Today I am welcoming my son Aaron, 15, as a guest blogger. He agreed to share an essay he wrote after returning from our high school ministry’s summer camp.

My family and I are part of very large church. But in the more than 25 years that I’ve been a member there, I’ve typically experienced it as a place of community. My kids, now 15 and 17, grew up here, in a church with thousands of members. And yet, they have always been in small groups—so they have always felt connected. They’re known by a small network of people who love them. To them, “church” means family.

Parenting strategies abound, and I’m not an expert. But I’m grateful for my church, especially the student ministries. Our faith community has partnered with me to point my kids toward Jesus, to raise them up in the way that they should go. My son was always a bit shy, but has come into a new confidence and depth of faith this year. It’s a joy to watch it unfold.

Both my teens had significant spiritual experiences this year with our youth ministry, Student Impact. My daughter took a trip to South Africa that was life-changing. And my son recently returned from the ministry’s summer camp, called Sandblast. Along with games and fun, he deepened friendships he’s been building all year. Here’s his story:


            Sandblast 2011 was the best summer camp of my life time. The first day with all the competitions, I simply felt loved. I was finally in a place where I belong. I struggled to find a true group of friends in my childhood and preteen years. That is now a thing of the past.

God has brought amazing people into my life, and the relationships I have with them are unlike any other. I truly love this group of people like family. The rest of my time in high school is going to be the thing I look forward to every day. It is one thing to compete, but it is another thing to succeed and win. If we win the competitions, it will show all the non-believers that God is real and he is as real as it gets.

The last session was the best church service of my 13 years of attending Willow. I laughed, I cried (even though I didn’t last year), and above all, God was more present there than any other time in my life. It made me realize how much these people mean to me. Honestly I don’t think my life would be the same without them. I definitely would not enjoy where I’m at right now in this chapter of my life if I hadn’t met these people.  The types of relationships I built with these people are irreplaceable. I used to think of church as a chore or something to check off my to-do-list. Now Sundays are my favorite day of the week. And Sandblast is my favorite weekend in the summer. This experience has been incredible and I can’t wait for next year.