It’s hard to believe that by the time this post hits the press, Spoke Folk Massachusetts 2011 will be half over. As I mentioned in last week’s YM Tuesday blog post, I am currently in the middle of what I would call The Twelve Best Days of Summer. I have been touring with Spoke Folk since before I felt the call to youth ministry, and my love for this unique and powerful ministry has grown greater and greater as I have experienced tours with youth from the churches I have served.
So, without further mumbling and whatnot, here are (in no particular order) the top 10 reasons I love Spoke Folk, with the slant of a youth minister:
- Teamwork–Nothing brings a group of youth together like the physical hardship and challenges of biking 30-70+ miles a day together. The young people that go on Spoke Folk experience teamwork as they face challenges together, adapt quickly to changes in the plan, and work together to find solutions when things seem to go awry.
- Mentors–The folks that serve as counselors on Spoke Folk tours each summer are, not only some of my very best friends, but they are some of the wisest and most loving adults that I know. They love the ministry of Spoke Folk, and they desire nothing more for the twelve days of tour than to share the love of Christ with tour participants. I’m not too proud to know that I can’t connect with every kid. On Spoke Folk, I know that the young people from my church are going to connect with quality adults from all over the country who will continue to pour into their lives for years and years to come.
- Servant Leadership–One of the cultural norms on every Spoke Folk tour involves adjusting to the mindset that everyone else comes before me. When everyone on tour is living by this norm, there are always thirty (give or take a few) other people looking out for me, so I don’t have to worry about myself. Something happens to young people on tour. Something happens to me on tour. Our eyes are opened to the needs–physical, emotional, and spiritual–of the people around us. It’s hard to shake those lenses when returning home. The whole world looks different after a Spoke Folk tour.
- Church Leadership–Spoke Folk tours have this incredible ability to turn everyday, average young people, into extreme church leadership powerhouses. When kids learn on a tour that they can have a powerful impact on the people in congregations–those they visit on tour and their own, they are empowered to step up the leadership when they return home. I’ve seen some kids take on incredible leadership positions after returning home from tour–often surprising even their own parents!
- Talk Dates–Another one of the cultural norms on tour is the practice of having nightly “talk dates”–essentially, a (usually late night) chat with someone about anything and everything. On tour, we are very intentional about making sure we get to know everyone (or, at the very least, as many people as possible). In the midst of the hustle and bustle of congregational life, school, work, and so on, it can be difficult to have real, honest conversations with young people for an extended period of time–no distractions, no interference, and few filters. Jesus is incredibly present in the sacred ground of these late night talk dates.
- Camaraderie–Youth ministry has a tendency to be kind of a lonely professions sometimes. Many of the adults who serve as counselors on Spoke Folk also serve in youth ministry (volunteer or paid) at some level or another. If not, they’re still high quality Christian people. Spoke Folk is about as refreshing for me as a youth minister and counselor as it is empowering for the young people who go as participants. Like I said before, the friends I meet through Spoke Folk are among the closest friends I have, despite the fact that they live all over the country.
- Evangelism–Spoke Folk has a pretty incredible knack for turning (mostly) Lutheran high schoolers into evangelists. By encouraging young people to be “relational monsters” and putting them in situations where they are able to talk with complete strangers about their lives and their faith, Spoke Folk gives young people the opportunity to practice evangelism (often without even knowing it!).
- Seeing Potential–As a counselor and as a youth minister, Spoke Folk tours have this incredible ability to open my eyes once again to the incredible potential of young people–for ministry, for caring for one another, and for really living up to adult expectations. The Spoke Folk Leadership Philosophy is one that really tries to level the playing field between counselors and participants–everyone bikes, everyone has a job (although, counselors may have more involved jobs than participants), and everyone has fun. Respect is built through teamwork. There is a pretty tall order of expectations placed on Spoke Folk participants–and let me tell you, when the bar is set high, young people will far exceed those high expectations.
- FUN!–This list would not be complete without at least hinting at the fun that is involved on a Spoke Folk tour. Is there hard work involved? Sure! Is there physical pain involved? Of course! Is there a serious lack of sleep? Usually. But there are also memories that will last forever–most of which are silly beyond belief. (Just ask any of my friends from Spoke Folk Indiana 2010 about our friend Eugene the Dinosaur.)
- Love–I have been a part of a lot of communities. I have taken young people on a wide variety of trips and retreats. I’ve participated in Bible Studies and small groups. I’ve been part different churches. But, I must admit, that to this point, I have yet to experience a community that fosters love like Spoke Folk. Spoke Folk is a true expression of agape (unconditional) love. The members of a Spoke Folk tour become family.