Monday, June 29, 2009

summer of service 2009


Last week we got back from Ireland on Thursday night, spent the next day scrambling to write a message for the weekend, spoke on Saturday and Sunday, then SOS ‘09 kicked in on Monday. Summer Of Service is a weeklong servant-oriented student conference. Over 900 students and leaders from fourteen states came (we cap it off at 900); it’s an amazing combination of passionate worship and serving others.

Sounds curiously like “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.”

SOS pursues that combination for middle school and high school students. In this me-first, über-consumeristic, entitlement-driven, earth-bound culture that we carbon-based bipeds have created, try to imagine the spiritual booster rocket it takes for a young person to escape this powerful inward-focused gravity. SOS is designed to be that.

This year the theme was What About Now? and focused on Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Nearly 1500 adults volunteered to make it happen.

Typically, each day began at 9am in the main auditorium with one of our own student ministry worship bands (these guys were amazing…including a killer thirteen-year-old drummer!). And, of course, some fun stuff. I’ve never seen jelly-filled doughnuts shot from a water-balloon launcher at a youth leader in catcher’s gear with two cops and a radar gun clocking it at over ninety-miles an hour. And then the outreaches for the day started.

All students cycled through four different kinds of outreaches throughout the week: First was participation in a huge free block party in a lower income area—we held eight of these. Second was building walls for four Habitat for Humanity homes and then passing out free water bottles at busy intersections. Third was participation in a program we’ve been doing in the public schools called Be The Difference…a self-revealing encounter focused on respect, bullying and how to treat fellow students, breaking through stereotypes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen students break down and weep over buried issues in their lives. And then last, everyone had an E2 session: the Evangelism Experience. In this segment, each group of students learns how to hear God’s voice. They learn to pay attention to impressions and pictures. After being trained, they’re given a list of five questions to ask God, the group prays, listens, compares their “words” and then their leader attempts to design an outreach on the spot...then they take off with a certain amount of money given to them.

The stories were amazing. After feeling led to visit “tent city” (a homeless camp on the river in Cincy), one group of kids from Michigan pooled the money they had saved to go to Cedar Point amusement park on their way home…and drove back down there to give it to them on their free time. Regardless of outcome, you have to admire any student that denies themselves anything for someone else. When it comes to giving, we obviously want to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, as Jesus said. But I think we spend way too much time worried about getting ripped off rather than the danger of selfishness.

Check out Student Ministries Director Pete Bryant recapping the stories and watch this amazing band of students leading worship in this weekend's celebration.

After the afternoon outreaches, students would come back for an evening of fantastic worship music (Phil Wickham, Jeremy Riddle, Robbie Reider and our own Zak Stegman). To see nine-hundred students and leaders all singing to Jesus at the top of their lungs is brilliant. A short teaching followed that.

One night, instead of worship we held a luau for over seven hundred special needs adults, complete with games, dancing, a pig roast, dinner and more. It was fabulous watching students escorting our special needs friends around the building, dancing and playing games. Our guests had the time of their lives.

We finished the week on Friday night with baptisms; it just doesn’t get any better than that.

It makes me wonder: what would an SOS for adults look like?


  1. "It makes me wonder: what would an SOS for adults look like?"

    I would love to see an SOS for adults. Of course I hope SOS for adults looks like the countless people who gave their time to serve last week.

    Thursday night during the luau I was hit with a "ton of bricks" so to speak just watching the even happen.

    I am so grateful to VC for doing SOS because though it may be for students, every year it helps me.

  2. That sounds amazing Dave. We need to get that happening over here on the Causeway Coast.

    Glad you got back safely.

    Live the Dream


  3. SOS for adults. Sounds like a good idea. Who woud be the chaperones? the Kids?

  4. I was one of the leaders for the MI group that ministered to the people in the homeless tent village.

    It was amazing being led by God to serve them, and the kids didn't simply give them the money they'd saved for Cedar Point. We found out what the people needed, got the stuff (canned food, socks, toiletries, etc) and went back and spent time hanging with the guys before we left on Saturday. Truly a God led thing.

    BTW, I was thinking an adult SOS would be awesome thing because adults need it too, so I'm glad that is something brought into the thought process.


  5. As my wife, Kristine stated above it was a very moving experience. God has really been dealing with us about moving to Cincy to work with the homeless. It has fundamentally changed what our ministry focus is.

    I again want to tell you that your staff is one of the best that I have ever seen.

    Peace and Pecans,

    Thom McGuire

  6. One thing that stuck out was the message of how we are so jaded nowadays. Like the cold fish who warmed up to the kids and to the Pastor speaking of his giving to homeless at the reds game.

    I have been jaded myself, I still have this guy who was penniless always show up at my door asking for money. I always thought that if i dont give the guy money he will just break into my house and steal what he wants for drugs. After a few years of this and thinking this guy is never going to change, he actually is cutting my grass for the money. He has self respect and feels he is someone. Never thought my prayers would ever see God on that one. What is really funny is the lady that drives him around doing this stuff, she says he gets on her nerves. Now i pray she has more grace for the guy, she is a gem.

  7. SOS for adults would include student volunteers in place of the adult volunteers!

  8. Yes, yes, yes ~ an SOS for adults! Been thinking for a while we really need more corporate prayer, celebration and fasting at a more sustained level, beyond the hour we do on weekends.

    Kindness Explosion (weekend long outreaches all over town) PLUS Prayer/worship room open all night PLUS Small-group break out sessions PLUS weekend celebrations PLUS communal meals = SOS for grownups . . .


    Logistical nightmare? Or chance for God to show His awesomeness?

  9. QW

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