Canyon View Vineyard Church in Grand Junction, CO had hosted a winter youth conference called White Out for years. They had finally outgrown their beautiful venue in Buena Vista, CO called Young Life’s Frontier Ranch, however; the 500 available slots were scooped up each year in less than 10 days by Vineyard churches in the region. We at Vineyard Church of the Rockies in Fort Collins, CO agreed to team together with them and split the conference into two weekends, making one weekend available for high school students and the other weekend available to middle school students (including those in the 5th grade). This change made 1000 slots available to students and leaders instead of 500.
Not all the spots were filled, but the transition was unforgettable, intensive, and monumental in a way we are so grateful for. These are some of the things we learned and gained from hosting the middle school weekend of this conference that helped us to see if we were heading in the right direction with the way we did ministry.
- We benefited greatly from working together with another church on a conference that already had momentum and buy-in from surrounding Vineyard churches. Sometimes the Face Time communication each week with the leaders from the other church was better than some of the communication within our own youth leadership community.
- How often are you connecting with your leaders?
- Taking on a challenging project that involved months of preparation required us to develop leaders and gave many leaders opportunities to take a next step in their ministry journey.
- Do you have something out on the horizon that your leaders can be preparing for?
- At the middle school winter youth conference we were hosting there were many opportunities for high school students to attend as kitchen staff, assistant youth leaders, and even a few lifeguards. We took more than 40 high school students to serve middle school students. This is counter-cultural and a beautiful picture of honor.
- Do you have built-in opportunities for your high school students to serve middle school students?
- We learned the hard way that it is very difficult for the people most emotionally invested and doing most of the legwork for the conference to also be responsible for the financial accounting and ongoing financial records. By the end of the process, we had separated this out and it became much easier for those involved.
- Have you ever thought about having a parent, a volunteer or maybe a church staff person to help with the financial side of your youth ministry?
- We learned that it is very important to keep the lead pastor and other church staff in the loop as we make financial decisions and take on financial risk. Together with another Vineyard church we had to guarantee the attendance of 700 students and leaders at close to $200 per person. That adds up quick. We needed advice, blessing, and support from church leadership each step of the way.
- Do you have ongoing communication with your church staff about where you are financially?
- We learned from Canyon View Vineyard that for a conference with the scope of White Out and over 700 attending, it’s worthwhile to spend the money on production to create an atmosphere of excellence. That means lights, sound and video production. Seems like a big expense, but it is worth it in the end.
- Have you ever thought about paying an outside group or person to come in and help with a specific project for your youth community?
- We walked through the difficult decision-making process of either choosing an in-house worship band–which is great for leadership development and rewarding hardworking worship band people–or bringing in bands from other churches or other organizations.
- Do you ever bring bands in from the outside to serve your youth community? Do you ever create big events for the home-grown worship people that crank it out week after week?
- Both fundraising and recruiting for the event gave us an excuse to sweep through every known contact that we had for youth and their families in our youth community. This led to many periphery youth and their families reconnecting with our church.
- Do you have a reason to call every contact that you have for an upcoming youth event?
- We rethought through the ongoing challenges of transportation, year-round fundraising and delegation of projects. We found that transportation and fundraising are an ongoing weakness and something we want to keep on our radar year-round. We learned that we can only spread leadership out as wide as we’re able to keep people accountable and be sure that they are bought into the project at nearly the same level as we are.
- Are you finding ways to get your leaders to care as much as you do about things? Once they start caring, are you giving them responsibility?
- We realized that our communication with families and system of collecting contact information for youth and families is lacking. However, hosting a large event at least once per year does give you a moderately good database in addition to data cards or whatever your youth community uses to collect contact info.
- Are you finding creative ways to get contact info for youth and their families?
- We found that photos taken and videos made can become a catalyst for social networking among students in our youth community and their families.
- Are you making sure you take photos and make videos for social networking purposes?
- The spiritual weight of hosting a large event grew our team in the area of prayerfulness. We had to replace worry with prayer. It nearly killed us, but we pray more now. We saw many financial miracles for scholarship money connected to prayer.
- Are you taking on projects that require you to pray a lot?
- We took on great financial, emotional and spiritual risk. This grew our faith and has grown our ability to dream of what God might have on his heart next.
- Are you only doing the things you know you’re capable of or are you sometimes stepping into the unknown praying that God will provide a way?
We saw awesome things with 750 leaders and students in attendance to the two weekend conferences combined–and we’re hoping to max out the camp facility with 1000 in attendance next year. God is good. Make every effort to keep up with the calling you’ve received!