God in Our Desires

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Tonight I had the pleasure of attending he Women’s Bible Study my church has on Wednesday nights. Normally, I don’t get the opportunity, as my house is typically filled with 8th & 9th grade girls helping themselves to everything in my cupboards, which almost always ends with Nutella all over my living room and a major dent in my gummy vitamins (I heart them).

Alas, we are breaking for the craziness of finals and summer. Where we will fill our time with a multitude of camps and days spent at Tybee. Ahhhh, summer.

So this bible study. Have you ever thought you knew what something was, when you really had no clue? And then God just blows you away because sometimes He knows what you need better than you do? It’s sweet, really.

It was a night of sharing highs and lows. And there were some highs. And of course some lows. Many that could not be shared, so as to protect our sweet time together, but highs to rejoice over. Like new marriages and new babies, and just precious joys given to us by God.

Which brings me to my thought. So I’m reading this great book called Woo, by Morgan Schmidt. And before attending the group I read this great chapter that had to do with our desires and how maybe it’s not so bad to enjoy things in life, because many times, they are God given desires and passions and joys. And perhaps there’s worship in enjoying the things in life that God has given us. Perhaps there’s worship in the places we would not likely find worship (like at a Taylor Swift concert…you should probably read the chapter because at this point, I’m butchering it).

So we are discussing how distant many of us feel from God. The monotony of reading our bible and praying and did I even pray yesterday? What did I say? What did I read that stuck out? What did I thank God for? Is my relationship with God stale?

And then I thought about what I just read. About joy and desires. And the joy that had previously filled the room and we discussed the great things happening and how God is on the move. We are not far from God at all. Though we may feel it, there’s something to be said about our immeasurable joy being an act of worship.

If find joy in music and I get to go to a concert, perhaps the excitement I experience at the concert (Jesus Culture or John Mayer) is a reflection of the worship I give to a God that created music. How sweet.

As Schmidt describes in her book, desire makes up who we are. Joy is what connects us to Christ, so if we find unmeasurable joy in the mundane things of our every day life, we are indeed not far from God, but God is near and God is rejoicing alongside us. In the excitement we get over getting married, or finding out we’re expecting, or getting a new job, or even just our everyday successes.

Don’t buy into the lie that the enemy wants to believe that God is distant. Daily devotional or not, He is near and on the move.

5 Lies We Believe When Giving Up On Our Dreams

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In January I decided to start writing. I made a goal to write twice a week, journal thoughts, and develop a blog that this time “I would DEFINITELY keep up with”. I quit a month ago. I know, I lasted longer than I thought I would.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago (on a Tuesday) about something that was on my heart for a while (you don’t have to scroll far to check out what it was). It was well received by many of my friends and even people I didn’t know. I had not prepared anything for Thursday, so I decided to hold off until the following week so I could write something worth reading again. That week turned into week[s] and before I knew it, I had began an intense relationship with the backspace bar on my keyboard. I would write, and delete. And then write something that sounded great in my head. Then delete it. I had excuses upon excuses for why I wasn’t writing, but the truth is that I was believing a lot of lies.

I think we tend to quit, or fail to pursue our dreams because of things that get inside our head. While I have been busy and there were legitimate reasons I couldn’t write, nothing was as loud as the words “quit now” in my head.

Today, while I was driving I began wrestling with why I had given up. Here are 5 lies that I believed, and I think we all tend to believe when we want to give up:

1. I am not good enough.

I think sometimes we don’t pursue opportunities because we don’t think we can. In my case, I quit writing because I didn’t think anything that I would write would be worth reading. If we don’t believe in ourselves, it’s going to be really hard for other people to believe in us. It takes confidence to accomplish great things and if we want to pursue the things we love, we need to believe we are good enough to do so. It’s true that we can always get better at whatever we are trying to accomplish, but we won’t get there if we don’t believe we are good enough to even start.

2. I do not have enough…

Whether it’s time or money, we declare we don’t have enough of it. And a lot of times those are the two main things we need to pursue our dreams. Writing is cheap, but time isn’t. So in my case, I just didn’t have the time to sit down and think of the things I wanted to write about. The truth is, we have time for the things we make time for. I know, that’s revolutionary. Go ahead, write it down. Make a fancy pinterest design of it in artsy typography. Kidding, it’s the simplest idea and I get that, but we are lying to ourselves and believing that same lie when we say we don’t have time. If your dream, or what you love is important to you, you will make time when you’re ready.

3. What if…

What if I fail? What if I write something people don’t agree with? What if I think something is awesome and other people hate it? What if I forget to use the right “your”? You’re? Ugh. Whatever…I quit. 

If you have the superpower of mind reading and we’ve ever been in the same room, then you have already heard this argument in my head. We live into these ideas when we give up. The “what if”s of failure and judgement are themes that we tend to embrace often. We become paralyzed by the chance of risk and drop out before we even have the chance to see whether or not these things come true. No one likes to fail and the easiest way to avoid that risk is to not even try. And when we don’t try, no one can judge us. So really it’s a win, win. But is it? Are we really winning if we are never taking risks? Probably not. If we can silence the “what if”s, then we can conquer our fears. And if we fail? It’s not the end of the world. Our failures will not be as risky as not even trying.

4. I have too many anxieties.

Sometimes I allow myself to become a product of anxiety and when I do, the “what if”s I mentioned above begin to creep inside my head and takeover my thoughts. I allow my questions become absolutes and assume the worst. Anxieties suck and they don’t belong in our lives. Kick them to the curb. If we can live into the peace we are given for free, than we won’t have to pay for our stresses. Don’t let anxiety be the reason you give up on your dreams, it’s not worth it.

5. I just don’t want to anymore.

This is a lie, and it’s not. It’s really for you decide. Sometimes we start projects that we are incredibly passionate about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a new blog saying “it’s different this time” or a diet, only to shove a slice of pizza in my mouth (it’s an art, how fast I can eat) on Day 2. We can believe in our dreams and goals, but if we don’t have the motivation and ambition to follow through, than we won’t. We need to remember why we want it. So when I sat there and said “I just don’t want to write anymore” I had to decide if that was true or if I was lying to myself to feel better about quitting. The truth is, I want to live into my dreams, whether it’s writing, playing music, or something else I’m passionate about, but sometimes I just need to quiet my soul and remember why I started. If we can remember why we want to achieve our goals than it will be harder for us to quit.

I want to keep writing. And I will. So many of my friends have been affirming and gentle with me as I have begun to share my heart and thoughts and I’m really grateful for that. Giving up is easy. Quitting is full of fear, though. Don’t take the easy way out. Stick it out when your dreams are hard and let the struggle refine you.

10 Things Married People Need to Remember About Singleness

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Some of these are my own thoughts and some come from the hearts of others. We get a lot of posts dedicated to us and how we should live as single people (especially females). So I wanted to write something for our married friends. On how to care for us, and how to continue to be our friend.

I love that we are cared for. No really, singleness is hard. Real hard. Especially when a majority of your friends are married. It’s not a secret to most that my life has entered that stage. For the first time in a while, I did not see one engagement the day after Valentine’s Day. I don’t even think it’s that people have realized there are more original times either, I honestly think that I have less friends that are not married or engaged.

That being said, life proves to be interesting as a woman that is 25 and single. How people relate to me, the advice I receive, the compassion people have and more. All of it is appreciated.

I would say a majority of my friends are gentle. Actually, most of them are above average, over the top, great. I am so blessed to have been a part of great friendships over the years. I’ve watched my friends go through some guys that were jerks, only to get engaged the next year to an incredibly Godly man. I’ve watched the cutesy stages of “I think we’re talking” to “He asked me out!” to “Our wedding will be in 8 months, will you please be a part of it?!”. And my heart has never been so full to witness these beautiful stages.

But with an increase in artcles about things that us “Singles” need to remember while we are stuck out here in the desert, I feel like there are some things that married people need to remember about those times that have quickly been documented as part of their past:

1. I am not incomplete.

I know. Marriage is great. No really, we have read about it and it sounds awesome. And yes, we’ve heard, it’s hard. But you have not found a new religion and you don’t need to convert us. We are still complete, even though we may be missing something great. If you remember from your days of singleness, it’s not always that easy. There are not guys waiting outside my door to ask me out and chances are that wasn’t the case for you either. But just because that’s not the case, doesn’t mean I’m half of a person. Help us to remember that we are whole, with or without the love of our life.

2. I respect your marriage.

Maybe I should have started with this one. I respect your marriage, though. You need to hear that, because some days I might sound jealous that I don’t get you anytime I want anymore. My respect level for you has not dropped just because you got the gift of marriage and I’m not there yet. But I am so happy you have found someone. I’ve prayed for your marriage to prosper and I’ve watched as you learn the art of being married. No “but”s, you just need to hear that I respect your marriage.

3. I’m not single because of my lack of faith.

Please don’t tell me that if I pray more, I’ll find a husband. And I don’t really want to hear about how it happened when you least expected it. Those comments are not helpful, nor are they true. God is not dangling my husband over my head until I look away and I’m starting to get a little worried that some of us single people are starting to believe that. Thank you for praying for my future husband. I’m praying for him too. But just because I didn’t fast for a week in my “waiting”, doesn’t mean God is going to withhold him from me.

4. While I respect your marriage, I still need to borrow you sometimes.

I get it. You exchanged vows with him, not me. And that’s great because it wouldn’t have worked out between us anyway. But sometimes I still need you. Not all the time, but there might be a night where I just need you to be my friend. And I know, dinners are reserved for your spouse because you really don’t get to see him all day. Again, I respect your marriage. But maybe you can go to dinner with me, or pick up my phone call at an inconvenient time every once in a while, because I really just need a friend.

Note: my friends are actually really good at this, but I know a few people who have had this struggle with their married friends. 

5. It was just a date.

One date. Dinner was great and so was the conversation, but we didn’t decide right then and there whether we should spend the rest of our lives together. And no, I’m not being picky. You’re right, though, sometimes I’m picky, but right now that is not the case. We just don’t know each other and that’s OK because we just met and proposal on a first date is not how real life works. You suggesting that it is feels like a lot of pressure. I love that you’re interested and you care but please slow your roll, stop pinning stuff to a Pinterest board for my wedding and wait a couple of dates for me to share my thoughts on this whole thing.

6. Just because it’s my choice, doesn’t mean it’s not still hard.

Maybe I’m choosing to be single right now. It’s true. Maybe I have prayed about it and it has been revealed that I am just not ready to be in a relationship. That doesn’t mean that it’s still kind of hard to not have a date to your Christmas party, wedding, or whatever event I’ve been invited to that I should have a date for.  Sometimes you spend Valentine’s Day with your parents watching Netflix and that’s not ideal, even if you hate the holiday. But either way, it’s not my time right now, and that’s OK. Just be gentle with your words because sometimes, even if I’m choosing it, it still sucks and sometimes I still want to just vent about it.

7. Sickness is lonely when you’re single.

I went to lunch with a friend yesterday and she told me about living out in California and getting sick (that is my nightmare, by the way…so props to you Jessica, because I would have died). She didn’t know anyone, so she has learned to keep her cupboards stocked with saltines, ginger ale, chicken soup, and Gatorade. Well, guess what? I didn’t learn that lesson before I got the flu last May. Luckily, I work at an awesome church and my coworkers dropped off all that I could ever need, but not every single person has that luxury. If you have a friend that’s single and they get sick, don’t wait for them to ask to bring you something. And if you ask and they turn you down, don’t be afraid to put ginger ale on their front porch. I promise, it will get used and we won’t take offense.

8. Singleness does not prevent me from using my gifts.

My friend Shannon and I have talked a lot about singleness since we met at our best friend’s wedding last fall (See! Your weddings are connecting me to more than just single men! New friends are still really great). I’ll just use her whole quote for this point:

It may be surprising, but it’s not always our #1 concern in every situation. Most of the time I’m just concerned with how to best use my giftedness to serve the people or situation I’m with or in. Singleness doesn’t have to prevent me from using those gifts. In fact, sometimes it helps me use them more.

I have heard of people claiming that it’s too hard for youth directors to understand youth ministry if they don’t have kids of their own. I’ve never heard that. But if you think that’s true, be gentle with how you say that because it’s a little hurtful.

9. We like to be invited

Confession: sometimes I feel left out. Like if I didn’t get invited to a bible study because it’s all married women. Or a few couples went to dinner, but it might have been awkward to invite me because, well, I’m alone.

If you don’t want to invite me because it’s me, or it really is just for couples, that’s fine. I’ll be a little less hurt. But if it’s because it’s a little weird that I don’t have someone, that pours salt in the wound.

And I can confess that I have done it to myself. I have complained about the awkwardness of not having anything to share. But sometimes that’s a cover-up. Because I do like hearing the trials you face and I do want to hear about your “wins” in married life.

So I lied. I do want to come to your couple’s event, I just need affirmation that it’s ok for me to be there.

Just don’t feel awkward about inviting me.

“I promise, I can function like a normal, interesting adult in a room full of couples. But if it’s a couples thing, I respect that too.”
Shannon Pijanowski

The point is, don’t feel awkward. If you want us there, invite us. If it’s all couples, that’s fine too. Just stop making it awkward.

10. I still want to be your friend.

Maybe we’ve been distant since your wedding, but we don’t have to break up. I still love you and even if it changes our friendship, it doesn’t change you. Our relationship status doesn’t define either of us, Jesus does, so we’re good. Also, I am still able to be a supportive friend if you want to talk about married things. Even if I don’t understand those things, our love for you as friend, as a person surpasses everything that our differing relationship statuses might make difficult or awkward.

There will be adjustments, and sometimes I’ll be jealous of you, and you might even be jealous of me (I went to Target last night. At 9 pm. All by myself. And bought a dress and four other non essential items. And didn’t even have to check with anyone. JEALOUS NOW?). But I still love you and I hope you’ll still love me. Thanks for reading this blog post and most of all thanks for being my friend.

Please don’t think I’m representing all single people with this article, but I’ve represented a few. So just be aware and gentle. And stop thinking we’re the only ones that need self-help articles.

Snow Days & Sabbaths

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It’s Monday. Which means people are already counting down the days to Hump Day so they can finally get to Friday. Because weekend.

Last week we had a little break though. Wednesday was cancelled. The whole day. We called it “Snow Day”, even though there was no snow to be found. Businesses were closed, work was cancelled, and kids slept late due to having nothing better to do all day. It was a well needed day of rest. A day that even if you had things to get done, you couldn’t really leave your house to do them anyway.

Still needed to get that trip in to the gym? Too bad. The gym was closed and the roads were unsafe. Needed to run errands? Sorry, businesses will reopen on Thursday for that. While it may have been a setback in the week for some, it was a day where nothing was expected of others.

I was talking to a friend on Friday. We compared our stories of refusing to shower or change out of our PJs. We talked about how great it was to just “be”. And how we wish there was a day like that every week.

God laughed. Well, I didn’t actually hear it. But He must have, you know? Because God gave us a “Snow Day”. He talks about it almost immediately in this great book called the Bible. Only we don’t call it “Snow Day”. We call it Sabbath.

You know, Sabbath? The day of rest? It’s commanded of us. Work hard, worship God, but don’t forget a day of rest.

I’ve gotten better about it, but there was a time in my life where I refused such an idea. Being in college and working several jobs at one time. Sure, I took Sabbath. But my Sabbath’s were full of running errands and getting stuff done around the house because when else would I take care of these things?

I think it’s hard for us to live into this idea of Sabbath now though. Partially because not everyone practices it, so we feel like we may be judged for taking a whole day to do nothing. Or we feel the guilt and pressure from other people not living into. That’s why “Snow Day” was so great. Because everyone (in Savannah) was living into Sabbath at once.

This isn’t really meant to call anyone out, or maybe it should. I’m not really sure. I just think it’s funny that we reveled in a “surprise” day that we should already have scheduled in our week. A day we should be practicing just like the other things we become legalistic about.

I don’t think it’s as impossible to live into like we think, though. While Sunday cannot be my Sabbath, I make sure Friday is. Hopefully, you have a day of rest and worship. A day of rest carved out for you.

New Beginnings

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Three years ago I was blogging pretty consistently. I had a tumblr that I used a lot and before that I’m sure I had a blogspot, livejournal; you name it, I’ve used them all. They were great documentations of the seasons of my life. I was able to put into words what I was going through as I waited through moments God had me in. I’m really glad I documented those moments. That I put into words what I was feeling during those seasons so I could look back and see how much I’ve grown or even how strong I was in those moments. They seemed silly at the time, but I’m glad I didn’t delete all of them so I could look back and remember snapshots of the past of where God has had me.

This is a new season, which is why I’ve started this writing again. While the season may have started over two years ago, I have remembered how important it is to document these moments. So here’s to being consistent in sharing what we are doing in ministry. Here’s to events that have failed and huge ministry moments I never thought I would experience. Here’s to praying over kids who are hurting and laughing on trips that I never want to end. And here’s to serving a God that trusted me with a Calling I never knew would take me to where it has.

Change for Change

So as some of you know, last February our Student Ministries program did an event called “Change for Change”. We had a night of prayer and worship as we educated our students about the Human Trafficking Industry. It was an incredible night, as we raised over $1,000 in change. We watched as students brought in their life savings for a great cause. While there was some motive (I had to get cornrows and Mackay had to shave his head. Let’s not ever talk about this again), our kids came through in a big way and I think it ranks as one of my favorite moments in ministry.

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The money raised went to the A21 Campaign through the End It Movement. For those of you that don’t know, A21 prosecutes traffickers and strengthens the legal response to human trafficking. They also provide legal counsel to every victim that comes through their program.

We are switching it up a bit and have decided that we could outdo last year, especially if we had more time, so here’s what we are doing:

We’re still rolling with Change for Change (get it, because you “roll change”? ugh…nevermind), but through our small group ministry. Each group has received a container that will collect money for the ministry/nonprofit of their choice. One month from today, each small group will turn in full containers. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!

So each small group will choose what they will be raising money for and collect change as they meet each week in February. PLUS the group that raises the most amount of money will win a dinner for their small group AND the ministry they chose will be blessed. Yeah, we’re excited too.

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So here’s where you can help:

Know someone in a small group? Or know someone leading a small group? (isn’t that person awesome? they put a lot of time into that, so thank them even if you don’t have a student in the program. they’re working hard to make better disciples in our church) Or don’t know anyone at all, but really want to donate change?

You can help by donating to one of our small group’s “containers”. Maybe they’ll even invite you to the dinner if they win! Just kidding…kind of. Maybe, I don’t know.

Anyways, you get a chance to be involved. Some of the nonprofits our groups have chosen are Lowcountry Down Syndrome, American Cancer Society, and two groups will be raising money to buy clothes for children who are in foster care.

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for those in need (He talks a lot about that, but this is just the chapter on my heart right now). We aren’t perfect at doing this, but we are going to continue trying to live out the Gospel to the best of our ability. Bit by bit, we will be the change.

Worship Arts: Youth Band

Last year, we launched a new program called Youth Worship Arts. The hope is that it will grow and students can use their various gifts to serve in youth group and church. Right now we have a youth band and a set design team. A mix of middle and high schoolers serve on both teams. The hope is that as we grow, we’ll be able to add a tech team and drama team.

Our band has come a long way in the year. We’ve gone from having students who *kind of* played an instrument, to having them play each week and even play in our contemporary service.

While I want to say that we are learning new songs each week, it’s taken us a while to master our current set list.

Here are our top five picks for worship:

Set a Fire (We don’t go this long, but  it’s definitely our favorite)

One Thing Remains (We don’t do the “ou”s, but we do about this tempo)

Come Thou Fount (that drum solo, tho…ouf)

Whom Shall I Fear

This is What You Do

Honorable mentions:

How He Loves (we can’t help it, we know it too well)

All My Fountains (this takes a little work, but we pull it off every once in a while)

Volunteer Gifts

So I know it’s 2014, and 2013 should be “so last year”, but I want to take it back a month and show off our awesome Volunteer gifts from Christmas.

It can be incredibly difficult to buy for volunteers. We wanted to get them something practical, but at the same time it should be something they want to use. And we have to do this all on a pretty limited budget.

We do have some budget though, so if you have the money to do this, it’s definitely worth it.

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I’m all about using Pinterest for ministry. I’ve found some of my greatest ideas from browsing DIY stuff. So when I started coming across variations of gift packages, we created this idea.

Here’s what our leaders got:

A Nalgene (any water bottle will do). You can customize your order (any size or color) on http://www.nalgene.com.

We also personalized them. Created some nifty stickers and branded them specifically to our ministry.

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Candy. Because our leaders are sweet. Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. They are sweet. But really, we gave them candy because it’s tasty. And it helps fill the water bottle.

A free drink at Starbucks. Yeah, it’s only one coffee. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve only needed “one coffee” to get through the day and had the blessing of a gift card to help me out.

Gum. Because they’re fresh. Like breath. Ok, that’s lame and definitely a joke.
Really, it doesn’t have to be gum though. I found something practical that I knew they’d use that’s >$1. So gum, chapstick, sharpie pen (those things are awesome).

So that’s it. Pretty simple stuff, but we’re proud of it.
Note: Our sticker designer is Amelia Jamerson. She’s our Communications Coordinator and does AWESOME design work. I’m a pretty big fan of her stuff.

Lunch Raffles

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This past Sunday we tried out a new idea for 2014 and we’re kind of loving it.

Lunch Raffle will happen each week and I’ve decided it’s basically the opposite of the Hunger Games.

So each student signs a nifty little piece of paper when they walk in the door. They put:

their name
their grade
their school

At the end of youth group, we’ll draw names and whoever gets picked will get lunch the following week from Mackay or myself. Um, super easy and super awesome.

PLUS: the more you come, the more your name gets put in the jar. KIND OF like how Katniss was bound to get picked because…well, you know.

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BUT, no one dies during lunch raffle and you won’t go hungry because we’re bringing you food.

A bonus for us: sometimes it can be awkward going to a school where you only know one or two kids. But when you bring food, everyone’s happy.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

four reasons why we are LOVING theme nights

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KFC & UMYF started something new in September. Once a month, we have a theme night. What is a theme night? It’s basically just a crazy take on traditional youth group. We still have worship, games, and a lesson. We just theme it!

Last month our theme was Jimmy Buffett Beach Bash (of course it was, it was only 19 degrees four days earlier). Our Worship Arts team decorated the Fellowship Hall with surfboards, beach balls, and sea shells and students dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and a socks/sandals combo that could take any “vacation outfit” you’ve ever pulled off.

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Here’s why we love it:

1. It is a great opportunity for students to invite friends.

Youth group can be kind of intimidating. Sometimes students may not want to invite friends because they’re unsure about what’s happening that night, or sometimes because it is just hard. When you give youth group a theme, it hypes up the energy and makes students want to show off their community of believers. We are loving that theme nights have given students a chance to reach out to their friends and invite them to see what they’re a part of.

2. It is giving our Worship Arts team a chance to serve.

We have an awesome team of middle & high school students that come every week at 4 pm and help set up for youth group. They are able to use their creative gifts to design the room for youth group. When we give them a theme, it gives them a chance to come up with creative ways to decorate the room. When we had 80’s night, they made life-size rubiks cubes and when we had our Christmas theme they made a photobooth. We have incredibly talented students and it’s been awesome watching them put their gifts to use in the church.

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3.  It is a chance for our students to celebrate being young

We believe in challenging our students to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. But we also believe there needs to be a fun effect to that sometimes. When we theme something, EVERYTHING we do brings the theme into play. For instance, our games were “beach themed”. We randomly selected several students to come up front and do “spontaneous” tasks that we gave them. A 7th grade girl had to rap about pineapples for 30 seconds while a senior had to pretend to be a crab getting attacked by seagulls (the seagulls were played by two trained leaders. No students were harmed in this activity). For dinner, we had “Cheeseburger’s in Paradise”, and our lesson was about “Charting Our Course” for the New Year. Which brings us to our fourth favorite thing…

4. We do not ever sacrifice a chance to learn on a theme night.

We want our students to grow in their relationship with Christ, and YES we love to have fun, but we recognize that there’s a serious side to that relationship. Middle and high school present a lot of challenges for our students. Challenges that they are facing every day and they need a relationship with Christ now more than ever. They are figuring out what they believe and who they want to be and sometimes they need to hear a message that is sculpted to where they are and have a chance to discuss it with a leader afterwards. We still get to provide students with that on a theme night.

Our next theme night is Pajama Jam, February 23rd. This will be a night of cozy sleepwear and intense pillow fights. Students can come in a comfy pair of footie pajamas and bring their favorite teddy bear or baby blanket (promise, we won’t make fun). Really excited to try Strobe Light Pillow Fight that night too.