Years ago, I realized that every student pastor can use different tools in ministry to be effective. I continue to try new things to challenge students and leaders. I have eight goals in student ministry, and they all center on helping students mature in their Christian faith to the point of helping develop other students to do the same.
Another word for this is simply discipleship. To do this, I know I need many different tools and a team of people who are like-minded. I discovered one of the greatest tools available more than 20 years ago when I had a handful of students looking for growth opportunities that went beyond the local youth group. I realized that students, even if they are in the same grade, can be at different ends of the spectrum in their spiritual growth and many students wanting to follow Him completely but hesitant to accept the challenge of leading others in their walk with Christ.
After participating with Super Summer Mississippi and seeing the impact it had on their students, a few other Alabama youth pastors and I saw a need to have this same ministry in our state. So, we started Super Summer Alabama (SSAL) in 2008 in partnership with the State Board of Missions Collegiate & Student Ministries Office. We just celebrated 15 years of Super Summer in 2023 and would love to invite you to join us for year 16.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER ADDING SUPER SUMMER ALABAMA TO YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY TOOLBOX?
I know of nothing like this in Alabama. Yes, there are leadership camps in different places that are very costly, but SSAL is local, and students are able to connect with people they’ll stay connected with throughout the year, in college and even after college. They share about missions and ministry opportunities. Churches connect for DNow or mission trips. Youth pastors are able to network together and discuss different issues or events.
BENEFITS OF SSAL:
- Developing Christian leaders: How do you encourage and equip students to rise up and make disciples? I consistently see students connect from one youth group to another at SSAL and encourage one another to be strong in their faith throughout the year – not just for a week at camp. I have seen students return from camp and start Bible studies, meet with other students to pray throughout the year, step up with serving. and even date and marry someone they met at SSAL.
- Great training for our college students (Team Leaders – TLs): TLs from different churches can invest in our students by leading small group discussions after students have been taught a lesson by a student pastor. This is a vital time during the week for a student to grow in their faith since they can ask questions and process out loud what God is teaching. These groups of 5-9 meeting together with a college student can be life-changing for everyone. They will connect with one another and God’s Word.
- Called into full-time ministry: Student pastors are presently serving on our leadership team that first started off as an SSAL camper years ago and were influenced by their TL to the point of wanting to lead students and then being called into full-time or part-time vocational ministry.
- Student pastors developing lifelong friends in the ministry: Ministry is not designed to be done alone. Student pastors must set the example to do life with one another so that we may encourage our students to not walk through life alone. More is caught than taught, and at SSAL students see deep friendships among the student pastors. When a church registers for SSAL, student pastors are invited to join one of eight schools to help lead for the second week of July. Student pastors began to dream and make plans to lead during the previous year. The dean of each school leads planning for the week and shares curriculum. Student pastors teach one of 11 lessons if interested. Creativity is shared among the ministers so that when students are present, they walk into an exciting and fun learning environment for the week.
- Worship is unique from other camps: Even though the schools usually meet three times a day and most of the time they include a time of worship, all schools come together in the evening for worship. SSAL usually utilizes pastors or seminary presidents over a big-name speaker and in-state bands are used as well. We look for worship leaders to connect and invest in our participants during the week and can share with small groups throughout the week. We want our leaders to be available during the week for our campers.
WHAT IS SSAL?
It is a cost-effective leadership/discipleship camp that is designed for students who have completed 8th grade through 12th grade. Students should have a hunger to grow in their Christian walk. They will come together with students in their grade across the state to mature in their faith. Each year, students can return to camp and progress to the next school level. The schools are color-coded. Students do not have to begin in 8th grade. We have a school color for first timers, no matter what grade they have completed. Some students start in 8th grade and can progress each year until they graduate. These students are granted some class credit at the University of Mobile and can easily earn a scholarship. Students come expecting to see God move and work in their lives. When like-minded Christian brothers and sisters come together to learn, study and grow in their faith, the Lord is sure to move.
Students should want to come and learn. You can use the suggested requirements on the website to help filter which students come. Personally, I offer this opportunity to anyone who is interested in coming and growing, but I do require them to meet with me and the group for two sessions. We memorize Scripture, and we share testimonies with each other. At my parents’ meeting, I always encourage them to not make their kids go but to see if their children want to attend. Students do not have to have Scripture memorized at camp, but it is suggested that the students you bring are serious with their faith and are active in a discipleship group.
HOW DO I PROMOTE THE CAMP?
Praying for your students to accept the challenge of leadership is key. Invite another youth pastor to bring or send some teens to talk about it with your group or simply invite your leadership team. Try to get 1-2 college students to help and certainly talk to parents that you feel want their kids to participate. Caution: Make sure you invite everyone, but then talk personally to those you think need to attend. This way you are not picking students or being accused of playing favorites. We need to be reminded that man looks at the outward appearance and God looks at the heart. Sometimes it is hard for us to see someone’s heart.
July 8-12, 2024; leaders arrive on July 7 for setup and training.
Register 1-4 people, and then let some individuals know you will help pay their way if interested. Once they go, usually they will not miss again and will find money to pay the next year; plus on the way home from camp ask them who they should invite to join them for the following year.
FIRST-TIME STUDENT PASTORS
We would love for you to partner with a school and be part of the Executive Staff. Student pastors stay in the executive dorm to help build relationships with one another throughout the week. Yes, food is provided for the student pastors after church group devotionals in the evening before going to bed. Students room in a dorm with TLs and some adults on the hallways. TLs will help close out the day by having a short time of prayer each evening.
WHAT ABOUT MY FAMILY?
Student pastors are encouraged to bring their spouse and sometimes it may work for you to bring your little ones, but it may be school time for the students. There is no childcare available. Remember, camp is only for those who have completed 8th grade and up.
The Bible is our curriculum, but we do use other resources to help. Students spend hours in their schools learning about things such as theology, spiritual disciplines, missiology, apologetics, and more, but we also have games that encourage them to laugh, be themselves and to trust the Lord as they make lifelong friends. Students spend more time in their schools learning than they spend doing other activities unlike many other summer camps.
Please reach out if you have a question. My contact number is 205-531-7361.
I hope I have provided you with an extra tool to equip your students for discipleship/leadership.
Denis Tanner is Associate Pastor, Next Steps and Students, at Shades Crest Baptist Church, Hoover.