Boot Camp 3 “Strictly Liberating”
Western Territory holds third youth leaders’ conference.
by Cari Arias –
Surrounded by beautiful redwoods at Mount Hermon Conference Center near San Jose, Calif., nearly 500 youth workers and officers gathered during the last week of January for a time of training, affirmation, and spiritual renewal at BC3—the third Territorial Boot Camp. Major Ivan Wild is the Western Territory’s youth secretary.
Under the theme “Strictly Liberating,” speakers encouraged and challenged the delegates to simply look to Jesus. Seventy workshop options throughout the week long conference equipped new and seasoned youth workers alike with training on basic Army programs, new program ideas, current issues affecting youth, and other practical and biblical training.
Territorial Commander Commissioner Philip Swyers spoke at the first meeting, inspiring youth workers in their message, mission, and ministry. Other guest speakers included heavy-hitters from the world of youth ministry and creative ministry outlets: Mark Oestreicher, former president of Youth Specialties; Doug Fields, previously at Saddleback, now running Simply Youth Ministry and working with Group Publishing; and Charles Lee, pastor of New Hope in Southern California and vice-president of JustOne, an organization committed to addressing issues of poverty, orphans, and human-trafficking. Combined with these talented and experienced speakers, the evening sessions offered refreshing worship, led by Anthony Begonia, creative Top Ten videos presented by Chris Toy, and a variety of powerful testimonies.
Bart Tarman, former chaplain of Westmont College, presented intense Bible teaching each morning. As he shared his personal stories and convictions, delegates were challenged to follow “18 inches behind Jesus,” living our lives as Jesus would if he were living his life through us.
Late night options included time for relaxation, networking, sports, fellowship, and a hilarious presentation from the Skit Guys, offering biblical truths and lessons through humor.
McNair Wilson, an imagineer for Disney for 10 years, guided times of creative brainstorming, aiding youth workers and officers to think in new ways for their events and youth ministries.
Jim Sparks, youth development and leadership director, and the Territorial Youth Department staff worked to make Boot Camp a week of encouragement and affirmation for all in attendance. Each general session included a public recognition of youth workers from around the territory. Throughout the week other efforts were made to validate youth workers and encourage them to keep striving for excellence in their ministry.
A delegate responded, “I think it was really important to…make us youth workers feel valued. You did it, and you did it well! Many go very long periods without being affirmed, and I think it was a healing balm for many weary hearts. The work of youth workers can be very thankless…thank you for investing in us.”
Reviews of the week were overwhelmingly positive. One delegate stated, “Boot Camp was a great time of refreshment and teaching, as well as an affirmation of the work we’re called to do in ministering to youth and young adults.” Another shared, “Boot Camp was an amazing experience—the workshops, the fellowship, the feedback—but most importantly, it recharged my battery and encouraged me to not look back [and] to trust that God has placed me here with a purpose.”
Youth workers, officers, and territorial program staff are grateful to our leaders for their vision and support of Boot Camp. Jim Sparks commented, “We’ve been given a tremendous opportunity by our territorial leaders to put on such an event—a place to come and be encouraged, trained, and refueled. Their support reinforces to our youth workers that their territorial leaders believe in them. And, ultimately, we know this belief, support, encouragement, and training will be reflected in the passion and growth of our youth ministry across the territory.”