Best moments from Summer 2018!

junior high ministry, youth ministry

This has been THE BEST summer of ministry I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to write a blog about one or two of my favorite moments, but found myself lost for words. So, here, in no less than 1600 words, are my favorite moments from this summer:

  1. Last summer we started a tradition that I call “Huddles with Heather.” Each Wednesday students can meet me at a local Frozen Yogurt place called Huddles, and we eat ice cream and chat. Last year we had, at the most, a dozen people. This year, we had no fewer than a dozen each week, sometimes hitting 20-25 people PLUS all the parents and students who came to hang out!
  2. Huddles was so awesome, that my summer intern and I made “Huddles with Heather” tank tops. We only printed 12, and they became the most coveted item of the summer.
  3. At Vacation Bible School, I led games for preschoolers (don’t laugh!). There was an awesome snack area for leaders to take a break in. There was a gaggle of 5th graders who were volunteering that week, and I got to know them–they were very interested in pictures of my cat. Since the fifth graders had only been in my middle school ministry two weeks, I didn’t know them super well. They came to Huddles that week, and brought friends with them. All of their friends ended up signing up for Mayhem!
  4. Each summer we do Middle School Mayhem. The following memories are from it. Watch this video to see more.
  5. There was a 5th grade girl who was crying and could not be calmed down by her fantastic student leader. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that her friend died last year, and today was his birthday. I gave her a hug as she cried, and I asked how he died. She said he committed suicide. From there, I took her into our office, and sat on the couch with her as she bawled her eyes out. She shared that he was bullied heavily, and the people who bullied him began bullying her for being sad he’s gone. She shared about the birthday party he had planned for that day, his 11th birthday. From there, I decided we’d have a birthday party. One of our leaders grabbed a piece of cake from a local place, and that student, her leader, and I had a “birthday party” in my office, huddled around a piece of chocolate cake, sharing stories and asking questions about her friend. It was one of the most holy things I’ve ever experienced. Because kids shouldn’t die that early. And we should give space for kids to grieve that stuff.
  6. There were a few 6th grade boys who LOVED our devotion times this year at Mayhem (a struggle in previous years to get kids to settle down). They wanted more than 20 minutes of quiet time so they could “meditate” after finishing their journals.
  7. I’ve been investing some time into a 6th grade girl, and she made me an entire “Photo Gallery” of different sketches of things–her Bible, our Mayhem logo, a picture of me, some words that describe me, and things like that. Then, later that week, she wrote me two notes: one that described how thankful she was for our relationship, and another expressing a really heavy prayer request because she “just wanted another person to know.” How fantastic that students can come to the church with that stuff.
  8. The Pink Team was KILLER this year. I had an entire Tribe of 7th grade girls, and gave them the color pink. They created an entire Pink cave complete with so much pink, I literally had to sit down to absorb it all. Although the girls were a little points-hungry at times, their leader kept them humble and with a positive attitude.
  9. A student leader expressed to me the week before, during set up, that she was interested in youth ministry…even middle school ministry. Somehow, through the holy spirit, we decided that she should teach during Mayhem…to over 100 people! For her first sermon! And she CRUSHED IT. Her tribe even created a poster for her, signed by everyone on the tribe, to cheer her on.
  10. Another student leader baked an entire sheet cake with his father, and brought it to Mayhem on the last day to share with his tribe. It was such a huge cake, that he was able to share it with the group. Nobody could believe that he actually made it, it was so impressive.
  11. ALL of my student leaders impressed me LEAPS AND BOUNDS THIS WEEK. Holy cow. Each one of them served at the level of an adult, with such poise an maturity.
  12. We had 3 busses try to break down on us, but not once did it ruin or plans or make us late. Praise God!
  13. This year we added “Yay Gods” and “shoutout” to our daily routine, something we do on our YouthWorks Mission Trips. The kids loved it and anticipated it each day.
  14. Each year I get rained out of the local swim park. This year we were able to book a fantastic side plan, going to a local place for bowling and laser tag. The students had a blast.
  15. With each student who “got in trouble,” we were able to preserve the relationship and adjust their experience so that they felt successful that week. Such a success and God thing.
  16. OUR ORBEEZ POOL WORKED. We had a dream of filling a swimming pool full of water beads. It definitely failed during our test period (the pool popped) but the students LOVED IT. Oh yeah, and no one threw up in the foam pit this year.
  17. Last year I had a 7th grade girl who drew me as Willy Wonka (our theme was Chocolate Factory). This year she made me a new drawing, and everyone was so excited to see her next installment. Before you know it, my office will be her official art gallery and I LOVE IT.
  18. We had two new adult leaders this year, who totally dug and understood the middle school age. One of them had a particularly tough group, but never complained, even though he was going home to two babies each night.
  19. MISSION TRIP memories to follow from here — which this year, we brought 41 students and leaders on! My first year here, I definitely brought seven. Ha!
  20. One night during small groups, I overheard a small group leader saying to a girl “own it!” I heard the girl say, “I could maybe be a pastor.” The small group leader said “don’t say maybe!” and the girl responded “i could be a pastor!” That girl then told me that she was considering ministry. On the last night of the trip, she stood in front of our entire church group and told them that she might be a pastor when she grows up!
  21. The boy who needed space to think, and stepped out of small groups time. Talking to him, I learned he’d had a rough year, and had some doubts. He was thankful that our church didn’t teach black-and-white theology. He still seemed unsettled. During the last night of the trip, he stood up and told the group that through death and heartbreak in his family, he knew he could always come back to St. Luke’s and find a home here.
  22. The siblings who never separated from each other before, but found their separate identities at the trip.
  23. The group of girls who embraced another girl, even though she kept pushing them away and attempting to be a loner.
  24. After the mission trip, I asked students to send me on Instagram stories of how their Small Group Leaders have impacted their lives. One girl messaged me, saying that her SGL influences her to consider how ministry could be a part of her vocation–making this the fourth girl of the summer, and the sixth in eight months to tell me that she’s exploring ministry vocationally!
  25. This year, I didn’t have to argue with a single kid about showering. God works in all things, big and small stinky!
  26. On the mission trip this year was an 9th grader who, in 7th grade, had to “quit” Confirmation because some things came up. I really didn’t want her to quit, because I knew she’d be separated from her friends if she repeated the year, with the kids a year younger than her. This last year she was a great Student Leader for the 7th graders, and was very nervous about going on the mission trip this summer. She reconnected easily with her 9th grade friends, and on the last night, stood them in front of the entire room and told of their loyalty and kindness.
  27. Two of our pastors are leaving the church, and taking their incoming  7th grade daughter with them. She came on the mission trip, bringing her entire entourage with them. I was concerned it might be tough, spending a “last week” with them… but the group celebrated her and her family, and as an entire group we sent this girl off with an emotional prayer. She’s going to be a cornerstone at her new church, and we’ll miss her. But it was awesome.
  28. There was another young lady, who came on this trip, but had never come to St. Luke’s before. She said to me, “Are all Methodists like this? You guys are so kind, and emotional. Lutherans aren’t like this.” I joked with her that mission trips get emotional for everyone, but she was able to pinpoint something special about our group. And I mean… they are special.

I know that as soon as I hit “publish,” there are going to be several more things that pop up in my brain. This summer has been SPECTACULAR, and if you read every word, I want to thank you for celebrating this summer with me. :)

One thought on “Best moments from Summer 2018!

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