MUUUCE 2023: Extraordinary!

MUUUCE—the Most Ultimate, Unbelievable, Urban Camping Experience—celebrated its 37th anniversary Aug. 10-12, with 402 middle school students and leaders from 22 Northwest Conference churches.

MUUUCE began in 1986 when the youth pastors at Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville, MN, created an event to reach middle schoolers. It quickly grew to serve all of the churches in the Northwest Conference. Faith Covenant hosted it until 2011. Crossroads Church in Woodbury, MN, then hosted until 2022. Buffalo Covenant Church in Buffalo, MN, became the host church for the first time this year.

The MUUUCE fun was spread out over three days—starting with a massive MUUUCE Blitz Thursday night that included nine giant inflatables, a field full of games like 9 Square in the Air and Gaga ball, indoor arts and crafts, and ice cream from a local ice creamery.

Friday’s excursion was the annual trip to Valley Fair, where after a great day in the park, as they were loading the busses to go home, a large hailstorm missed the group by a few miles. Friday night after worship was another party with something for everyone—a movie in the sanctuary, Capture the Flag under the lights, and a huge game show in the Youth Room. Those who wanted a quieter experience could do crafts like making buttons and bracelets or hanging out at the fire pit with guitars and s’mores.

The worship sessions started with games to get the group connected and energized. Then the youth worship team from Crossroads Church did a fantastic job of pivoting the energy in the room toward worship.

One youth leader observed, “It was really cool to quietly witness my students’ comfort level with large group contemporary youth worship grow as the weekend went on. It started with clapping along/following along with some actions that went along with certain songs. It turned into tentative opened palms, then bolder opened hands, and by the end of the weekend some students had their arms fully raised in praise to God!”

Speakers Craig and Molly Sanborn fleshed out the theme of “Extraordinary” (based on John 10:10) for this rapt audience of 6-9th graders. Craig was formerly the high school pastor at Plymouth Covenant Church in Plymouth, MN, and Molly is a frequent speaker at youth conferences, where she’s known as the Cheese Ball Chick. Together, they travel all over the country, speaking to students and adults.

Their heart for middle schoolers was evident as their ministry at MUUUCE continued off-stage. They talked with long lines of students after the worship sessions and again while they hung out with them at Valley Fair. Their speaking created some memorable moments of life change.

A youth pastor captured it well: “One of our boys in the Friday night small group said, ‘It felt like the Holy Spirit was present and moving.’ … We had a boy and a girl accept Christ for the first time that night.”

MUUUCE couldn’t happen without over 150 Buffalo Covenant Church volunteers who worked long hours doing everything from serving 1,200 hot dogs, popping popcorn, and manning the inflatables at the Blitz, to arriving at 6 a.m. to make 15 bags of sausage and 400 eggs, cutting up dozens of muffins and bagels, cleaning bathrooms, or serving all night in security shifts to provide a safe place for students and leaders to sleep.

The MUUUCE 2023 planning team comprised pastors and youth pastors from several churches and the staff of Buffalo Covenant Church. The group met several times in the months leading up to MUUUCE to determine how to create an atmosphere that contained elements of fun, surprise and worship. The team was made up of James Brown (Real Life Church, Waseca, MN), Rocky Hovda (First Covenant Church, Willmar, MN), Zach Klein (Community Covenant Church, Upsala, MN), Christian Krohg (Prairie Hills Covenant Church, Sioux Falls, SD), Kara Larson (Buffalo Covenant Church, Buffalo, MN), Taavi Larson (Buffalo), Dave Macalena (Buffalo), Darren Olson (Buffalo), Kelly Totushek (Buffalo), Karina Winkleman (Roseville Covenant Church, Roseville, MN), Brian Zahasky (Hope Covenant Church, St. Cloud, MN) and the NWC staff.

One youth worker summed the event up well: “MUUUCE is my favorite event that is put on each year. I hope we can keep it going strong. These students are being impacted for the kingdom through everything we do at this event!”