This weekend, 143 of our students and leaders will be heading to Camp Willow Run for the annual fall retreat, with its uber-cool one-word title: ONE.
For the first time in six years, I’m tagging along as a volunteer leader. I cut my ministry teeth as a student pastor. My wife and I loved it, no matter what it brought: Bible studies interrupted by kids doing underarm farts? Loved it. Late night weepy sessions at camp with kids who had given their lives to Jesus? Loved it. Gross youth group games where somebody had to eat peanut butter off of someone else’s forehead? Loved it…so long as it wasn’t me.
I always thought I’d be the first student pastor to have his grandkids in the youth group, but God took me down a different path. Today, I return to my roots. Today, I’ll be locked into a CWR train car with another leader and nine 7th grade boys. Today, I’ll trade my connections knowledge for Chuck Norris facts. Today, I’ll be humiliated as I try to take my staff retreat kickball skills and school some adolescents.
This weekend will be cool because my own 7th grader, Jacob, will be a part of it. Whether or not he’ll acknowledge me as his dad in front of his friends is left to be seen. Our StudentLIFE staff wisely ran interference and placed us in separate lodging, so as not to inflict permanent emotional scarring on his coolness.
You can pray for us this weekend. The StudentLIFE crew has spent months planning an amazing experience, and I have no doubt that many, many kids will do business with Jesus. And if you want to see the largest collections of green camp shirts in the world, be in the 10:45 Brier Creek service Sunday morning.
But bring air freshener. I have a feeling the kids in my train car won’t be bathing. They are seventh graders, after all.