The following post was written by J. Roger Davis, President of Student Life
Would you rather eat an Outback Special or a McDonald’s Happy Meal? For me, there is no thinking twice about this one. While Happy Meals may be fun as a child, hopefully we have graduated from those and prefer to eat good food.
In student ministry, as we grow young Christ-followers in their faith and discipline, it is extremely important to put good spiritual food on the table in front of our students every chance we get. This is one of the main reasons it is imperative to have great camp themes (or really any event or study) that are grounded in the Word. As young people navigate changing times, we need to saturate them in the truths of never-changing Scripture.
Over the years, we have found that when we have great themes with good handles it is easy for a communicator, Bible study teacher, volunteer youth worker, or paid youth leader to point students back to God’s Word rather than our creative ideas or opinions. For we know in the end what we possess on our own will not lead to eternal life change. But when we create experiences for them to interact with the truths of Scripture we can see great returns in the investment.
When crafting themes, we always try to begin with the Scriptures. One of the pitfalls of theme development, or even sermon prep, is when we use the Scriptures as an illustration rather than the foundation of our study or preaching. Illustrations, activities and stories should help illuminate the truths of the Scriptures, but should never be the main focus. When we miss this, we run the risk of circling back around to those creative ideas or opinions that are from within us. The Scriptures are the foundation of great theme development.
When working with students, it is important that themes and content are attractional in nature. Very few students will get jazzed about an event that has themes like, “Learn to Read Your Bible Daily” or “A Week Learning to Be a Better Christian.” But if you can have attractive creative content and intriguing design as a part of your strategy to help students grow in their relationship with God and use of His Word, you win! Too often, I see themes that are so abstract that no one, especially the intended target audience, can understand what we are talking about. And other times, it is obvious that the theme developers did not use enough creativity to overcome clichés. A great theme takes top quality effort.
I, like you I imagine, eat at Chick-fil-a often. Most Chick-fil-a locations will have that quote by S. Truett Cathy, “Food is essential to life, therefore, make it good.” He is right on with that thought, but how much more should we apply it to our theme developments when it comes to teaching the scriptures? If we believe that the Word can bring anyone from death to life, then we should do everything in our power to make those moments excellent.
J. Roger Davis
Roger joined Student Life in the fall of 1996 and accepted a full-time position in 1997 to focus his attention on youth camps. In 2007, his role expanded to take on all ministry events at Student Life and Servant Life, and in 2010 was named president. He spends his time leading the Student Life team as we serve ministers and their churches. In addition to his role with Student Life, he gives leadership to Servant Life.