Our Experience at Believe: The Presence
This was the first year our student ministry has taken part in one of CIY’s Believe conferences. I have heard great things about them in years past, and my sister’s church (she is the children’s ministry director and a middle school volunteer) has been attending Believe conferences for years. This year it was fortuitous circumstances that allowed us to take advantage of Believe, and I have to say that it was well worth our time and money. Here is a quick breakdown of what we experienced.
Our middle schoolers are more reserved than any I have worked with in over a dozen years in ministry (I started with a small group of middle school guys). But almost from the moment we entered the main building they were engaging with teens they had never me before and truly building some relationships. This allowed for our teens to really feel at home and comfortable to be themselves, and even open up more than they normally would. In fact, this even helped myself and the other leader I took to forge deeper relationships with the students that we took. Our discussion over lunch the second day was an eye-opening experience as the teaching and community building up to that point allowed our teens to really open up and engage us in their lives back home and their struggles to allow the Holy Spirit work in and through them.
The Jordan Howerton Band lead our worship throughout the event and I have to say that they were fantastic. In fact, Jordan led the adult leaders through a great devotional time in Psalm 24 at one point. The band was engaging, used music that connected with our students and were very transparent and honest, challenging students to open up to God without guilting them into doing so. Involving artist Eric Samuel Timm also allowed for students to see that there is more to worship than simply singing.
Our speaker (Danny Curry) took a very potentially confusing topic (the Holy Spirit) and made it very relatable and impacting for middle school students. And he did not try to explain every aspect of the Spirit, effectively leaving mystery in play (something we do far too little I believe). And the video components they produced for the event were very well done and engaged our teens and adult leaders.
Our illusionist (Bryan Drake) was exactly what you would hope for in an illusionist. He made sure to point out that he was merely an illusionist and nothing he did was real, satisfying any ultra-conservatives that might worry about “black magic” at a Christian conference (though really, I can’s see those types going in the first place). As a side note, it was cool to see him share the gospel in his act, and to see him bring his wife on stage as a part of the act.
All in all the conference is a fantastic component for just about any middle school ministry. In fact, the only thing that I might change might have been a unique element at our venue. When we were not in teaching/worship sessions there was little organized or offered aside from waiting outside the main hall. (Other locations advertise large inflatables and other fun elements available). But even then our teens enjoyed hanging out with other teens they had just met, playing ninja, shopping for Believe and Jordan Howerton Band merchandise, and watching the Bryan perform card tricks in the crowd.
If you have the opportunity to take your middle school group to one of CIY’s Believe events, I would highly recommend it to any church. I can’t think of any really good reason not to take advantage of the opportunity.