MUUUCE 2016 – the 30th Anniversary
From Aug. 6-8, 605 middle schools students and their leaders from 45 churches gathered together for creative craziness, on-their-feet worship, formative teaching and incredible fun at Crossroads Church in Woodbury, MN. There were several NWC churches that have been coming all 30 years of MUUUCE (Most Unbelievable, Ultimate, Urban Camping Experience), dating back to the event’s creation at Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville by youth pastors Tony Deach and John Skelly.
This year, the speakers had all spoken at previous MUUUCEs: Cesar Castillejos (2015), Kara Stromberg (2011), and Erik Anderson and Eric Bemowski (2014). They focused their talks on the theme of Pixels: “When we come together, we make a beautiful picture.” The house band at Crossroads led worship that had this crowd on their feet. One youth leader choked up as she shared, “It’s amazing to see jr. highers freely raising their arms as they worship Jesus.”
A massive Welcome Party greeted students when they arrived. Giant inflatable games, a fair hair booth where students and leaders could get spray painted or crazy extensions put in, a gaga pit, spike ball, quad carts and a low-tech bean bag toss game greeted students, along with tons of middle school-approved snacks like sno-cones, mini doughnuts, popcorn, pizza as well as kiddie pools stocked with water and soda. That evening they had the choice to go to Grand Slam, Vertical Endeavors or Sky Zone. On Friday, attendees spent much of the day at Valley Fair. All together, they went through 1,100 hot dogs, 153 pizzas, 30 gallons of milk, 3,520 bottles of water, and 1,215 cans of pop.
It takes a massive amount of volunteers to pull off an event of this size. Crossroads has a MUUUCE leadership team that meets for eight months to design an event with middle schoolers in mind: the messages, the worship, the games and the discussions are all geared towards helping middle schoolers realize they are loved by God, they’re important to the church, and that fun can be a big part of their faith journey.
Crossroad’s has over 200 volunteers who serve throughout the three days, many of whom take vacation time and have done so for years. It takes over 35 volunteers just to run the Welcome Party alone. Others arrive at Lake Middle School (where everyone slept in the gyms) at the crack of dawn to set up breakfast, while others work late into the night cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and setting up for the next day. There was even a team of volunteers who created a “lounge” for when adult leaders needed a break and stocked it with homemade treats and strong coffee.
As one youth pastor put it: “It’s my favorite event of the year. It’s with our Covenant family, it’s super for building relationships with students and I don’t need plan any of it.”
Another one said: “It’s great for smaller churches that typically don’t have access to these kind of events or experiences. It’s a function that brings jr. highers together where they can be focused on God with a little fun mixed in.”