In April 2009, I co-lead my first youth group trip (ever) to Dare2Share along with Pastor Dale. We took 7 kids all the way to Chicago.
February 2010, Kevin and I lead our second group to D2S, this time in Columbus, OH.
And in February 2011, we took our largest group ever (21 teens and 6 adults) to the Columbus conference.
Last year was our first at a new church and we took the teens to a local snow camp that they had attended in the past. Kevin and I knew it would be a challenge to get a group on board with the idea of a teen gospel conference when none of the students could share stories from how awesome this weekend can be. But we spent the next many months talking it up, playing Greg Stier videos, telling parents about the life changing purpose of the event, and convincing 12 students that this was going to be an EPIC weekend to remember.
|back - Kirsten, Laurel, Pastor Kevin, Olivia, Logan|
middle - Matilda, Alyson, McKenzie, Calandra
front - Melanie, Catherine, Riley, Elliot, Nate
I have to confess, this was the first time I have ever NOT been in a tizzy the morning (or even the week of) the big event. I never felt sick to my stomach with nerves. I didn't get stressed out. I never once cried. Kevin and I didn't even argue!
PRAISE THE GOOD LORD. a serious miracle.
It also has a lot to do with the fact that my husband, the official pastor, did 99.9% of the work preparing for this trip. He talked to parents, hunted down paperwork, found replacements for all 7 of the students who backed out for various reasons, bought the tickets, organized payments, talked with the pastor of the church we were staying at, orchestrated the use of two different families' vans for the weekend. I was just along for the
ride drive. It was a beautiful thing.
|girls goofing off during some Saturday down time.|
I drove one van filled with 6 lovely high school girls. Our ride was generally quiet, aside from a few sing-a-longs and an outburst of giggling here or there. Kirsten (my co-pilot, a senior, and a dear girl) and I had some really awesome conversation between the two 6 hour drives. She was a great help, texting people for me, pulling up the right songs on my iPod, passing the toll booth money to make, gently pointing out when the light was "green."
Kevin's car, on the other hand, was a loud, crazy conglomeration of 7th and 8th graders. When my 6 girls were conked out during the first 2 hours of our return drive, his kids were playing a rowdy game of "telephone" and making "snowmen" out of the Oreo's cream filling. God bless him. (I think I found a few extra gray hairs on his head this morning. *wink*)
You can't fully prepare your students for the intensity of an event like this. The music is phenomenal (and LOUD), the worship is powerful and they may feel uninhibited for the first time; the skits and speakers are hysterical and engaging, yet profound and soul-stirring. These students were challenged to really KNOW the message of the gospel, the good news about salvation through Jesus Christ, and then tell their friends about what they're learning.
They spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon writing out their testimonies (see below)--the personal, undisputed story of what God has done to change their lives from what it used to be or what it could have been. And they practiced hearing one another's stories and engaging in active listening.
|Catherine, Matilda and Calandra work on their testimonies|
Kirsten and Riley are in the back doing the same.
We were so thrilled that the students LOVED the headlining band Everfound so much. In fact, they were so pumped about the final session that they waited in lines for the doors to open AN HOUR before the doors were going to open (an HOUR before the session would start). That's a really good sign! Sure enough, they secured us 3rd row seats to the big concert and the closing session for the weekend. (Holy moly it's LOUD to sit right in front of the sub woofers. yow!)
|Worship with Everfound was excellent. Fantastic song choices, excellent musicality|
|Zane Black was everyone's favorite. He's a surfer dude with a sweet lingo, ridiculous stories, and a love for Jesus.|
|Our girl Logan (third from the left) got to go up on stage along with the all of the RED shoe folk.|
Greg Stier used his Red Converse to symbolize going all in for the gospel of Christ.
For the first time in our history with Dare2Share we were smart enough to spend a SECOND night rather than trying to drive home after the final song of the night (at 9pm). Fighting traffic out of the convention center and driving many hours past my bedtime, combined with the typical snow storm was never a good thing. But praise God for wising up.
Staying Saturday night meant we could linger after the event, the students could purchase last minute tshirts and posters, wait in long lines to get the handsome dudes' (of Everfound) signatures, and then hang out back at the church for a couple hours before hitting the sack. It was WELL worth the extra night.
Two of our students made life changing commitments to follow Jesus, and each one of them professed to deep encounters with Christ through worship or conviction to share their faith. And simply spending that TIME together is life changing in an of itself. What a great weekend! I am praying the Lord continues to produce fruit in their softened hearts and that Kevin and I would be faithful to water the seeds planted there.