This weekend, Kenny and I got the chance to hang out at The Middle School Ministry Campference. And it… was… awesome.
Let me tell you some of the cool things I learned.
Oh, but first, if you don’t know anything about The Campference, here’s what you need to know:
- It’s a gathering just for the Middle School Ministry tribe.
- It happened at SpringHill Camp in Seymour, IN.
- It’s sort of a conference (with speakers and breakout sessions and things), and it’s sort of like camp, with crazy free time options (like paintball-ziplining), shared meals (just like at camp!), and tons and tons and tons of conversations.
- Everyone at The Campference is a peer – including the speakers. Everyone hangs together, eats together, rooms together, and makes some new best friends.
Kenny and I got to lead a couple of sessions about games and environments and marriage, which was really fun. And I got to do a little “Soapbox Rant,” which I’ll talk more about tomorrow.
But today let’s talk about the cool stuff we learned in sessions. Want to hear some of my favorite takeaways?
Dave led the opening session of The Campference.
Drawing from the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Dave spoke about faithfulness.
In the end, he said, our faithfulness to God is really all that matters. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Here are a few of my favorite things he said…
“There is a river of faithfulness flowing through every moment. We get to decide, with each new moment, if we’ll swim in it.”
“Faithfulness is living and working in Jesus, obsessing exclusively over his agenda.”
“Have I been totally faithful to Jesus today?”
“Faithfulness is enough.”
“Do less. Be more.”
I had never heard the name Amanda Drury prior to The Campference. But I am so glad that I did. This girl. Jeepers. She is so smart. I wish I could have written down every single word that came out of her mouth.
She’s a Princeton Seminary grad (a PhD, in fact – explains the smartness), and now teaches at Indiana Wesleyan University’s School of Theology and Ministry.
I sat in on two of Amanda’s sessions: a breakout about the importance of verbalizing matters of faith (especially for young teens), and her main session about doubt.
Let’s start with her breakout session, which she called Speechless…
“If we can’t talk about something, we will have difficulty believing it… It’s hard to believe in things we can’t talk about.”
“The words we say have the power to create, form, and change what we believe.”
“Talking about my faith makes me a more faithful person.”
One of the things Amanda addressed was how to help middle schoolers, specifically, talk about their faith, keeping in mind their age, development, and life experience. How can we teach young teens to talk about their faith? Here are a couple of thoughts that I loved…
“You have a testimony if you have ever experienced a miracle, an answered prayer, or anything good… ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above’ (James 1:17).”
“Look for the holy in the ordinary.”
And here’s a great practical suggestion Amanda gave for putting those last couple of thoughts into practice. Have you ever done that little game “Highs & Lows” with your students? You know, where everyone says their big “highs and lows” from the previous week? Well we can easily turn that little game into an exercise in finding the holy in the ordinary by rephrasing the question: “Where did you (or did you not) sense God’s presence this week?”
Amanda’s main session on doubt drew from the story of Thomas. Here are some takeaways…
“Perhaps the church is the perfect place to bring our doubts.”
“Many of us doubt, but we doubt quietly.”
In the story of Thomas, we see that Jesus allowed Thomas to sit with his doubt for seven days. Perhaps that’s because God sees something valuable in our doubting. Jesus eventually tells Thomas to stop doubting, but only after Thomas had experienced and become well-acquainted with doubt.
Sometimes the God we’re doubting is an idol – a God that should be doubted. When young teens are doubting, we’ve got to ask them a lot of questions.
“Tell me about this ‘god’ that you don’t believe in. Because I probably don’t believe in him either.”
Sometimes we have seasons of doubt where we need to live vicariously through the faith of others. And that’s ok.
Our faith weighs more than our doubt. Cling to your piece of faith. Even if it’s just a tiny piece, it’s enough.
The path of Pilate says, “I don’t know. I can’t know. I wash my hands of this.” The path of Thomas is much more difficult. It holds onto hope, even in the midst of doubt: “Until I see and touch…”
“You can’t choose who or what you doubt, but you can choose how you doubt.”
Mark closed out The Campference with a session about choosing the unchosen and loving the unloved. So perfect for middle school youth workers. We’ve got a lot of kids in our ministries who are feeling unchosen and unloved.
Here are some takeaways…
“Sometimes we need to get awkward if we want to connect with weird middle schoolers.”
“It takes courage to love the ‘unlovable.'”
Until Jesus, Peter was unchosen. He didn’t cut it with the smart kids. He wasn’t chosen to study with a rabbi – that’s why he became a fisherman. Maybe that’s why, when Jesus said, “follow me,” Peter was so eager to obey.
“Jesus saw potential instead of position, knowing it was going to be a long road of well-intentioned impulsivity, lousy theology, missing the point, and missteps.”
Until Jesus, Matthew was unloved. He may have had money and position, but, as a tax collector, he was hated by his people.
“Jesus saw past the persona to the person, and beyond the behavior to the beloved.”
“Our words have profound power.”
“We’re called to look past the presenting evidence… to paint a picture of what could be… to expose the kernel of awesomeness.”
“We embrace humility, remembering that we were also the unchosen. We were also an unworthy mess.”
So… as you can probably tell… The Campference was amazing. I’m so happy we went. More on The Campference coming tomorrow. So stay tuned. Or check out the #campference hashtag on the social medias.