Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Better Than Reform School

One guiding principle for SPACE summer experiences is that they are not meant [in the wise words of a well-seasoned mission pastor I heard one time] to be reform school. Meaning, we expect a certain baseline of maturity and growth for the students that are involved on our teams. That isn't to say that everyone has to be perfect, but it's not summer camp and we aren't a babysitting service. Along with a lot of praying and listening, we use student applications, small group leader opinions and employer/teacher references to make what are sometimes very difficult decisions with regard to who is in and who is not.

There are certain times when we will take on a student even though there might be some small issues - it's a bit of risk on the part of the team leadership [like the whole trip has 0 element of risk in it..] And in these cases, we explicitly raise our expectations, because sometimes, you get what you expect. We have the resources, the context and the determination to work deeper with these specific students. Most of our team leaders are student small group leaders who work with these kids every week during the school year. They see them in their home culture and have deep ties with them, many of them lasting most of the high school years. And these leaders desire the very best for their students and willingly sacrifice for them.

Most recently, I've come alongside a few leader teams that went out of their way to work with some particular students. On the surface, it means putting together a very informal growth path and executing that plan within the relationship. As opposed to a one-sided-measure-up-or-else ultimatum, this requires a commitment from both parties - the leader team and the student. The leaders commit something to the student - let us help you grow. And the student commits to the leaders - I will try my best. All with multi-faceted contexts - a summer team, a leader-student relationship, and a youth ministry.

This is why SPACE is a component of a local youth ministry.

[Side note: Find someone with a Developer Strengths Finder theme to help you with this. It is why they exist. This summer, around 50% of our leaders have this theme.]

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