Servant Team: There’s No “I” in Snowbird
Snowbird is a well-oiled machine with many parts. Each part, department, or ministry element works to hold up an area of responsibility within the organization as a whole, ultimately for the purpose of exploding the Gospel far beyond little Andrews, North Carolina. There is no “i” in Snowbird, it takes the hard work, dedication, and prayerful submission of many to complete the mission here. Servant Team is one of the most valuable pieces in that machine of Snowbird. Take a minute to dive into the intricacies of Servant Team:
The Snowbird Servant Team program is a 11-week volunteer discipleship experience for high school students. Led by their respective male and female directors, Servant Team members work in various areas around the camp each day, such as maintenance and housekeeping, in the midst of Snowbird’s busiest season; the summer. Dun dun dunnnn.
Many of my personal friends and youth students back home have asked me for more information about this program, and honestly I didn’t know much at all. I’m relatively new to everything ‘Snowbird‘. As someone who has never had any familiarity, knowledge, or experience with Servant Team, I spent time sitting down with previous Servant Team staff, and the leaders of the program to get a better picture of what this program entails.
If I were to design a tangible job description, I’d say the program welcomes 12 high school boys, and 12 high school girls to spend a summer living, serving, and learning at Snowbird. They work 6-8 hours a day in a specific department within the ministry, such as housekeeping, grounds, foodservice, and more. The students sit in on the main teaching and breakout sessions for campers, and additionally have small groups throughout the week with various ministry leaders and directors.
While the purpose is to step in faith and serve, there is so much more at play here than I ever thought.
Nikki Smith, the appointed staff leader of the Servant Team Girls emphasized that “there is a heavy work aspect. In all honesty, the camp couldn’t run without Servant Team, but the discipleship aspect to the program is the biggest portion, and our most passionate focus. We have extra small groups where we get to pour into the Team. There is time set aside for the Team to study the Word personally and grow in their ability to study. The girls and guys meet together respectively at least once a week as a full group, sometimes more often. There is a one-on-one discipleship aspect; each team member is intentionally and regularly pursued and discipled by the full-time staff, summer staff, and other people within Servant Team itself. Discipleship is the biggest focus, but there is a healthy balance of work, play, growth, and rest as well.”
My original painted picture of Servant Team was a small staff sector that hid in the background, served somehow, and worked to maintain the camp so that the counselors could focus on intentionally pursuing students. While some of that idea is true, I needed to start over with a new canvas. The service isn’t the main point here; that’s just the added benefit. You essentially get the benefits of being a camper, the benefits of being on staff, and you get the added bonus of the longevity of time spent immersed in solid teaching, personal discipleship, and a phenomenal community. Rather than being one of 400 kids coming in for one week, you become one of 12 coming in for 11 weeks.
Many people have applied and been accepted to Servant Team over the years, including students who have never come to the campus before, or attended a summer camp session. From Canada to Florida, we’ve seen it all! Those who have come through Servant Team program have continued on to become summer staffers, Youth Pastors, leaders in their churches, leaders in ministry, leaders in their career fields or colleges, missionaries domestically and internationally, and even some full-time staff here at Snowbird! Caroline Ellis, our current Snowbird t-shirt design guru, came through the Servant Team program and her passion overflows when she recounts memory after memory of the things that the Lord did that summer of 2006. “The biggest thing for me was the community. I had never experienced a body of believers like that ever before. They were so intent on pursuing the Gospel and pushing each other towards the Lord. I came from a church where I hadn’t been taught to understand the importance of doctrine, or deep personal study of Scripture. So when I came here, and people were growing, and learning, and maturing, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I walked away seeing the importance of accountability. I was completely missing the ‘iron-sharpens-iron’ truth in my life. I needed believers to encourage, challenge, and sharpen me. Our God is a relational God, and He gives us the gift of relating with others and finding Him in the midst of that community with one another. The friendships I built in that one summer are still my closest today, 11 years later.”
Carol has become so passionate about the program, and sees such value in it that she went on to lead the girls the following summer. “I love the program. The idea of getting to spend more than one week with a group of girls who have already decided they want to grow and learn is incredible. I encourage anyone who is considering joining the Team, but is unsure, to at least fill out the application. The application itself is so stretching and challenging. I was asked to define words that I’d never even heard of before. It really pushed me to learn more about my faith and what I really believe.” Brittany, 19, who was a part of Servant Team 2014, piped in saying “it took me three months to finish that application, and I felt like I had been missing out on an entire area of understanding my faith. It made me realize how
much I really wanted to be here and grow even deeper”. Christiaan, 17, Servant Team 2015, shared that “Brody exemplified biblical manhood for me. I watched how he led us, and how he led his family, and balanced that with ministry, and it challenged me to be a stronger man, a real leader, and a missionary for the Gospel back home in Canada. I learned a lot about servant-hood. The work you do is behind the scenes, and you don’t get credit for it. You don’t do it for yourself. You feel encouraged because it has nothing to do with you at all, it’s all about placing other people before yourself. I was really, honestly, challenged to just grow up.”
The coolest thing about Servant Team is that your only responsibility here is to grow and serve. You don’t have the responsibility to pour into others. It’s a cup-runneth-over program where you are studying, learning, laughing, loving, processing, and you are overwhelmed with love and encouragement by everyone you come in contact with. This summer is completely centered around your growth in your faith.
Okay, so the leaders seem to like it, obviously. They are hyped up and passionate, and even interviewing them seemed to light them up inside and get them excited for the summer to come. But what is it like from the perspective of someone who actually lived through it? I pulled Brittany aside and drilled her with questions about her view of the Team.
“As a 16-year-old, I didn’t have any expectations. I honestly didn’t know anything about Servant Team. I knew I needed leadership in my life, and I thought this was the place I could find it. I was interested in getting one-on-one discipleship, and this is the only place I could find it as a high school aged student. I was interested in this ministry as a whole, and the application sealed the deal for me. I hardly had a clue about what I believed. I knew the simple Gospel of Jesus dying on a cross. But as a 14-year-old, new believer, relatively un-churched, I didn’t know what a ‘doctrine’ was, or how to study a Bible. But this program challenged me to learn, grow, teach, and explain my faith.”
What was it like to spend three months filling out an application, and finally get the exciting news that you would were accepted?
“I was so excited at first, and even as I got closer to actually moving to Snowbird. When the initial excitement settled down a little bit, I realized I was also super nervous. I finally realized that this was going to be my first time stepping away from home, from everything I knew, going far away, and being gone for a while. It’s intimidating. I was afraid that maybe I made the wrong decision about how to spend my summer.”
Was it worth it?
“Absolutely. I think I grew the most in learning what a body of Christ looks like, how it loves, and how it serves. I didn’t come from a family that loves. I lacked an understanding that people could love me. When I would look at staff, and counselors, and see how tired they were, how hard they worked, and how much they still loved to make time for me, it was mind-blowing to me. They love each other and would do anything for each other, and they saw me that same way. Brody is the director of this whole place, and he is a busy guy! Especially during the summer. But he would take time to spend time with us girls, answer our questions, and study through the book of Ruth together. To come from an unloving past, you can’t put a price on that kind of community.”
But, living with 11 other teenage girls can be…a lot to handle. Why on earth would anyone volunteer for that?
“It is surprisingly easier than I expected. Even if you aren’t a girly-girl, it is a lot of fun. Listen, I am not a girly person by any means. I thought I would really struggle with having to hang out with 11 other girls all the time. If I had any expectation at all walking into that summer, it was that I was not going to like these girls. But it was the complete opposite! To this day, I don’t think I have loved or been loved by anyone as deeply as those girls, those sisters.”
Did being a part of Servant Team affect you at all in the long run? Or was it just a good summer to remember?
“I learned a whole lot about what responsibility is at a young age. The faster you learn, the better, because you have more time to grow in that. That is crucial wherever you go, that you understand and exemplify hard work, and responsibility. It isn’t just serving, its discipleship. When you work and serve day-after-day together, you see your own flaws and grow from them whether you like it or not. You learn how to work as a team with people, not just by yourself. I had to work on that personally. I couldn’t be the Lone Ranger anymore, I had to work, clean, shovel, and live with 11 other people. I learned how to take care of myself, my space, my things. When I went home, I took responsibility for myself and my work. I didn’t expect that at all, but I actually liked taking work and school seriously. It was a result of spending 10 weeks here in this environment under these conditions. When you see your flaws, it gets down to the nitty-gritty of your faith, and who you truly are in light of the Gospel.”
High school students from around the United States (and even Canada!) have come to take part in Servant Team. They come in as high school students, ready and eager to learn and grow, and they leave as leaders. They come in faith, and leave as fearless Spirit-led men and women of God, sent out to be missionaries on the home front. From strong-believers from Christ-centered homes, to new believers with a desire to learn fiercely, this program has exponential benefits regardless of what story you hold.
Corey, 19, Servant Team 2015: “Servant Team is the opportunity to experience ten weeks of high caliber discipleship in a ministry that is mission focused with the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel through expository preaching and intentional relationships. Over and above that, the Servant Team gives you practical skills in maintenance, grounds, and serving others humbly without the need for a spotlight. This program is made to use Scripture to teach and admonish you in all wisdom, build a good work ethic, and to present you more mature in Christ at the end of the summer.”
We hope you will join us this summer for Servant Team.