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The End? Or the Beginning?

Staff have returned.

This is it:

The beginning of the end.

This is our final week at Project, and in a few days it will be time to pack up and head on home.

It sort of feels like yesterday that the caravan of vehicles pulled into the Aquarius Motel.

It also feels like a year ago.

Either way, it’s going to be over in a couple of days.

The final time spent in South Carolina will be devoted to relaxing, cleaning, and return training. The last talks are given through the lens of transitioning from the “spiritual greenhouse” of Project back to our various homes and campuses.

God has been faithful to change lives this summer. Some students went through heart changes as drastic as becoming believers; others grew in their intimacy with Jesus; many caught a vision for making disciples and using their lives to spread the gospel as Jesus commands of us. Whatever the case, I don’t know a single student who is leaving this summer unchanged.

Every experience on Project is different. I talked to a few students to get their personal accounts about what God has done in their hearts this summer.

Julie, a senior at Bethel, has been a team leader for the Rickrollers.

“I feel like there are so many things the Lord has done in my heart this summer. One thing that was huge for me – and I think a lot of people at Project can relate – is the idea of, ‘He delights in me!’ I’ve had a growing awareness of how unfathomable God’s love for us – and for me – really is. He sent his son to be a sacrifice for us! I can’t wrap my mind around that kind of love.

Another big thing the Lord did in my heart was deepen my brokenness for unbelievers and sharing the gospel. There are lost people in the world and we should be making disciples because people are perishing! I’ve always known that and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s true, so I’ll get on this disciple-making bandwagon.’ But it was never a Holy Spirit conviction of, ‘WOAH! There really are souls perishing!!’ So I’m thankful the Lord has revealed that and I’m excited to bring that back to the campus. I’m excited to share Jesus with people; not because I feel burdened or pressured to, but because I have an overflow of Jesus’ love for me.”

Katie Beth, a junior at the U of M, has also grown in sweet ways over the past nine weeks.

“Perseverance has been a personal theme for me this summer. God has totally changed my heart toward Him. Coming into Project I was not at a place where I desired to pursue Him much, and I was feeling really inadequate in leading girls and pointing them towards Jesus.

Now He has given me such a strong desire to know Him more and to hunger and thirst after Him through reading the Bible more and just getting to know him and basking in his love.”

Greg, a recent graduate from Bethel, has spent this summer at a team leader for the servant team.

“One of the biggest things God has taught me over the summer is about my inability to control others’ growth. I may plant and I may water but it’s ultimately God who gives the growth. Seeing my efforts not always pay off this summer was humbling. Sometimes I put in a ton of effort planning for D Group and it just doesn’t go the way I want it to and that’s frustrating, and sometimes I’m not as prepared and it goes really well – I’ve just seen how God really is in control of all those things.

I’ve been learning to take contentment and joy from that. It’s all God’s work and only God can give the growth, yet he chooses to lovingly let us be a part of that and that’s been really sweet to learn and see. I’m learning that I’m not in control of the lives of people I’m trying to minister to and yet there is still a harvest and a fruit of our labor if we don’t give up (like we see in Galatians 6:9).”

Luke is a junior at the U of M, and he has been discipling other men as a room leader.

“One sweet thing about being a room leader this summer has been the opportunity to get a glimpse of what God is doing in the hearts of several different people as opposed to just me. Last summer, being down here as a disciple, the Lord did a lot in my own heart and life, but I wasn’t really conscious of the guys around me or what God was doing in their lives.

But this summer, as a room leader, it’s been really sweet just to see the ways God has been working in and using and growing the guys in my room and the other guys on Project that I’ve been able to get to know. It’s been sweet to get a bigger vision of God and a glimpse at all the things he’s doing, even just in one room. Seeing that has brought me so much more freedom in realizing that it’s not all about me, and I’ve had so much more joy in seeing the ways God is changing hearts and using people to mutually encourage one another.”

Emma, a sophomore at St. Thomas, is finishing up her first summer at Project.

“I feel more excited to share the gospel with people. Through being at Project I have experienced how sweet it is to live in the freedom that Christ has brought me. I’m totally accepted by God. I’m totally loved by God. There is nothing more I can add to that, and there is such joy in being free to fail and still be totally accepted by Christ. It’s also been so sweet to live with other believers who know that same freedom because we are free and able to love each other now.

On the flip side, I’ve also seen how broken lives can be without Christ. Through talking to people on the beach, through talking to my coworkers and hearing about their lives, through hearing about hell and God’s wrath, it has made me more and more sad for people who don’t have Christ. I think I’m now doubly motivated to share the gospel because I’ve seen how awful it can be to live without Christ and I’ve experienced how sweet it is to live with Christ. I want people to be freed from their brokenness and live in the freedom that I got to taste this summer.”

As these testimonies portray, the Lord has been at work this summer. These are merely a handful of examples, so please ask other students to share what they have learned and grown in the past two months.

Project is winding down, but this certainly isn’t the end, because the Summer Training Project is not an end – it’s a means. Project is a means to loving Jesus more. It’s a means to finding community. It’s a means to gaining a vision for ministry on the college campus. It’s a means for understanding discipleship. It’s a means for learning more about the God of this universe. It’s a means to loving and caring for the lost and broken world.

So you see, this isn’t the end.

It’s only the beginning.

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AIT

If your student is an athlete, you’ve probably heard him or her talk about AIT.

If your student is not an athlete, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

AIT stands for “Athletes in Training.” Here’s a link I think you’ll find helpful:

http://vimeo.com/49700593

This video sums it up better than I can describe. In part because a picture is worth a thousand words (so a video is presumably worth more) and also because...

…well, I’m not in AIT.

BUT! I do know the people who are. So let’s hear what they have to say about it, shall we?

I asked a few of the AITers some questions about the program and their lives as college athletes. Here’s what I found out:

AIT is a 4-day-a-week program for athletes. This year, the sports they are training for include football, basketball, rowing, soccer and ultimate frisbee. The athletes gather at Crabtree Gym, where they have indoor and outdoor facilities to accommodate any and all training needs.

But physically training for a sport is not the only purpose of AIT.

I asked KatieJo, a sophomore softball player at St. Thomas, how AIT has affected her this summer.

“AIT has definitely taught me how to play for the glory of God and how to thank him for the abilities that he has given me. Last season, being a new believer, I didn’t really know how to play for someone other than myself.

During AIT we’ve heard talks, listened to sermons and testimonies, read through Bible verses, and prayed for our teams back home. I’m excited to go back and play for the glory of God.”

Sara Kallhoff, a soccer player and junior at Northwestern, agreed.

“AIT has definitely helped me realize that discipleship and showing God, whether I’m playing my sport or just spending time loving the girls on my team, is what matters. Soccer isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is that I’m showing and sharing Christ with the girls on my team.”

So yes, AIT helps to physically prepare students for their seasons. But more importantly, it helps students cultivate a gospel mindset about sports and remember that they are followers of Jesus first, and athletes second.

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Interns

Every summer, Campus Outreach hires a handful of interns for the Summer Training Project.

This year, we have nine.

There are various needs to be met on Project, and it is such a blessing to see the ways God has created individuals to be able to meet those needs.

There are two main categories for interns: Finance and Communications.

Communications is broken down further into video, photography, podcasts, and blogging internships.

Let’s start with the finance team.

This year on Project we have Maura Bickner, Ryan Carriere, and Harrison Hitt serving the Project with the gifts God has given them by organizing and handling all finances. This primarily includes support that comes in for students as well as reimbursements for those who have an overage in support. The three students have been handing out weekly support folders to keep students up to date on how much support they have and how much they still owe for Project.

Next up, the communications interns.

This summer, Luke Miller and Greg Stewart are our videographers. A few products of their hard work can already be found on the Campus Outreach website (www.cominneapolis.org). The duo is working on the Project recap, promo video, and various student testimonies. Greg is also working on videos for the global staff conference – a conference for Campus Outreach staff from all over the world.

The other dynamic duo we have serving Project needs is the photography girls! Megan Arnold and Nikki Nelson are tag teaming photography this summer. The two are using their skills and advanced cameras to capture the Kodak moments of STP. Their wonderful work can be found easily on the STP Facebook page (search Campus Outreach Minneapolis Summer Training Project).

Isaac Chan is serving by handling podcasts this summer. Are you an STP student who was sick or absent for a training? Are you a curious parent who wants to know what talks your child has been hearing all summer? No problem! Every talk is recorded, and Isaac has been uploading them to the Summer Training Project website (stp.cominneapolis.org). Check them out!

That leaves my internship as the blogger. My job this summer entails updating social media (Facebook and Twitter) as well as blogging for the website. The primary purpose for STP having a blog is to serve and update family and friends back home about the happenings at Project. Many students have limited time to update their supporters and loved ones. This is a way to keep them in the know, if only in regards to broad, overarching topics (for more details and personal accounts, keep asking the student you’re connected with – I’m sure they would love to share with you!)

So those are the interns! We have enjoyed serving the Project. Please keep praying that God would use us over the course of the next few weeks!

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Campus Time: Refresh, Refocus, Remember

The four main campuses at the summer training project are Bethel, Northwestern, U of M, and St. Thomas.

On Tuesday evenings, the Project breaks off into our respective campuses to have what we like to call…

Campus Time.

Campus Time looks different for each campus depending on what the student leaders have planned for the week.

The main purposes of Campus Time are to bond as brothers and sisters in Christ, develop a group unity, and plan and pray for returning to the campus.

Relationships formed at Project are incredibly important. The fellowship to be had at Project is a sweet blessing. But the most important relationships, arguably, are formed with those who are on the same college campus.

Why?

Project is two months of the year. At minimum, we spend 8 months on our college campuses. Project has been referred to as a “bubble” because we are constantly around community and being poured into via talks and intentional conversations, and it is normal to converse about the gospel at any time.

However, home is different. When we are back on the campus, it’s easier to become complacent and caught up in putting our hope in things like popularity, body image, grades, etc. The relationships we have with our brothers and sisters back on campus are the ones we turn to for gospel truths, friendship, and pointing each other back to Jesus, which makes our friendship that much deeper.

Campus Time is not just relationally helpful, but also strategically helpful. Every university is unique in its structure, theology, and student body; from a small city-like public school like the U, to a large, private Catholic university like St. Thomas, to a smaller, private Baptist university like Bethel. Therefore, thinking and planning for ministry back on campus looks different for each group of students.

Additionally, each university’s Campus Outreach is composed of unique students with different strengths and weaknesses. We want to tailor our ministry to build off strengths and pray through as well as help each other with weaknesses.

Although Campus Time may be as formal as designating ‘ministry partners’ or delegating dorms for ministry in the fall, or as informal as getting Chipotle and bonding as we chat about our lives, Campus Time is meant to refresh ourselves, refocus our vision, and remember the campuses where God has placed us.

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Life Training

Every Sunday morning, before heading off to church, we start our day with Life Training.

Which is what, exactly?

Probably what you would guess: talks about various life topics and what it means to look at the world through a gospel lens.

So...what topics?

Glad you asked!

So far, we have investigated subjects like “Free Time,” “Free Identity,” “Worry Free,” and “Free from the Love of Money.”

Obviously, there is a trend amongst these topic titles. Our overarching theme of “Free” is a topic that the staff and team leaders want to incorporate in each talk.

Cody Walkup and Patrick Rydeen are giving these talks now that staff are gone.

The point of Life Training is to dialogue about topics and equip us students for the years to come. College ministry, for most of us, is only a short season in our lives. We want to be a people who love Jesus and are walking with him for the rest of our days.

It is important, as well as practical, to address topics that everyone in our society faces through a biblical lens. We will all deal with things like handling finances, struggling with people-pleasing and body image, working jobs and making disciples in the workplace, and balancing between being over-committed and lazily idle.

That is essentially the point of life training. Once the talk is over, the floor is opened for question and answer time. We students are all struggling with different things, and certain topics really hit home for individuals. Q&A is an opportunity to ask the pressing questions that the talk hasn’t already answered. If the staff or team leaders do not have an answer, then the group collectively works to discover what the Bible says.

Although the Bible does not explicitly say, “This is how you should view working at Walmart this summer,” we can ask ourselves the question, “In light of what the Bible does say, how can we view working at Walmart this summer?” We can find Biblical truths to shape our worldview, and we can find Biblical truths to combat the lies we believe. When God is working in our hearts, the promises in the Bible change our perspective on everything.

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CCP

Well, they’re gone.

No, not the staff – they left a while ago.

I’m talking about the CCP teams.

CCP stands for “Cross Cultural Project.” This summer, we had two CCP teams; one to India and one to Lebanon (for more specifics, feel free to ask a student!)

For the past week, our Project has been blessed to have had both CCP teams visiting us. The Lebanon team just arrived home from Beirut, and the India team will be flying out next week.

When the CCP team comes to visit, you cannot help but become more missions-minded.  It is such an encouragement to talk with these fellow college students and friends about what God is doing in their lives and the things they are excited about and fearful for when it comes to missions.

Last week, during the Theme Training talk, Andrew Knight spoke on missions. It was practically impossible to walk out of that room unchanged, or at least unchallenged. I have talked to several students who have said they will not be able to view missions – or their own lives – the same way again.

(If you want to listen to Andrew Knight’s talk, it will be posted on the website along with the other talks from this summer!)

At the end of the talk, we sang worship songs which were concluded by a recording of the ‘call to prayer’ that Muslims hear multiple times a day in places like Lebanon and India. For many, that was the moment in the evening that influenced them the most.

The Project has been buzzing since then. I have overheard conversations about missions countless times over the course of the week. It has been wonderful to be around the CCP teams and to remember that the gospel is needed all over the world and God is working his plan of redemption everywhere, even right now.

I ask you to join me in praying that this new heart for missions that many of the students have will not fade away. I pray that the missions-minded mentality is not superficial and fueled by the excitement of the CCP teams and a convicting talk, but rather fueled by a love for Jesus and a broken heart for the unengaged and unreached peoples of the world.

Prayer request: Pray for a faithful and fruitful trip for the India team!

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When the staff are away...

It’s that time.

Project is over halfway to completion, which means…

…staff is gone.

That’s right. All have departed.

For those of you who haven’t been informed by your student, this is how Project works: Project is nine weeks long, and four weeks into the summer, the Campus Outreach staff leaves. Only students remain.

What?!

Don’t worry, we are not running around Myrtle Beach unsupervised. We are now being shepherded by the student leaders. As I have mentioned in previous writings, Project has two project directors, a total of 13 team leaders, and approximately 25 room leaders. There is definitely accountability and guidance and structure to the Project. We are in good hands.

So why does staff leave?

Ashley Suapaia shed some light on that:

“Staff leave for a few reasons. 1:  For student leadership – for freedom to lead and ownership in leading the Project. 2: Support – they use this time to either raise more support or follow up with supporters they already have. 3: Time with family – This month off gives them time to pursue their families and spend quality time with them before August comes and school starts up again.”

Ashley and Jared Grove are the project directors this summer. When staff members are gone, these two, along with the team leaders, are the primary caretakers of Project.

I asked Ashley how she is feeling now that staff are gone.

“To be honest, in the beginning I was dreading it because I was putting a lot of unnecessary weight and burden on myself. I was anxious because I couldn't imagine leading a project without staff there, but this was me fully trusting in man and not in God. I was not seeing that this Project is the Lord’s and His sovereign hand was over this, and He is graciously using us as workers to proclaim His name.

After staff left I definitely felt the student leadership rise up. I felt much more free to lead and to own this Project with the other Team Leaders. It has been great for our student leadership to have staff gone because it has bonded us more and helped us to depend on the Lord and each other. We now as Team Leaders have prayer every Wednesday morning asking the Lord for help with this Project which creates a child-like dependence on our Father. It has been really sweet to be here with staff gone.

I feel more tired since there are less people to do tasks when the students are gone, but I have found so much joy partnering with the rest of the Team Leaders to walk forward in faith trusting that God has us in leadership positions for a reason and to steward those in a servant hearted way rather than an authoritative way.”

For the remainder of the summer, the training talks – normally given by various male staff members – will be given by the team leader guys, and each leader has a different subject (evangelism, Bible study, etc.) that he will be focusing on. Although it can be a daunting or anxious thought to give a talk in front of everyone, we trust in the Lord. In and of themselves, these men have no power to work in students’ hearts. But God causes the growth, and he uses people to further his purposes. We are excited to see what God does while the staff are gone.

Prayer request: Pray for Jake, Cody, Brent, Jared, Reed, and Patrick as they pray about, prepare for, and give their talks this summer. Pray that they would not put their hope in their performance, but in the finished work of Jesus Christ and the Lord’s ability and faithfulness to change hearts.

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Team Time

There are six teams on Project:

1)      Pimpo my Ride

2)      Gefilte Fish

3)      Rickrollers

4)      Tune Squad

5)      Tomb Raiders

6)      Servant Team

Yes, we know some of these names are strange. Each one has a back story, so feel free to ask a student!

On Wednesday afternoons, after we’re done with Bible Study Training, the teams break out for Team Time.

Team Time can look very different each week for each team, depending on what the two team leaders plan. As a general rule, Team Time meets the ‘need of the hour.’ This may include planning for upcoming events, playing games and bonding, or simply cancelling Team Time for the week in an effort to give students more time for rest.

There are over 100 students at Project. It is nearly impossible to get to know 100 people very well in a short two months. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to discern who to spend time with. Students can easily stretch themselves thin trying to get relational time with everyone on Project. It cannot be done. What can be helpful about the structure of Project is that students naturally get more time around certain people, and that opportunity allows for deeper relationships.

Let me explain a bit further what I mean by "the structure of Project": We have over 100 students on Project. However, we are placed in rooms, on teams, in jobs, and we each come from a particular college campus.

Students typically spend the most time with their roommates. This allows for deep relationships to be formed and fellowship to grow.

The second largest chunk of time is usually spent with the CO students we directly work with (i.e. all the students in apparel at Walmart). We spend nearly 40 hours a week with our coworkers, and sweet conversations and bonding time often happen while at work.

Students naturally gravitate toward people they know from their college campuses back home, so there is natural relational time with those friends.

So how do teams play out in this? Being split into teams allows us to get to know students we may not otherwise spend time around. For example, I am on team Rickrollers (shout out!). One of my team leaders, Jake, is a male from Northwestern. He is going to be a senior and he works in the sporting goods department at Walmart. If we were not fellow Rickrollers, would I have ever gotten to know Jake?

If I were to guess, I would say….probably not? Probably not.

Thus, a key component of teams and Team Time is that they help facilitate bonds and brother-sister relationships that may not otherwise develop. We are united with our teammates in a sweet way that helps enrich fellowship, and sweet fellowship points us back to our savior, Jesus Christ.

Which is what Team Time, Project, and the rest of our lives are ultimately about.

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Daily time in the Word

Upon arriving at STP, one of the items students receive is a calendar of June and July. For each day – minus one day of 'catch up' per week – there is a verse or chunk of verses from Galatians to study.

There is great importance to studying the Bible each and every day.

I want to pause to discredit any ideas that we are pushing legalism.

In case you are unfamiliar with the term, here is the definition of “legalism” from Dictionary.com:

le·gal·ism

[lee-guh-liz-uhm]

noun

1. strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.

2. Theology .

       a.the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.

       b.the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

By no means does Campus Outreach or Bethlehem Baptist agree with legalism. We are saved and sustained by grace through faith alone. No amount of studying the Bible can add or subtract from our salvation.

However, there is so much to benefit from getting in the Word each day, and that is where we want our hearts to land.

I’m glad I didn’t write this blog post sooner, because Reed Schaaf, a team leader from the U of M, just gave a talk on “Maximizing Your Time in God’s Word” yesterday at Bible Study Training, and it was helpful in thinking through why we want to get in the Word every day.

There were a few one-liners that Reed said yesterday that I think are particularly helpful to this topic. I’d love to share a few:

  • “If you don’t plan to study the Bible, you won’t study the Bible.”

Because of our sinful nature and the fact that our adversary (Satan) loves to distract us from God, we are not naturally bent toward seeking the Lord above all else. We constantly run toward things that are not Jesus. Therefore, having some structure can be helpful in attaining and maintaining consistency when it comes to studying the Bible.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

Let’s let scripture speak for itself. This passage basically describes sanctification; we are, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being transformed and changed from one degree of glory to the next. Our old self is perishing as He changes us to be more like Himself. How does this happen? When we are “beholding the glory of the Lord.” What is one way to do that? TO READ THE BIBLE! He gave us a book about Himself! It only makes sense that we would spend time reading it in order to better know our savior.

  • “Reading the Bible is like adding soil to a pot. The more soil you add, the deeper and healthier the roots will become.”

We want to have deep roots. We want our lives to be so firmly planted in the Word of God, that circumstances and trials don’t shake us like they should. We want our hope to be so firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, that distractions of this world don’t affect us like they could. We want to study the Bible each day so that our roots my grow deep and our joy may be made more full in Jesus.

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Evangelism Training

As I mentioned in a previous blog, we have several trainings each week here at Summer Training Project.

One training that is particularly sweet is Evangelism Training.

It’s a unique opportunity to have a training each week on the Biblical whys and hows regarding evangelism. Before STP, I don’t recall anyone ever truly explaining evangelism to me. I knew Christians were supposed to live out their faith and be a light to the world, but it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around that. It’s certainly true, but it’s vague. What does that mean? How do I do that?

This summer, Matt Reagan and Paul Poteat are the staff members giving the Evangelism Training talks. Once staff leaves this weekend, Brent Cramer, a student from Bethel and a team leader this year, will be giving the remaining talks.

During this training, we learn more about the gospel, the state of this broken and fallen world, heaven and hell, and the Biblical reasons to explicitly share our faith with people.

“I like Evangelism Training because it’s been giving me convictions about sharing my faith. I’ve always been too scared to talk to people about it, but my heart is starting to break for the lost. God uses people to spread the good news of the gospel to all nations, and he uses all believers to do so, not just a few believers with some sort of exceptional confidence,” explained one student.

After the training, the students break out in pairs and head for the beach. We simply walk around and strike up conversations with people about Jesus. Reactions certainly vary, from blatant rejection to awkward hesitancy to enthusiastic excitement about the Lord. Because we are in the ‘Bible Belt,’ people are usually willing to talk about spiritual things even if they themselves are not interested in the subject.

After spending about 45 minutes on the beach, the students meander back to Project. We break off into teams to share stories and pray for the people we encountered on the beach. Some stories are encouraging tales about meeting fellow believers and having mutually encouraging conversations about Jesus, while others are heartbreaking stories about pain, brokenness, abandonment, and complete distrust or distaste for God. It is amazing what complete strangers are willing to disclose about themselves.

Although some think evangelism on the beach is controversial, and we students can attest to the uncomfortable awkwardness, God has definitely worked through the years during beach evangelism. In fact, there have been several people who have become believers through it. Last year, a pair of students shared that they had talked to a middle-aged woman, and when they explained who they were and where they were from, her face lit up as she exclaimed, “Campus Outreach in Minnesota?! We met some of you guys last year!! Wait right here, I have to go get my husband – he became a believer after some of your group shared with him on the beach!”

What a glorious reminder that the Lord is faithful to his people and works in wonderful ways. We may never see the fruit, but God could very well be using us to plant or water (1 Corinthians 3:6).

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Group Dates

At Project, we have a wonderful tradition known as group dates.

Group dates are an STP favorite for many students. The men have an opportunity to serve their sisters in Christ, and the women enjoy being served and affirming their brothers’ leadership.

The idea of a group date may seem foreign. Allow me to explain.

Firstly, a disclaimer for any alarmed parents or significant others back home: Although it’s a “date,” group dates are not romantic. They are simply a chance for girls and guys to get to know each other. One guy and one girl are not paired off on the date. The evening is filled with moments to interact with each and every member of the group.

The group date consists of one room of guys and one room of girls. Step one of a group date is the ask: The guys must come up with a clever way to formally ask the girls on the date. Remember homecoming in high school? What about prom? Guys usually asked girls to the dance in cute and clever ways. The same goes for group dates. Although there are no ‘rules’ of any kind when asking the girls on a date, often times the ask is a clue to the date itself.

Again, there is not a list of rules regarding group dates (that I’m aware of, at least). However, it seems to have become a tradition that the men surprise the girls. It is rare for the men to tell the girls what will be happening on the date. The only information we girls are privy to is the day and time of the date, and any other information that is imperative for the evening (i.e. dress up, wear athletic gear, etc).

As if being asked on a date the men have planned is not serving enough already, the guys also pay for the evening. Whether it is mini-golfing, dinner, or lazer tag, the men express their roles as leaders and brothers by paying for the girls.

Once the date is over, it’s time for the girls to serve their brothers. Within a few days of the group date, the girls are encouraged to make a ‘thank you’ for the guys. 95% of the time, the thank you is edible (we know how much the guys appreciate food). Cupcakes, brownies, and cookies are common. Again, the girls have picked up the habit of thanking the guys with a theme that matches the date. For example, last week a room of men took the girls out for ice cream at the end of the date. For the thank you, the girls baked cupcakes into ice cream cones and frosted the cupcakes to look like ice cream. Clever, no?

Group dates are a sweet opportunity to love and serve our brothers and sisters here at Project. The servant-heartedness is such a picture of Jesus for us and, of course, the dates are tons of fun! While most students discover group dates at Project, they are not exclusively a ‘Project thing.’ In fact, group dates are common for CO students during the school year. Serving and caring for one another is certainly not just for the summer, and group dates are a wonderful way to show that.

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The wonderful world of Walmart

One of the barriers students typically face when deciding whether or not to come to Summer Training Project is the issue of a summer job.

But we are blessed each summer to be provided with 40-hour-a-week jobs!

Where are these jobs, you ask?

Well, over the years STP students have been stationed at a variety of locations. McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, Krystal Burger, BI-LO grocery, and Piggly Wiggly have all been options.

This year, the vast majority of our students are stationed at our most popular job option…

Walmart.

‘Wally World,’ as some have nicknamed it, is always gracious in providing jobs for us. This year, about 50 students are at the Garden City Walmart, while another 50 are working at the Surfside Walmart. Our students make up a significant portion of their workforce each summer.

Students can be placed in nearly any department for the summer. Apparel, sporting goods, cashier, fabrics, pets, pharmacy, grocery, deli, bakery – you name it, at least one CO student is doing it.

Working anywhere for 40 hours-a-week can be challenging, and many find retail to be particularly difficult. Project is an overwhelming and busy two months, and interacting with customers who are often impatient to get out of the store and back on the beach can be challenging. It is another opportunity for us to die to ourselves in order to love and serve the customers as well as our fellow Walmart workers.

I asked a few students about their favorite parts of working at Walmart.

“It’s easily the people. I really like my coworkers. That can make or break where you work, and it’s a really sweet environment here.”

“I like working in Toys.”

“I look fantastic in blue and khaki.”

“The relationships we have built are awesome. I worked here last year and I was pumped to come back and see the people that I have been away from for nine months.”

No matter what department student are in, each individual has the opportunity to get to know Walmart coworkers. There are always sweet opportunities to show Christ’s love in caring conversation and acts of service, as well as occasions to share the gospel with our fellow Walmart employees.

It is such a blessing to have a job in general, and we are very blessed to have jobs while at the Summer Training Project. 

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Bible Study Training

I’ll be honest…

When I came down to South Carolina last year for my first Summer Training Project, I basically had no idea how to study the Bible.

I grew up with Christian parents, I went to church my entire life, and I studied the Bible with my youth group throughout high school.

But when I was alone and I reached for my Bible, I was paralyzed.

Pessimistic thoughts flooded my mind:

“This book is huge.”

“How do I even start this thing? The beginning, right? Or does that matter? Do I just read and read until I get tired, or do I stop at the end of each chapter?”

“What’s the point of the Old Testament if Jesus basically voided out the law anyway?”

“I seriously cannot take another ‘and so-and-so begat so-and-so,’ or read another section on how many ‘cubits’ a tent was. This is boring and pointless.”

“Why do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all seem to say the same thing? Why didn’t they just condense all the stories that repeat themselves?”

…But I digress.

So these were some of my raw thoughts as I approached the Word of God. I had always felt ashamed to tell people that I didn’t know how to study the Bible – a good Christian girl should know how to do that. It wasn’t until Summer Training Project when someone sat me down and said, “Studying the Bible is incredibly important, so let’s break down how to do that exactly.”

Welcome to Bible Study Training.

Every Wednesday afternoon, we gather together as a Project for Bible Study Training. First, a staff member gives a talk elaborating on some aspect of the Bible. This may be expounding on the fact that the entire Bible, cover to cover, is about Jesus (yes, folks, even before He was born). Another example is clarifying the fact that Bible is ultimate authority and requires that we believe all of it or none of it.

After the talk, we collectively take a look at one of the daily verses on the calendar for that week. Because the book for the summer is Galatians, every Bible Study Training verse we study will be from Galatians.

Although it is certainly not the only way to study the Bible, Campus Outreach has found the inductive method to be very helpful.

The inductive method is comprised of three parts: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.

Let’s break that down.

Observation: What does the verse objectively say? This is where you must check your preferences at the door. Don’t infer what you know, or what you think you know. There are no assumptions during this time. For example, let’s look at John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Observations could include: God loved the world; God had a Son whom he gave; belief directly correlates to eternal life.

After observing what the text says, ask questions! Back to the example: Why did God love the world? Who was the Son? Is believing in him the only way to have eternal life? There is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when you really want to dig into the text.

Interpretation: Now is the time to start bringing in what you know from the rest of the Bible. It’s also time to answer as many of your questions as you can. Example: Who was the Son? We can interpret from other verses (John 10:30, Matthew 3:17, and Matthew 17:5 to name a few) that Jesus was the Son of God.

Application: As we read through the Word of God, and the gospel is rooted deeper and deeper within our hearts, our lives should be changing as well. Application is the opportunity to think of a practical way the text can affect our lives on a daily basis. We attempt to have applications that are M.A.T. – Measurable, Attainable, and Timely. Saying, “My application is that I want to be a better person,” is pretty vague and doesn’t require mulling over and internalizing scripture. It would be more helpful to say, referring back the example, “In light of the fact that God loves the world so much that he sent his only son to die for us, I want to do acts of service today for those around me. Not because I will get brownie points with God, but because I am fully loved by him and want to extend that love to others.”

If you have no idea how to study the Bible, you’re certainly not alone. Don’t give up in frustration or embarrassment or whatever is keeping you from the Word of God. Ask someone! Study with a friend! Try the inductive! But do something, because the Bible is God’s gift to us and through it we get to know more about the Son of Man who rescued us.

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So, I'm in this thing called a 'D Group'....?

Every Tuesday night is set aside for D Group.

But what’s a D Group, you ask?

Good question.

Different ministries and churches use different terms: small group, prayer group, accountability group – the list goes on.

We have D Groups.

The ‘D’ stands for Discipleship. Campus Outreach is a life-on-life ministry in which we strive to know more of Jesus and grow as a community by walking through daily life together, pressing into each others’ lives, and pointing each other to the cross of Christ.

Every D Group, whether at Project or back on the campuses in Minnesota, has a D Group leader. At home, the D Group leader is usually whichever Campus Outreach staff member is on the campus. If there are more D Groups than the staff member has a capacity for, leadership primarily falls to older students in the ministry.

At Project, roommates are in a D Group together. The room leader also serves as the D Group leader. It’s an opportunity to grow together as roommates, friends, and fellow believers in Christ. Life-on-life discipleship is especially sweet when you literally live life together every day.

The first night of D Groups on Project are traditionally the ‘testimony night.’ Each person in the room has the opportunity to tell his or her story. Students can share as much or as little as they are comfortable with. Some are contented sharing twenty minutes worth of information, while others take hours to share their testimony. Both are wonderful to hear, and testimony night is helpful for students to dive into vulnerability and get to know one another on a deeper level.

After the first week, the remainder of D Groups during Project look a little different from room to room. Each room is comprised of unique students, and room dynamics vary, resulting in different needs for different rooms. Regardless of the goings-on in each room, D Group is a sweet opportunity to intentionally spend time as a room, speak Truth into each other’s lives, and help each other know more of Jesus.

And knowing more of Jesus is ultimately the point of….well, everything.

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Time to get Social

          STP sync swim socialThursday nights are a special time at Project. The weeks are packed with work and trainings, and it’s not uncommon for students to burnout.

But Thursdays are different.

Thursdays are rejuvenating.

Thursdays are socials.

Project socials are weekly opportunities for students to spend time with each other on some sort of crazy adventure or embarrassing escapade. Let me give an example: Last week was this summers’ first Project social. Each room was told to dress its room leader as a Disney character. There were standard results – a prince here, a fairy there – and there were also those who thought a bit more outside the box, like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast and a paper boy from the Newsies.

Dressing up like characters from our childhood (who am I kidding, we all still watch Disney movies) was simply step one. Next, all 110 college students marched half a mile down the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, 40 of us still fully Disney-fied, to play an 18-hole round of mini-golf. Did people stare? Of course. Did we care? Nah. The confused looks on people's faces adds to the fun.

That was merely one example of a Project social. I asked around to students who have attended at least one Project before to find out which social was the favorite. Three popular responses were Synchronized Swimming, Boat Social, and Broadway Scavenger Hunt.

Let's start with Synchronized Swimming. Throughout the summer, rooms of guys take rooms of girls on group dates (that’s a blog for another day), and Synchronized Swimming is a chance to mix it up. First, the rooms of men have to create a synchronized routine to perform in the pool in front of all the ladies at Project. One female room in particular will be deciding if the routine was ‘worthy of a group date,’ which they always are. The room of girls will then take those men on a group date they have previously planned. This social is always hilarious, and girls love the opportunity to plan a group date, which is a task the men usually take on to bless their sisters.

Another crowd-pleaser is the Boat Social….literally, a crowd of passers-by gathered last year to see what on earth was going on. The different teams on Project break up and plan a skit to perform for the rest of the Project. Here’s the twist: the scene must involve some sort of boat, whether it be a ship, a raft, a steamboat, or a canoe. This boat must be crafted within the allotted two hour period, and the finished product must stay afloat from one end of the pool to the other, while at least one student stays on board at all times. Not your average skit anymore, is it?

That leaves us with the Broadway Scavenger Hunt. In the heart of Myrtle Beach lies a magical place called Broadway at the Beach. I would deem it as a cross between Mall of America and Disney World, but on a much smaller scale, of course. There are countless restaurants, shops, and random attractions scattered throughout the designated area. The social we have come to love is the scavenger hunt in this chaotic environment. Again, we have a twist: the hunt is not just for items, but for people. While groups are attempting to find and take pictures with countless items on the list, students are walking around as ‘bonus points’ if they are found. And let me tell you, the bonus is well worth the hunt. About 20 students from the CCP team dress up in any way they want (hats, sunglasses, fake uniforms, and dyed hair are all fair game) and can walk around as we search for them. If your group spots one, you discretely walk over, ask for the token, and they hand over a small golden medallion. The group with the most points at the end wins.

So that is a glimpse into Thursday nights at Summer Training Project. Socials are wild, a bit crazy, usually embarrassing, and often some of the most fun memories students have at STP. If you want to know more, ask students you know about their favorite socials. And as always, entertaining pictures of our adventures will be posted throughout the summer!

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The Start of Project

It’s been a week since the leaders’ caravan rolled out of the Bethlehem Baptist parking lot, cars packed with excited students ready to head down to the Summer Training Project. Since then, the leaders have worked hard cleaning, unpacking, and preparing the Aquarius Motel to feel like home. We loved spending time getting to know each other and grow as a team before the disciples arrived, but everyone was growing in anticipation and excitement as Friday drew near. The first car from the disciples’ caravan came cruising in mid-afternoon on Friday. They were ambushed with loud cheering, signs and dancing. Needless to say, everyone was a bit over stimulated and overwhelmed.

A few hours and countless introductions later, the students all headed over to the church across the street for the first rally. We flooded through the doors, welcomed by a high-energy CO staff team and a pump-up dance to the Cupid Shuffle.

Mike Polley gave the first talk of the summer. Our theme for this year is “Free,” and we will be digging deeper into the book of Galatians. Polley walked us through the main verse for the summer: Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We are set free so that we may walk by faith in freedom, not in slavery to the law. It will be sweet to see how God works in students’ lives through the wonderful truths about Jesus Christ found in Galatians.

Every Project is different of course, but this year is particularly different for several reasons, one being the change in location. Our summer home, previously located in Garden City Beach, is now in Myrtle Beach. The area is much more populated and, of course, tourist-y. There are countless souvenir stores, restaurants, and coffee shops within walking distance from Project, which is definitely different from Garden City Beach. There is even a 187-foot Ferris Wheel a block away from us! So there are plenty of options for socials, group dates, and general hang out spots this summer.

The norm for Project is to be crazy busy and have tons of exhausting fun, but the first few days are always crazier than most. As this week continues on, students will have the opportunity to spend relational time with their roommates, schoolmates, and other brothers and sisters in Christ. There will be a lot of information to take in and plenty of new names to remember, but as the week passes and people settle in, Project will feel more and more like a home away from home.

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