We are so glad you’re considering Summer of Service (SOS) as a potential outreach conference for your students! SOS is in its 20th year and we feel it’s a proven event to help your students experience God working through them as they serve others.
As a 21-year student ministry veteran, I know what it is to plan and prepare to bring students to an event --- hoping that they are impacted and that I have my ‘stuff’ together. Thus, consider this page as a series of blog entries from me to you to help you navigate this journey with utmost success.
Initially, I’ll hit several topics that you’ll want to pay attention to, and then over the coming weeks and months, I’ll update with relevant tidbits. Of course, feel free to interact with this page as well.
NOT A TYPICAL CONFERENCE
I know, everybody says this. But here’s the deal, I’m serious. The fact that we are NOT just a “come~sit~listen~repeat” conference impacts several seemingly benign details. Many churches and conferences have created cultures of “come and see” ministry. We are distinctly “go and do”.
The great advantage of SOS is that it gives your students BOTH learning AND living, classroom AND laboratory, theory AND reality. They WILL experience what they will be taught BEFORE they leave SOS. And you will go home with a freaked-out group of students that will be infatuated with outreach. Kinda cool.
Because of the on-the-go nature of SOS, we have INCLUDED LUNCH (Tues- Fri) in the registration cost of SOS. I know what you’re thinking…hot dogs and bologna all week. No way, well, maybe one lunch or two. But, will have the freedom to experience Cincy’s finest cuisine each night for dinner, or you can dine at the Vineyard Café.
Okay, enough of the sugar, here’s some of the salt:
o Registration: the absolute deadline is May 31, 2011. Yes, we know this is 3 weeks PRIOR to SOS. AND, we are capping registration at 900. 1,000+ participants last year was too many so make sure you’re registered before it fills up! We mobilize the 900+ SOS students for four days of ministry to over 60,000 Cincinnati residents. Finalizing seamless details in 3 weeks is pretty sweet! Thus, having all numbers squared away is vital to the success of SOS.
o Registration Deposit: the $50 non-refundable deposit for each person from your group (including adults) is new for 2011. I understand the dilemma. You’re going to bring a group. But it’s winter and you have no idea which kids will come, much less how many. And you want to get the cheapest rate. So, like any wily youth worker, you register 75 students at the super early bird rate and worry about the details later. When SOS finally comes, you have a total group number of 44 --- pretty cool and you just cancel the other 31 spots. Shrewd, right? For you, definitely. For us, we’re kinda hosed. We order outreach supplies and set up relevant, meaningful outreach opportunities based on the registration numbers being ‘actual’. So, having you pony up $50 a head makes numbers more realistic and it helps us plan more accurately.
o Host Homes: each year, we hook up outside groups (first 300 registrants, first come first served) with free lodging for the week with cool families from Vineyard Cincinnati. It’s really sweet because the hosts end up nailing breakfast for you and some of them have swimming pools (very sweet in June). To make this work Excel spreadsheet-wise, we’ll need your help deciding on how to segment your group and then STICKING with those segments. Last minute switching totally rocks the boat so we need you to refrain.
o Morning Leader Meetings: so, we’re psycho, okay? Yes, we want you to arrive each morning Tuesday – Friday at the church ONE HOUR before the first celebration (church service) begins. We will have a nice assortment of breakfast items, coffee and flavored cream of course. These meetings are important because it’s the only shot we have to update you with new info that you will NEED for the day. Once you get in the rhythm, it’s no problem. You can do it! (think Adam Sandler in The Waterboy)
o Morning Celebrations (at SOS, always translate “Celebrations” to mean “church service” --- we like to celebrate God…): last year we split middle school and high school and it went well. Except for the fact that the middle schoolers had to meet in our former gym, which is a horrible place to have a good celebration. Thus, we will have everyone back together for morning and evening celebrations this year.
o Outreach Teams: you will have to segment your total group into teams of 8 – 10 (including at least one adult) by May 31. These teams will perform outreach together for the entire week. As much as possible, we need groups to be close, if not actual, to these numbers. This will maximize your group’s outreach experience, which is why you’re here in the first place!
Okay, no more salt, but a couple more things…
o Tuesday Late Night: we have a sweet student facility, the Student Union, that we open up on Tuesday night after the Celebration for folks to hang out. We’ve got hoops, all the video games with plasmas, inflatables, bands, and southwest Ohio’s largest indoor skatepark (and BMX). We’re talking 8,000 square feet of concrete, wood and metal goodness including a 16 foot high corner bowl that’s sweet for wicked turn arounds. Check out the skatepark on Facebook (Student Union Skatepark) to get an idea of how sweet it is. Yes, we have bikes, boards, helmets and pads on the premises. HOWEVER, your students will need to bring a completed waiver with them in order to RIDE.
o The 20th: 2011 marks the 20th running of Summer of Service. We’ll be spending some time on Wednesday night celebrating God’s vision and direction. We’re inviting ANY and ALL SOS alumni to Vineyard Cincinnati on Wednesday, June 22 for that celebration. Of course, the students will get the best seats while the alums are stuck with the balcony….
Man, you’ve gotta be bored by now so I’ll stop! Fire away with questions and/or comments. Can’t wait to see you in June!