Here's what we mean by "Partner with Parents"
- We believe we have been called by God to Youth Ministry…and parents, so have you! Experts agree that no other factor influences the spiritual development of a teenager more than parents. So, you may never hear us say anything more often than this - "The most important youth minister in your teen's life is YOU." Our youth group is big. And while we care about every student, we can't know your teen like you do. If something important or unique is happening with your teen at home, at school, or even here at church, we want to know! Please help us stay informed so that we can achieve our potential as your partner in ministry.
- We LOVE feedback! We care about what you think. If there is some aspect of our program or ministry that you have suggestions or concerns about, just pick up the phone or send us an e-mail. We love you and we are committed to processing thoughtful feedback!
- We are committed to putting you to work! This does NOT mean that we want you watching over your teen like a hawk. But, we expect every parent to pitch in & help make the OCYG work. We utilize parents in many traditional roles (trip chaperones, small group leaders, class teachers, etc.), but we also depend on parents to help fuel ministry in numerous other roles!
- We promise to communicate clearly! Hopefully, you find our website helpful & informative. As you navigate, you will discover the OCYG Calendar, as well as information & registration options for many of the events and all the trips we take. In addition, the Middle School & High School ministers will send a weekly e-mail to parents with words of encouragement and informational updates.
A little more about the "Process"
- We don't want ANYONE to try to do it all! Because we have a large youth group, we schedule more activities than will be healthy for any student or family to attend. So, when your daughter tries to "guilt trip" you into bringing her to a Bible Study or Service Project, PLEASE remember: Pick & choose. We do not expect you to plug into every opportunity!
- Big Stuff. When something comes along that we believe is critical to the faith formation of your student, we will tell you. One example is Covenant Groups (see the tab at the top of the page). Because CG's form the heartbeat of our school-year ministry and help provide much needed healthy connections in a youth group that can feel overwhelmingly large, this is a ministry we believe every student should plug into. When things like this come along…we will get your attention!
- Intergenerational Ministry. During this time of exciting (and scary) changes & challenges, growing teenagers need the stability & perspective that committed adult mentors can bring. They also benefit from being called to lead younger students too. Your student will be offered numerous opportunities to serve those younger in the congregation as well as connect in meaningful ways to mature disciples from every generation.
- Keeping your teen safe. Several years ago, a "Child Protection" initiative was begun here at Otter Creek. The resulting policy (Otter Creek Child Protection Policy) represents our commitment to the whole-person safety of your teen in every area of his or her involvement with the Otter Creek Church. We will never knowingly place your student's physical, emotional, or spiritual life at risk. We encourage all parents to familiarize themselves with this policy.
- Preparing your teen for the path that lies ahead. Your growing teen is going to be on his own in just a few short years. And that's exactly the way it's supposed to be! While we will never put any student in danger…we WILL offer students the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. As students grow up in our ministry, they will recognize that we believe in their ability to achieve and that we expect them to make strides toward adulthood. And we will encourage you to do the same in your home. This process is going to look different for every teen. Oh…and by the way, there is not one certain way we expect all this to go. Every family is unique. And each child within a family is unique. This "process" isn't a formula. It just isn't that simple. As we work together & communicate (that's what partners do, after all), we will find the youth group “sweet spot” for your family.
Here's what we mean by "Mature Disciple"
- There's nothing more mature than love. In case you haven't figured it out yet, we value LOVE above all other things. The OCYG Core Values are all basic expressions of love. What we want even more than anything is for your student to fall in love with love. Love of God, of each other. Our prayer is that God will use our teaching, mentoring, leading & serving to show your teenager the way of love.
- "Mature" and "Old" are different things! Some of your teens will mature quickly while others will take quite a while to mature. That's okay! Our goal is to meet every teen right where they are & help them grow. We are always watching for signs that a student is ahead of the curve in terms of spiritual maturity. We are eager to provide appropriate spiritual challenges that can lead every student to greater maturity in Christ.
- Our focus is on the direction…not the destination. From time to time a parent will express concern that her 17-year-old son isn't baptized yet. This worry is real and it can cause a real sense of panic. If you are a parent, you can probably understand this type of worry. We all want our teens to "grow up" in the faith and it is easy to want that growth to look a certain way or to happen in a certain time frame. But, here at Otter Creek, we are more concerned about the spiritual DIRECTION in which your teen is moving than we are about where she may currently be on the continuum of spiritual maturity. Jesus tended to avoid folks with a "we've arrived" mentality preferring instead to spend his time with those who were interested in going somewhere new & exciting.
Everything we do is intentionally rooted in one of these values: Worship, Community & Service. These are at the heart of what God was doing throughout the pages of scripture and what He is still doing in the world, so we want them at the heart of our ministry.
This is the vertical element of youth ministry. Remember when Jesus went off by himself to pray? That is what this is all about! This core value is all about growing in the relational knowledge of our creator. As a dad, I LOVE it when my kids hug my neck & tell me I'm the greatest. Making God feel THAT way is what we mean by "Worship". Sometimes it will be quiet. Sometimes it will be loud. Sometimes this will happen in a crowded room Sometimes your teen will be the only one around. But, EVERY TIME this OCYG Core Value is in full bloom, our group’s capacity to Love God will be stretched.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." - Mark 12:29-31
OCYG Worship Examples
- Study. On Sunday mornings & Wednesday nights, we cherish our times of teaching/learning here in the OCYG. The OCYG will challenge every preconceived notion of what it means to go to "Bible Class" by making it relevant, fun, meaningful, creative, and alive.
- Praise. The OCYG loves giving teens opportunities to worship God in song. Acappella…full band…acoustic praise…God will be glorified by it all!
- Silence. The world that teens live in is so loud. Turning the noise of this world down and creating space to connect to the whispers of God is legitimately thrilling. Every OCYG'er will get opportunities to do this and will also be encouraged/challenged to do the same with their own lives.
- Adventure. The OCYG has trips that are designed to connect our teenagers to the majesty of God's created world. Our High School group takes an "adventure trip" every summer and the reason is Worship. We believe that when a teen experiences the wonder of God in nature, it fuels that teen's desire to show this God to those all around.
This is one piece of the horizontal element of youth ministry. Remember when the new Christians began studying together, eating together, remembering together, singing together, and praying together (Acts 2:42)? That's what we mean by "Community". As a father, I love it when my kids hug me. But when they hug one another, it brings a totally different kind of satisfaction to my heart & smile to my face. It fills me with joy to know my kids are crazy about each other. THIS core value is how we plan to fill God with that kind of joy. Teens have a great capacity to love. but, that love is often short-circuited by a culture that encourages name calling and cliquish behavior. This emphasis on Community is our attempt to love each other well.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35
OCYG Community Examples
- Covenant Groups Covenant Groups are small groups divided by grade & gender. This is the heartbeat of our school year ministries! Each group is led by a group of mature adult disciples who have been called by God to this ministry & who have been equipped/trained as small group leaders. In addition to food, fun and fellowship, each meeting is designed to draw the group closer together by drawing everyone closer to God. These groups really do share life together. Click HERE for Covenant Group Process.
- Fall Retreat Our main goal for this time together is to create shared memories & tear down walls. In a large youth group with students from dozens of different schools, this special weekend is a precious unifying gift from the God who created us all.
- Camp God has been using camp to bless the young AND old of Otter Creek since 1989. If you asked any random OCYG teen, "What's your favorite week of the year?" The answer will almost always be, "Camp!" The main reason for that is the love that one literally feels walking among the fields, visiting the cabins or dining in the mess hall. It is almost impossible not to learn something powerful about God's heart for community at Otter Creek Christian Camp. You can ask just about anybody and they will tell you: Camp is as close as you're gonna get to heaven on earth. (To register for Camp or to see the website, click HERE.)
This is the other piece of the horizontal element of youth ministry. Remember the time that Jesus allowed his own agenda to be tweaked by the needs of others? Oh wait…that was pretty much every single story that is recorded in the Gospels, wasn't it?!?! Well…remember the time Jesus told the "Here's who's going to heaven and here's who's going to hell" story in Matthew 25? You're probably starting to catch onto why "Service" would be one of our core values. As a dad, I am always watching to see if the love I share with my kids…and the love they share with one another will translate to the world around them - especially with the "last & the least". Extending to those around us - whatever they look like - the love we have learned from our God and shared with each other is more than just the logical next step. According to God, we are literally making history as we love the world around us.
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:16
OCYG Service Examples
- Mission Trips We do mission trips out of the country and here in Nashville! Wherever we are serving, our goal is to impact the world for Christ. We do both an international mission trip and a local mission trip every summer. In the past, we have gone to Guatemala, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, & Haiti.
- Nashville Workcamp Each summer, we join with youth groups from Nashville & all over the Southeast to paint houses in name of Jesus! Teens are placed on work crews with total strangers, which pushes us way outside our comfort zones. These work crews spend the week serving families by painting their houses. Before the week is over, God's name is truly glorified as homeowners testify to the goodness of God. Simultaneously, teens are hit in the face with the power of God to change lives through service.
- Service Projects These activities and more will provide priceless opportunities for each member of the OCYG to love God by serving people. More than just random events, these "projects" are connected to something larger: a relationship. For example, each time we return to the Gernert Homes to serve the elderly residents, you can see it in their eyes: "They came BACK…they DO love us!"