We’re all familiar with the metaphor: Sometimes, as Christians, we experience “mountain top” events. These are experiences where, like Moses on Mt. Sinai, we encounter the presence of God. When and why these events happen will differ from person to person. Some of these are private, occurring with just you and God. Some are happy, some sad. We can experience a mountain top event during a trial just as we can in the midst of great joy. Sometimes these mountain top events are ACTUAL events, gatherings where we corporately experience a moving or otherwise meaningful interaction with God’s presence.
As a youth worker, we often hope the events we plan will be mountain top events. We hope that when we design a retreat weekend or a camp, these events will be moments where our students experience God’s presence. That’s not a bad thing to hope for. But there is another side of mountain top events that can be slightly problematic.
The only downside of mountain top experiences is coming down the mountain.
After we’ve been in the presence of God, it can be a harsh welcome back to the real world. This is true in the life of any Christian. But it is especially true for our students. The return to school on a Monday after a weekend retreat can be a brutal transition. The spiritual highs of the mountain seem so far away.
How can we address this reality? How can we help make the transition easier?
I want to challenge you to ask an entirely different question. I want to urge you to consider HOW you view your events. Specifically, I’d like to challenge you to see your events not as mountain top experiences, but as launch pads. Let me explain.
If we fully embrace the mountain top metaphor, we realize that the mountain top is the destination. God called Moses and Elijah, two of the most noteworthy "mountain climbers" (lol) to the mountain. Sure, it’s where we encounter God, but the mountain top was the endpoint in that leg of their journey. Here’s the deal: the mountain isn’t the ONLY place we encounter God. As New Covenant Christ-followers, we carry God with us in the form of His Spirit. And so while we want to create events where our students encounter God’s presence, we don’t want to, intentionally or otherwise, create events/camp experiences that are DESTINATIONS, that are the end of a journey.
Our goal as youth workers should be to craft events where students encounter God and are LAUNCHED out into their world, changed by their encounter with God, and in turn, changing the world around them. In short, our goal is to create launch pad events.
How do we do this? Glad you asked.
Before I jump in, I’m going to make an assumption. I am going to assume that your event is a Christ-centered, Spirit-fueled time of sound biblical teaching, meaningful worship and/or service, and disciple-making fellowship. That is what I am assuming because that description should be what ALL of our events aim to be. If this doesn’t describe your event, any discussion about whether it’s a mountain top or launch pad is mute. I’m assuming your event will be an event where God is present, and your students encounter Him. Assuming this is the case, here’s how to create a launch pad event.
The key to a launch pad event is creating an environment where your students are allowed to marinate in the content of your event.
Before Your Event
This “marination” should start long before your event. Students should never encounter your theme for the first time at the start of your event. The youth workers I know who crush this focus at least a couple week’s worth of mid-week services leading up to the event preparing students for the content/theme they will encounter at the event. The REALLy good youth workers go beyond just the mid-week services. They send letters and content to parents enlisting their help at saturating their students in what they will be learning. Instagram and Snapchat posts are utilized. Maybe they even create some pre-event devotions to give to students. The idea is to be laying the spiritual groundwork for the event long before it happens. Think of all the work that goes into a rocket launch. The launch itself is just the culmination of countless hours of prep. This is your challenge in crafting launch pad events.
At Your Event
We’ve already talked about the event itself. If you and your team have done the pre-work, both logistically and spiritually, then the event is the launch pad your students need to propel them out into the world. One way to make sure you’re setting the stage for what comes next is by planning your event where the last large group and small group times challenge your students to put what they have learned into action. Build momentum through the course of the weekend. Send them out on a high note of challenge and motivation. Cast the vision that you expect them to take what they have learned and let it impact their schools and teams and communities when they get home.
After Your Event
The work of truly crafting a launch pad event starts when the event is over. Many youth workers turn the page on their event when the vans arrive back on campus, or the last student is picked up. Crafting launch pad events is all about building a long-tail of content long after your event is over. What if you devoted two or three more mid-week services to continue to flesh out the content/them of your weekend with an eye toward application? What if you had students come up each week for three weeks to share how what they experienced at your event has impacted them? What if the challenge of your last sessions at your event was carried over for three weeks? A month? Or more? THAT’S what makes an event a launch pad event.
Is creating launch pad events more work? Yes. No doubt. Does it take intentionality and planning? Yup. Sure does. Is it worth it? 100%.
Crafting events that have impact LONG after the lights go out is possible. But it comes by reframing how we see them. Make the switch to a launch pad mentality and watch your students launch out into the world fueled by what God s doing in and through your event.
Andy and Jake tell you about the differences between launch-pad events and mountain-top events. Click below to watch or listen now!
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