Wes Hartley is media pastor at Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas. They let their youth help with VBS media production, creating the perfect blend of meaningful interactions and leadership development. Here, he shares how they do it:
Junior high and high school students—tech savvy, no fear of trying new things, quick learners and a desire to do something that matters more than playing video games all day—could we leverage VBS as a training ground for them? Could we trade production perfection for the greater goal of developing new student leaders on our media team? Yes!
Last year’s VBS media team included 30 students. We let student leaders—who were already plugged in to our team—be the trainers of the newbies. For example, we asked a student who was home from college to train other students on shading cameras. We had a high school student, who normally serves on our graphics team, teach the newbies how to run graphics. Everyone rotated to different positions each session until he or she found the place that clicked for them. We even promoted one of our students who normally switches to director. He did a great job. Sounds like fun, right? Truth is, it’s exhausting. It’s messy. It requires significant preparation and oversight, but is it worth the investment? Absolutely.
1. Have a plan.
There is no way to throw it together on the first morning with 30 fresh faces. But be flexible with your plan.
2. Designate a clear leader to interface with the students.
We have very successfully utilized a woman who actively serves on our weekend team to make contact with students, schedule them and keep them in line.
3. Have the students sign a code of conduct based on 1 Timothy 4:12.
We explain that if they violate this code of conduct, they will be sent home. We started this agreement after a couple of kids got Gaff-taped to a wall (true story).
4. Feed them.
If the snack says things like “low fat” or “natural,” do not waste your money! They want Ding Dongs, Honey Buns and chocolate. Trust me on this one. Seriously. The students will be working hard, and they love the fact that we provide snacks that are 100 percent theirs. We create their own room for breaks, and it makes them feel like a team with their own locker room.
5. Expect them to perform.
Do not treat them like children. In fact, I tell the students that if anyone treats them like a kid, I want to know about it. We promise them that we will treat them like the smart, responsible students that they are (or want to be) and we will expect their very best in return. We are rarely disappointed in their ability to meet our expectations.