HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP)–As students placed crosses in the ground bearing the name of lost friends and relatives, one couldn’t help but sense the somberness of the moment. During the silent, funeral-like ceremony, many students were reminded of the urgency to share their faith with friends.
“The Journey” was the theme of Super Summer 2001, a week-long evangelism school sponsored by Real Ministry and the Missouri Baptist Convention. T-shirts displaying Acts 20:24 reminded the teenagers of their charge: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
That task, to testify the Gospel, is at the heart of Super Summer’s vision.
“We are training and discipling students in the area of evangelism to reach the lost,” explained Brad Bennett, Super Summer coordinator and director of operations for Real Ministry. Bennett also serves as youth minister at Calvary Baptist, Neosho, Mo.
“The Journey means the laying down of worldly things and taking up the spiritual things. It really means dying to self,” Bennett said.
In June, three Missouri Baptist colleges hosted Super Summer, including Hannibal-LaGrange College, Southwest Baptist University, and William Jewell College. Approximately 1600 youth and 200 volunteers total were in attendance during the three weeks.
Bennett said a major emphasis this year was prayer. From sunrise to sundown, at least two Super Summer students would sit in an outdoor designated prayer area. One student would read Scripture while the other would pray. Each half hour students would rotate out of the prayer area, allowing participation by more students.
“With the prayer area, we are showing students the importance of prayer by getting them involved,” said Bennett. “Communication is the key to intimacy in any relationship, especially with Christ.”
This is Bennett’s first year coordinating the event. Previously, the event was solely sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Convention. Bennett said the structure will stay the same under Real Ministry’s direction, but they hope to strengthen the focus on youth workers, while maintaining student focus as well.
“I really believe there needs to be more of an emphasis on adults. We are thinking of ways right now to bring more of the leaders here,” said Bennett. “We want to train the leaders and share ways for them to build on what their students learned.”
Jerry and Theresa Dorre agree with Bennett. The Dorres traveled 22 hours from Bayside Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., to attend Super Summer. They brought 13 youth, 3 youth workers, and a student to serve as a small group leader for the week.
The Dorres returned to Super Summer after a three-year absence, previously attending with their youth from Bettendorf, Iowa. “It’s so important [as youth workers] to attend,” said Theresa. “These kids come back so excited and the youth ministers haven’t experienced that.”
Youth ministers have the opportunity to share resources and ideas, in addition to getting spiritually challenged alongside their youth.
“In youth work, sometimes you feel all alone,” continued Theresa. She said it was good to get reacquainted with friends from past years. “People we’ve met through Super Summer have become our core group, our prayer partners in ministry.”
Five of their youth graduated high school the night before leaving on their long trek to Missouri. The Dorres knew it was important for these young adults to get a foundation before heading off to college.
The Dorres explained their justification for making the trip to Missouri, instead of finding a camp closer to home.
“There are a lot of ‘camps’ you can go to, but this is the only school we know that teaches evangelism, training students to make an impact in their schools for Christ,” said Jerry. Theresa added that they couldn’t find anything comparable to Super Summer’s structure out East.
“Send your best and we’ll send them back better” is Super Summer’s call to get the most dedicated youth to attend. Students get away from the distractions of television, radio and online chatting to specifically and intentionally learn strategies for peer evangelism.
Super Summer separates each age level, grades 8-12, into school groups-red, blue, yellow, orange and green. Purple school consists of youth ministers and workers. Deans and assistant deans lead the school sessions, while “moms” and “pops” lead family groups, usually consisting of about 10-25 youth.
The family time allows the Super Summer students a chance to build relationships and share in a small-group setting. The moms and pops, who are usually college-age young adults, serve as mentors, encouragers and mediators during family time.
HLG student Sabrina Price, member of 5th Street Church of Hannibal, has been a mom for four years. “There are a lot of youth with great needs and it’s awesome to get to love on them for a week,” she said. “It makes my passion to work with youth even greater.”
For Darla Pilliard of Curryville Church, Super Summer was a chance to validate the teenagers’ concerns by taking them seriously. “I was there to listen to what God taught them, to encourage them, to pray for them,” said Pilliard.
Another visual given to students was the challenge to carry a cross all week, based on Luke 9:23-25. “It’s helping students understand when Jesus said, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,'” said Bennett.
“It put things into perspective about what Jesus had to endure,” said green schooler Bobby Hulse of Virginia Beach.
Joy Explosion, the evening service, offered a time of intimate praise and worship and hearing from the Word. Music, drama and a speaker challenged the students to go to a deeper level with Christ. Jonas, a band out of St. Louis led by Jake Smith, Jr., led worship again this year.
Teenagers, in a society where materialism and self-fulfillment runs rampant, sang in unison, “Trade my selfishness for Yyur holiness. I will not bow down for another,” pledging to put no other gods before the one, true God.
Jenna Barbosa of First Church of Arnold, Mo., said, “I’ve learned a lot through worship-to just revel in how incredible God can be. He is the ultimate love relationship.”
“God taught me about being still and listening to Him,” said Emily Chittenden of National Heights Church, Springfield, Mo. She said she had the opportunity for long quiet times of reading the Bible and prayer during the week. “I realized that God requires your all. That doesn’t mean having a 2-minute quiet time.”
“We can share a lot of tools with students, we can teach them a lot of different things, but we must teach them the foundation of what Christianity is all about, which is our intimate relationship with God,” said Bennett. “Super Summer for a lot of students is a starting point of that intimate relationship with God. Our goal is to help them build a foundation and grow from that. Sharing our faith will be an overflow out of our intimacy with God. ”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CARRY THE CROSS and WORSHIPPING GOD.