This past weekend I got to be a part of the Middle School Ministry Campference put on by the Youth Cartel. This event was unlike any other youth ministry conference that I've been to. The main reason for this was that it took place at Spring Hill Camps, allowing it to take the best elements of a conference and mix it with the best elements of camp. Because of the camp environment, the conference was less about listening to keynotes, although that was important, and more about spending time with the middle school ministry tribe. I loved to be able to go to breakout discussions, play dodgeball in the gym, hang out throwing pizza boxes into the fire, or just hang out talking about life and ministry, all with other people who love middle school students. Being at camp, all of the speakers hung out with us, which gave us a great opportunity to not only learn from them as they led breakouts or keynotes, but also to learn from them personally and get to know them as friends.
I'm Not Alone
There aren't a lot of people that I know who not only feel called to youth ministry but also specifically students in junior high. In fact, before this event, I couldn't have told you anyone that I knew (at least personally) that is specifically in middle school ministry. Coming to this event allowed me to get to sit down with a ton of different people and get to know stories, passions, and dreams. It was fun to meet other people who are fired up about junior high ministry. It was like getting a bunch of people together who all understand why each other is crazy enough to spend so much time with this age group.
Middle School Ministry Matters
In the last keynote session, Marko briefly touched on something that was really interesting. He talked about the fact that in adolescent years that brain is forming tons of new neural pathways and also shortly later winnowing those down. When this happens, studies have shown that the way the brain decides which connections to eliminate is by getting rid of the ones that aren't used. In middle school, students brains are being hard-wired for how they will think the rest of their life. That is an incredible calling; to help students learn to thing biblically in a time where there brain is being hard-wired for how the will thing for their entire adult life.
Here's a short video highlighting some of the event put together by Tom Roepke.