July 13, 2023

Scores of Christian Students Go ‘Barefoot’ During Super Summer at MC

Therese Apel

Mississippi College Super Summer

More than a decade ago, Zach DePriest came to Super Summer at Mississippi College between his eighth- and ninth-grade years to develop the Christian leadership skills he would need to help others obtain a personal relationship with Christ.

He hasn’t missed a Super Summer since.

Now the student pastor at First Baptist Church in Jackson, DePriest is on the servant staff at Super Summer, where he serves with “Red School.” His commitment to the core values of the conference – leadership, evangelism, apologetics, and discipleship training – has never wavered.

“As a student, I came back to Super Summer because it helped me think deeper and deepen my faith in high school,” DePriest said of the conference sponsored by the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and overseen by the Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries Department. “The things I learned, and the friendships I made helped prepare me for college and life.

“As a leader, I come back and bring groups because I know the value of what is being taught and the friendships students form. Super Summer also serves as a type of family reunion, where I get to see other student ministry leaders and reconnect with them. The network of student ministers here in Mississippi has been so good for me and my growth as a Christian, person, and leader.”

For more than three decades, the discipleship and evangelism conference has nurtured leaders like DePriest for churches throughout Mississippi. Designed for students who have a desire to grow spiritually, Super Summer challenges them to not only cultivate their own faith, but to share it with others actively.

“The students who attend have been identified as leaders in the church, and youth groups had to meet several requirements to be eligible to come,” said Ken Hall, student ministry consultant for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Super Summer director. “Many of our churches add requirements as well, so these are students who are already passionate about their faith.”

Hall said among the requirements for students to attend Super Summer are sharing personal testimony in front of a group, sharing Christ with at least one other person, memorizing 10 scriptures, being actively involved in a discipleship group, and maintaining 75 percent church and youth group attendance.

DePriest said the requirements help create buy-in from the students – they value the time they have at Super Summer because of the work they had to do to attend.

“Super Summer is unique because it just includes Mississippi students who are already stepping up as leaders in their ministries,” he said. “During the week, they are given the tools for their evangelical tool belts – and even the material to sharpen those tools.”

The excitement among Super Summer attendees and leaders is palpable. Across the Clinton campus, groups clad in bright hues meet together to talk, laugh, sing, and share the Gospel. The students are divided into “schools” – referred to by colors – based on their ages and the number of years they have attended the annual event. Each school is led by student ministers and other church leaders selected by the Super Summer Planning Team.

First-year students in red, silver, orange, and gold schools study basic discipleship topics. Second-year students in blue and brown schools cover worldviews, different beliefs, and character issues. Third-year students in yellow and lime schools focus on becoming leaders in all areas of their lives.

Fourth-year students in green school concentrate on the Christian worldview. Fifth-year students in purple school review and refine what they have learned during the previous four years at Super Summer. They spend portions of their week gaining missions experience, usually in the inner-city Jackson area.

Super Summer is designed to build on previous years of training, but a junior or senior in high school who has never been to the conference will still find it relevant.

DePriest said relationship-building is the best part of Super Summer.

“The teaching is great and vital, but when you are a student – and even a student pastor – and you get to sit in a worship service with 1,000 students from our state on fire for the Lord, it encourages you that you are not alone in whatever you are going through. The relationships made will be people who will encourage you, hold you accountable, and be there when you need them.

“As a team leader and as servant staff, I’ve met different student pastors that have continued to be mentors to me that I likely would not have met had it not been for Super Summer.”

The theme for Super Summer 2023 – “Barefoot” – is taken from Isiah 52:7 – “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (New International Version)

Jason Curry, founder of Finish Empty and a veteran leader who this year alone will speak face-to-face with 150,000 people across the world, serves as the 2023 Super Summer speaker. He challenges, motivates, encourages, and inspires his audience members to return to their families, churches, schools, and communities, stand firm in their faith, and share it with others. Journey Worship Company, a team of worship leaders, musicians, and songwriters from the Journey Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, serves as the 2023 Super Summer Band.

While COVID-19 impacted attendance during the last three years, Hall said Super Summer participation has returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

“This year, we have 341 first-year students; 142 of them are entering high school and will have the opportunity to complete all five years of Super Summer,” he said. “We have 63 students who will be in the fifth-year school.

“We have 815 students and more than 100 adults registered, plus our staff. We are excited that our registration is back up to what it was before the pandemic.”

Super Summer is organized by a 15-member planning team of youth pastors and ministry leaders who each serve three-year terms. Sue McAllister of Tupelo helped start Super Summer in Mississippi while serving as youth minister at Harrisburg Baptist Church in 1987 – she now serves as assistant director of Super Summer.

All staff members and team leaders volunteer to serve and pay to be a part of Super Summer. Team leaders go through an extensive vetting process to participate.

DePriest described the event as a life-changing experience worth the cost.

“My experience at Super Summer is different from when I was a student,” he said. “I don’t think I understood all of the behind-the-scenes work and prayer that goes into the week. From my perspective now, the cooperation among student pastors from across the state to make the event happen is impressive.

“What remains the same is that each week at Super Summer, I leave refreshed and better prepared for ministry than when I arrived because of what I have learned during the week – even as a leader.”

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