie.
In conclusion, I have a renewed conviction that one greatest act that a church or youth ministry can do is invest in their leaders. It will make the biggest impact, it will fuel growth, and it will multiply the effectiveness for the kingdom of God. We will, for the duration of my time as youth pastor, continue to invest a heavy amount of time and resources to the development of student leaders. They are the hope of this generation and they are the future leaders of God’s church.