History of the Summer of Love — 1967

Part 4, Rock & Roll

By Bill Petro • billpetro.com

It was fifty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile

It was indeed 50 years ago that The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. No other album defined the soundtrack of the Summer of Love better than Sgt. Pepper. It captured the fantasy, psychedelics, love, and drugs of 1967. Especially with the last song “A Day In The Life” which urged “I’d love to turn you on.”

In 1967 I was on a school field trip to San Francisco. Directly across the street from Ghirardelli Square was a record store where I bought my copy of Sgt. Pepper. It felt almost scandalous to bring it home to my small town because “everyone knows it’s all about drugs,” or so people thought. I did now know it at the time but that was not entirely incorrect, as we’ll see.

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Recently the six-disc boxed set 50th Anniversary (Remix) Edition of Sgt. Pepper was released by Giles Martin, the son of the original Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin.

In this, the last article in the series on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, I’ll discuss the significance of Sgt. Pepper as it kicked off that iconic summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

For the Beatles, Sgt Pepper was a departure on a couple of levels.

  • Studio: In 1966 the band stopped touring after their last performance in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park and had 10 months before Sgt. Pepper. Starting on November 24, 1966, they had the luxury of spending lots of time in the studio producing the album, finishing it on April 21, 1967. They could spend 4 days laying down “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” as Paul combined a number of presets to his Lowrey organ, including harpsichord, vibraharp, and music box. They spent 24 sessions and 700 hours recording and mixing the album.
  • Fantasy: The Beatles were able to pretend they were another band, less famous to be sure, who could feature the heroes of that fantasy band on the album cover. Paul recalls

I thought it would be nice to lose our identities, to submerge ourselves in the persona of a fake group… thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers… Let’s develop alter egos.

Artist Peter Blake put together the album cover. His idea was that this fantasy band had just finished a concert in the park and their audience joined them afterward.

George picked Indian gurus Babaji and Paramahansa Yogananda, John picked Albert Stubbins, Aldous Huxley, Stuart Sutcliffe and others, Paul picked William Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Stockhausen and others, and Peter Blake chose W.C. Fields, Tony Curtis, Shirley Temple and others. The crowd of icons was chosen. It took a letter from the Beatles to persuade actress Mae West to let her picture be used on the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album cover. At first, West refused, saying,

What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?

Double-A side Record
MonkeesThe Beatles had fallen off the top of the charts in the U.S. The Monkees were now the “mop top” group that had climbed to the top. The Beatles recorded two songs as the first two of three songs done at the same time as Sgt. Pepper, but Beatles manager Brian Epstein decided to release them as a single ahead of the album; “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were nostalgic tunes about their youth in Liverpool. I’ve visited these sites and have written about them previously. Both songs were enormous hits. I recall the Ed Sullivan show featured a “video” of the band doing the songs. It seemed somewhat disappointing, as we were used to seeing the Beatles live on his show 3 years earlier, as I’ve written about before. They just missed achieving the #1 spot on the charts behind Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me.”

Beach Boys
In the U.S. the Beach Boys had released the Pet Sounds concept album. The Beatles admitted that they were inspired by it. Paul said in 1980

That was the album that flipped me. The music invention on that album was, like, ‘Wow!’

There was a mutual admiration between the two groups. John said:

“Sgt. Pepper is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere. All my contributions to the album have absolutely nothing to do with this idea of Sgt. Pepper and his band, but it works, because we said it worked, and that’s how the album appeared. But it was not put together as it sounds, except for Sgt. Pepper introducing Billy Shears and the so-called reprise. Every other song could have been on any other album.”

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With A Little Help From My Friends
Because John had injured a finger on a piano at this time, the song he and Paul wrote for Ringo was called “Bad Finger Boogie,” thought the name was changed before release to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Two years later, the British rock band Badfinger took their name from that song and recorded for the Beatles’ Apple label. Two of their songs were by the Beatles. “Come and Get It” was written and produced by Paul and “Day After Day” was produced by George.

Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsLucy In The Skies With Diamonds

John Lennon insists that in 1967 his three-year-old son Julian had made a drawing of one of his classmates, Lucy O’Donnell. When his father asked him what it was Julian said:


“It’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

John continued to insist this for years. People didn’t buy it, the LSD in the name of the song and the psychedelic images argued against it. Even Paul had referred to it as one of the drug songs on the album. John said he was inspired by the surrealism of the “Wool And Water” chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass where Alice floats down a river in a rowing boat by the Queen who has changed into a sheep. (By the way, Carroll floated down a river with a little girl at Christ Church College, Oxford. You can find the Sheep Shop there too.) “Plasticine ties” came from The Goon Show on TV.

A Day In The Life
Initially, the song was about a news story John had read regarding the automobile accident of Tara Browne, a young aristocratic elite who was the great-grandson of the brewer Edward Cecil Guinness. Then it was spliced together with an unfinished song Paul had written about his school days. With words like “smoke,” “dream,” and “turn-ons” the track was banned from radio play in many countries.

Hence, it became the quintessential drug song of the Summer of Love.

A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All
Was Sgt. Pepper successful? Less than 2 weeks after it was released in the U.S. it was a certified gold record. It debuted on Billboard Magazine at number 8 on the album chart, the next week it was #1 displacing the Monkees’ album. It topped the charts for 15 straight weeks and remained in the top 5 until January of the next year. It sold 11 million copies in the U.S, 32 million worldwide. It won 4 Grammy awards.

All You Need Is LoveIf all that wasn’t enough, to top it all off at the height of the Summer of Love, on June 25, 1967, the Beatles released the anthem of flower power with their song “All You Need Is Love” broadcast live on TV in 25 countries to over 400 million viewers. The single was included in the U.S. version of the album Magical Mystery Tour, and in the animated movie Yellow Submarine.

Even Johnny Rivers’ December 1967 hit “Summer Rain” repeats the line “… everybody kept on playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

History of the Summer of Love — 1967


By Bill Petro • billpetro.com

When I was a Resident Assistant at Berkeley in the early ’70s a local police officer I knew gave me a tour down Telegraph Avenue. He told me:

“All the major drug deals on the West Coast go down within a two block stretch of Telegraph Avenue. The dealers and streetpeople are what’s left of the flower children.”

All this was within blocks of the nearby University of California campus. To say that drugs were rampant at Berkeley is an understatement: as an RA, I was called upon to take students who were too high on marijuana or LSD down to the Student Health Center. My saddest duty was checking out the room of a student who had committed suicide. On his wall were comic-strip blotters of LSD.

Berkeley, the counterpart foci of Haight-Ashbury, on the ellipse of the San Francisco Bay, reflected the tone and mood of the Summer of Love. In this third article on this period from 50 years ago, I discuss the drugs topic of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Berkeley was the West Coast hub of drugs, as Boston was the East Coast hub. Drugs were shipped into Vallejo, a port town 30 minutes north of Berkeley. Michael Crichton popularized the Berkeley drug trade in his 1970 novel — written under the pseudonym Michael Douglas along with his 19-year old brother Douglas — called Dealing: Or the Berkely-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues.

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The two most popular drugs of the Summer of Love were cannabis and LSD.

Reefer MadnessCannabis was known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope, blow, or reefer, and was typically smoked in a bong or hookah pipe, or as a “joint” cigarette, sometimes called a “doobie.” Weed was readily available in Northern California where it was and remains to this day, a major cash crop, even before recent legalization. Cannabis is a psychoactive drug, it’s main ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is responsible for binding to receptors in the brain to affect the “high.”

LSD, by comparison, is a synthetic drug, originally formulated in a Swiss lab in 1938 from a fungus chemical. The German name is Lyserg-Säure-Diäthylamid, but in English, the full name is dextro-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate 25.

LSDLSD is a psychedelic drug known for its profound psychological effects including anxiety, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. In 1975 it was learned that the CIA had been experimenting with LSD in the ’50s, often without the knowledge of the subjects. One of those subjects, Ken Kesey, later became an advocate for the drug and wrote One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest in 1960, about a psychiatric hospital. Kesey spent time with Tom Wolfe who wrote The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

LSD was popularized in books, movies, and music. The Haight-Ashbury based band Grateful Dead was often associated with LSD due to their popular song (Keep) Truckin,’ which was about their hotel room being raided for drugs while they were on tour in New Orleans… “Busted, down on Bourbon Street.” And when the Grateful Dead performed at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, their tie-dyed fans came out of the woodwork.

Ironically, it was in 1967 that LSD was made illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, process, or distribute without a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration. It remains a Schedule 1 drug to this day.

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LSD guru and promoter Timothy Leary claimed that his motto”Turn on, tune in, drop out” was inspired by philosopher Marshall McLuhan who had urged him to invent a catchy slogan, and as an example, McLuhan offered a jingle: “Lysergic acid hits the spot / Forty billion neurons, that’s a lot.”

BeatlesIn their younger years, The Beatles had not used much in the way of illicit drugs, except Benzadrine, Preludin, and amphetamines especially while doing long gigs in Hamburg. The Beatles claim that it was Bob Dylan who initially and fully “turned them on” to marijuana. They were using it non-medicinally when they made Help! in 1965 and it was featured in a number of their songs: “She’s A Woman,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” (an ode to pot, claimed Paul McCartney) and “With A Little Help From My Friends.” At different times John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney were arrested for drug possession.

Their dentist turned them on to LSD in his flat. This influenced the song “Day Tripper,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the album Revolver. If Revolver was their LSD album, Rubber Soul, as Lennon said, was the band’s “pot album.” Their drug references were sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, sometimes difficult to deny, as I’ll discuss in my next article on rock & roll. Needless to say, The Beatles use of, and songs about drugs led a generation to follow.

History of The Summer of Love – 1967 – Part 2


By Bill Petro • billpetro.com

Make Love Not War“Make love, not war” and the call for “free love” represented a cultural shift in mores. Even The Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love.” If the ‘60s was the time of the “sexual revolution” the natural question is: who won? There were both winners and losers. In our first article on the Summer of Love, we talked about the general environment of 1967. In this article we’ll discuss the role of sex in “sex, drugs, and rock & roll.”

More babies were born in the western world between 1946 and 1964 than during any previous period in recorded history. In the U.S. this post-war “bloom” of children was called the Baby Boom Generation and represented a relatively prosperous generation of children born to a middle class with more access to education and entertainment than any generation before it. In 1966, Time magazine declared that “the Generation 25 and Under” would be its “Persons of the Year.”

In the US the G.I. Bill allowed veterans to go to college and provide for their children better than the previous generation. The Interstate Highway system, inaugurated by President Eisenhower after WWII — for the purpose of easily and quickly transporting troops across the country — had the effect of allowing suburban living and commuting into urban centers for work, augmented with low-cost mortgages. The children of these war veterans enjoyed an unusually well-off life of freedom — thanks to the way new mothers took the teachings of a permissive pediatrician writer Dr. Spock — and relative affluence and the leisure that came with it.

Studies have shown that, between 1965 and 1974, the number of women that had sexual intercourse prior to marriage showed a marked increase. Women had become active participants in the sexual revolution.

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All You Need Is Love“Free love” continued in many respects into the ‘70s and ‘80s with different forms. When I worked for the UC Berkeley Housing Office we saw this play out. In the residence halls at Berkeley, co-ed dormitories initially meant men on one floor and women on another. That changed to mixed sexes on the same floor but segregated by room, with the opposite sex having to go to another floor to use the single-sex bathrooms. This eventually became inconvenient for the students. When the campus newspaper featured a picture of a man’s and women’s feet behind the same bathroom stall, angry parents wrote into the Housing Office in the late ’70s protesting this arrangement!

The mid-’80s saw a shift in sexual behavior first with the rise of herpes simplex virus which had no cure, and experimental antiviral therapy was not available until the late ‘70s. Secondly, the spread of AIDS, a deadly sexually-transmitted disease, had no treatment at the time.

Love LoveBy 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had licensed an oral contraceptive. “The Pill,” as it came to be known, was extraordinarily popular, and despite worries over possible side effects, by 1962, an estimated 1,187,000 women were using it.

While there is a correlation between the advent of The Pill and increased sexual activity, it is difficult to draw a causal connection between the two.

Nevertheless, there was a visible trend in the increasing age of women at first marriage in the decades between 1930 and 1970 after contraception was provided to non-married females.

The Pill eventually came to be seen as a symbol of the sexual revolution, though its origins stem less from issues of women’s sexual liberation and more from 1960s political agendas.Love

The almost immediate legacy of the “sexual revolution” was the emergence of three trends:

  • An unprecedented number of divorces in the ’70s
  • The rise in the percentage of unmarried births
  • The beginning of what would be tens of millions of abortions

Before 1970 divorce was difficult to obtain and uncommon. Assignment of “fault” was required, usually proof of adultery, abandonment, or cruelty. Before 1965 the divorce rate was approximately 10 divorces for every 1,000 married women. By 1979 that rate had doubled. California first introduced the “no-fault divorce” in 1970 signed by Ronald Regan, then Governor, and himself a divorcee. This spread to other states in the ’70s and ’80s such that all states except for New York had some form of no-fault divorce law.

Unmarried Births
According to the Washington Post, in 1967 the percentage of unmarried births among African American (until 1969 denoting all nonwhites including Asians and Native Americans) was about 30%. For Whites it was about 6%, for all groups it was about 10%. Today for African American it is 72%, for Whites it’s 36%, for all groups it’s 41%.

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Before the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 the abortion rate in 1969 was 5.2 per 1,000 women. Within a decade the rate had more than doubled. In 2007 it peaked with 18.6 per 1,000 women residents aged 15-44. The chart looks like this:
Abortion Rates








One modern writer has quipped “’Make love not war’ became a war on the results of that love.”

The “sexual revolution” of 1967 was not something new, it is very old indeed. We can look back to the pagan society of Rome where sex was casual and the lower classes had no rights but were treated like property to be used by the powerful and wealthy. Some have argued that all of this is the inevitable result of a post-Christian society. There is no doubt that we have in recent years seen a redefinition of marriage, sexual identity and malleability, love, chastity, fidelity, even bathroom use. In ancient Rome, the counterculture “revolution” was the rise of the curious faith that talked about a “love feast” and charity between “brothers and sisters.” It had a view that people were made imago dei, in the image of God with inestimable value, and not random meaningless arrangements of molecules. Could that revolution happen again? Could the pendulum swing back the other way?

History of the Summer of Love — 1967

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

By Bill Petro • billpetro.com

Summer of Love

The Summer of Love was fifty years ago, the summer of 1967, with its epicenter in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It was a summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Both San Francisco and Liverpool will be celebrating it this summer. While not limited to San Francisco — New York and London were involved — no other city but San Francisco attracted almost 100,000 young people who converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This mood was captured at the time by the hit single by Scott McKenzie “San Francisco” with its lyric “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” It was a unique time, just one summer. The song was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas to promote that the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival.

Haight AshburyIn the next year both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr would be assassinated. Woodstock was still two years away. But at the time there had never been anything quite like it. I recall my father driving through Haight-Ashbury at the time saying “Look at that!” with carnival-like amusement, baffled by the hair and clothes. By the end of 1967 many of the hippies and San Franciscan musicians from the Summer of Love had moved on. In its wake was street people, drug addiction, and panhandling. But let’s look at that one brief shining moment in history.

America had seen a couple of post-WWII counter-culture movements that later became mainstreamed: Jazz, and the Bohemians, the Beat Generation, or what were called beatniks. The first focused on music, the second on literature. The Summer of Love saw this and more personified in “hippies.”

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The hippie movement was different in that it encompassed not just music and literature, but also art, fashion, liberal politics, sexual liberation, weed, psychedelics, Eastern philosophy and spirituality, naturalism, ecology, organics, communes, long hair, and youth. It was also characterized by what they were opposed to: the Vietnam War, Nuclear weapons, the Establishment, Middle-class values, and orthodoxy. This was usually articulated by concepts of peace, love, freedom, and flower power.

Janis JoplinFirst folk music began to change with the singing prophets describing alternatively dissent and utopia. The rhythm and blues that led into rock and roll became acid rock or psychedelic rock. The San Francisco groups who expressed this were Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service among others.Each of these bands had participated in the January 1967 Human “Be-In” in nearby Golden Gate Park Polo Fields.

Grace SlickSome like Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding company — who lived in Haight-Ashbury — had iconic female lead singers: Grace Slick and Janis Joplin respectively. They had strong voices and created anthem-like music. Joplin with her electric performance and bluesy style rocked Haight-Ashbury where she lived. Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit” added a psychedelic tone to the Alice in Wonderland “Through The Looking Glass” story. She too lived in the Haight.

Timothy LearyDr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor, promoted the popularization of LSD with the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” LSD had been legal until 1967. He uttered his now famous line at the Human “Be-In,” along with 40,000 of his closest friends.

UC BerkeleyIf San Francisco was the cultural center of the Summer of Love, Berkeley was the political and intellectual center. Across the Bay, the University of Californiacampus at Berkeley featured the famed Telegraph Avenue that led directly into the university. It had been host to free speech demonstrations, civil rights protests, Vietnam war marches, sit-ins, riots, and confrontations with the Alameda Sheriff’s deputies and the National Guard. And drugs.

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The beginning of the “sexual revolution” did not start in 1967, but it had been fomenting through the ‘60s. Former Esquire magazine journalist Hugh Hefner had been promoting the “Playboy philosophy” since 1953 with the publication of his first magazine. The ‘60s saw the opening of several Playboy Clubs in major cities in the US and internationally.

As Steve Jobs (and others) have famously quipped “most of the ‘60s happened in the ‘70s” the impact of the Summer of Love were not limited to 1967 but reverberated into the ‘70s. While most of the political ambitions of that Summer did not see fruition in government, many of the cultural issues are still with us. And its impact cannot be overstated. Steve Martin, who I used to go see when he was doing standup in the San Francisco Bay Area said of this time:

“It absolutely had an impact on me. I was a hippie and I believed it all, that love was going to change the world, and ‘Why can’t there be peace in the world?’ But I sensed times were going to change — or wanted to change. That was when I changed, cut my hair and left the hippie world. That was when I left an old movement and got into a new movement. At that time, your hair length and clothes said who you were. That’s no longer true.”

George Harrison of The Beatles visited San Francisco in August of the Summer of Love. The locals welcomed him as a visiting hero, but he was not impressed by what he encountered. He said at the time:

“The Summer of Love was just a bunch of spotty [pimply] kids on drugs.”

Some call it a cultural and social phenomenon. Others call it the orgiastic excess of privileged and spoiled Baby Boomers. In the following three articles I’ll discuss what the Summer of Love meant to sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

The Fidget Gospel

3 Ways The Fidget Spinner Can Be Used In Evangelism

By Brooks Gibbs | SermonShare| Spring Hill, Tennessee

Every once-in-a-while someone invents a toy that captures the obsessions of children all over the world, sending their parents into a mass consumer hysteria. The Rubik’s Cube, Pet Rocks, and Slap-Wrist Bracelets once had their shining moment in toy history and today we have a new fun widget… The Fidget.

By now, you’ve seen this toy spinner. They are everywhere! I personally visited 5 Walgreens at the weeping request of my 7 year old who (using the creepy crackly low-end of his voice box) said my reputation as “the most awesomest dad on the planet” was at-risk. Somehow, I came through and snagged the last fidget on the shelf. Days later, his entrepreneurial grandma drop-shipped a box of them from china and now my kids are the neighborhood dealers. This fidget fever is out of control.

At first, I hated this trend. But after some prayerful observation, I discovered that there is huge evangelistic opportunity right in front of us, and wise is the youth pastor that takes advantage of it.

Consider what is happening right now. Kids are comparing fidgets, pointing out various differences, and discussing the virtues of the designs and colors. With a little help from us, we can empower our Christian kids to share the Gospel as they discuss their new favorite toy.

Evangelism Made Easy
I asked my boys to figure out a way to tell the simple story of the Gospel using their spinning Fidget as an evangelistic tool. Immediately my 7 year-old suggested the “Trinity.”

“Dad”, he said. “Each point on the fidget represents part of the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you spin it real fast, it looks like they are all ONE!”

Of course a churched kid would see the Trinity in a three part spinning toy. I’m not so sure an unchurched kid would understand what my son was talking about. The Trinity is a commonly misunderstood concept among people, and a true grasp of its reality escapes even the most educated theologians.

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I encouraged my son to think again. Think deeper. HOW does God, in His triune form, work to bring someone to Christ. Explain that, and you might be able to explain the Gospel. Here is what we concluded after a little bit of discussion:

  • The Father: Loves us so much that he gave us His son to live a perfect life that we could never live.
  • The Son: Died on the cross for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God.
  • The Spirit: Speaks to our hearts and leads us into a closer relationship with God through Christ.

That more practical explanation of the work of the Trinity is what my 7 year old chose to use on his neighborhood friends. My 10 year-old, however suggested another approach. He preferred the classic A-B-C Gospel.

  • A- Admit that you are a sinner, that you mess up and your sin separates you from God.
  • B- Believe that Jesus died for your sins so that you can live with God forever.
  • C- Commit to follow Jesus for the rest of your life, and you will be saved.

Another approach to sharing the Gospel is as easy as 1-2-3:
#1. My Life before Christ: Don’t glorify your past, but mention how you were before Christ:

  • “I had a void in my life nothing could fill” (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
  • “I felt separated from God” (see Isaiah 59:2).
  • “My life was dominated by sin and with pleasing myself” (see Luke 15:11–24).
  • Share how you never felt you could become the person you ought to be.

#2. My Life Changed by Christ: Now summarize how you came into a relationship with Christ. Be sure to mention the key elements of the gospel:

  • “I realized that I’m a sinner and that I fall short of God’s glory” (see Romans 3:23).
  • “I recognized that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins” (see Romans 5:8)
  • “I repented or turned away from my sins” (see Acts 3:19).
  • “I received Jesus Christ as Lord of my life” (see Revelation 3:20).

#3. My New Life in Christ: Talk about how your life is noticeably different now that you are in Christ. Put into your own words the following benefits of being in Christ:

  • “I now have peace in my life” (see Romans 5:1).
  • “Now that I’m a Christian, I know I have a purpose for living” (see Jeremiah 29:11).
  • “I now have the assurance that I’m going to Heaven” (see John 3:36).

Let’s nurture a heart for evangelism in our kids. The way we do that is helping them learn to share their faith with their friends, in a language that can be easily understood. Just imagine the joy that your kids will have when they see one of their friends come to Christ!

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I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

What To Unpack From Camp

Help For Parents Of Campers

By Paul Turner • Pleasant Grove Assembly of God • Pleasant Grove, Alabama

Your son or daughter will be coming home from camp soon. In addition to shirts, pants, and underwear they will be unpacking their problems, victories, and emotions. When they arrive home and experience reentry into the reality of life, they will need a little help. Reentry can be a delicate time. Look over these instructions as you help your child unpack from camp.

  1. What You Should Unpack Before Your Package Arrives
  • Expectations – Remind yourself that this is a journey and your child will spend the rest of his or her Christian life unpacking what God has put in them – and so will you.
  • Understanding – When your child doesn’t live up to his or her expectations and becomes discouraged, offer a listening ear, not a condemning finger.
  • A Heart For New Beginnings – Whatever has happened in past should remain there. Your child may be bringing back some new commitments – you could also make some new commitments and join the journey with him or her. Let the arguments and face offs of the past remain in the past. Coming home from camp is a great opportunity to start fresh.

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  1. Your Package Arrives: Handle With Care – No one will be more excited about camp than your child. If your child has never been to camp before, get ready for a few stories. If they are in junior high grab a seat because they won’t stop talking! Start to unpack slowly. Take all the “big items” out first. They will want to talk about the Blob™ they might have jumped on, all the fun games they played, and the late night shaving cream fight none of the counselors knew about. Rejoice with them over meal times, and maybe when they arrive arrange a special dinner out. Make sure you allow your son or daughter to unpack in their own time, but questions about the big stuff are okay to begin with.
  1. Small Pieces May Cause Choking – While unpacking, (which may take a few weeks) look for “small pieces” of the story. Some students are not very talkative about their spiritual moments while others make it the centerpiece of their conversations. They may mention the services at night or the daily devotion. If they like to write, you may want to present them with a journal to record all their moments. (If you are reading this article before they go to camp, buy them a journal and pack it off with them.) Ask them to share their favorite yet not too personal moments with you when they get back. Pick up on the “small pieces” of their camp experience such as a counselor they keep mentioning or a favorite song they learned at camp and now hum around the house. Use that as a catalyst for further discussion about spiritual things.
  1. Maintenance For Your New or Refurbished Student – Parents often ask the question, “How do I keep my kid on track?” Post-camp life can be traumatic. The commitments they made will be tested. The devil does not want them to succeed in following God. The feelings of guilt are magnified in the life of a young person. They see themselves as strong people; and when they act in opposition to the commitment they’ve made, they are prone to give up or to believe they just don’t “have it.” A few Scriptures to have handy are Romans 7:15, 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

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  1. Call The Shipping Dept. If You Have Any Problems – If you experience any problems unpacking you package call “shipping” – your youth pastor and youth leaders. What problems might you experience?
  • Extremism – Your child might adopt unbiblical, extreme views about their culture and even toward some lifestyles in their family. They might think to themselves, “They (family, friends, etc) are not living the Christian life like I think they should.” Remind them God’s grace and love for them, and that same grace and love should be given to others.
  • Fascination With End Times – It’s not unusual that the Book of Revelations or the Second Coming of Christ comes up at camp. This can produce an unnatural fear or curiosity about the return of Christ. The antidote for this is to focus on the person of Christ. When the disciples became interested in the time of Christ’s return, Jesus turned their focus to the task at hand – being His witnesses (Acts 1:4-8).
  • No Change At All – Camp might have no apparent effect. Your student may come back with no new convictions. Remember, camp does not change kids – God does. God will be not give up on all the seeds planted in your student’s heart; they will flourish and grow.

If you are committed to your child’s spiritual growth I can guarantee a few things: God is committed to you and your family’s success; your youth pastor cares about your child’s spiritual growth; and you will still have to do lots of laundry when they return! The only thing I cannot guarantee about your “package” is their time of delivery. Enjoy the ride!

Rend Collective: The Campfire

Why The Campfire Is Important

NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO

We’ve created a playlist that really goes along with this blog – Rend Collective‘s hard-to-find “Campfire” album! You can listen to it here. Rend’s new Campfire II album is in the current YLO106.

This is an excerpt from the Campfire Resource Pack by the modern worship band Rend Collective – this article and the album were included in YLO95.

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” – CS Lewis


Clear the area of debris, avoid overhanging branches and make sure your fire is a safe distance from tents and other flammable materials.

The Right Material
The three types of natural fuel are tinder (material that burns easily such as dry grass or shavings whittled from a stick), kindling (slightly larger material such as twigs that will burn with a little encouragement) and firewood (dry branches that will be the main fuel of the fire). No shortcuts allowed—never use flammable liquids.

The Right Shape
Two ways to build your fire are the tepee, in which you arrange the kindling in the shape of a tepee over the tinder, and the lean-to, in which you push a small stick in the ground at a 45-degree angle with the upper end pointing into the wind. Place the tinder beneath the stick and lean the kindling against it. Light the tinder and add kindling as needed. Add the larger branched last. Never leave a fire unattended.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

Put It Out!
Pour water on the fire, stir the ashes with a stick, and pour some more. It’s not out until you can run your bare hands through the coals.

One of our favorite stories of the Celtic saint revolves around him lighting a massive bonfire on the Hill of Slane in County Meath, as part of keeping his Easter vigil in celebration of Christ. His fire rose in direct defiance of the High King of Tara, and the ancient rulers of Ireland, who had chosen the night for their own festival, prohibiting the lighting of rival fires throughout the country. Only two sources of light broke the night: one in honor of the High King of Tara and the other in the honor of the “High King of Heaven.” Conflict inevitably arose and despite the best efforts of the druidic priests, St. Patrick’s fire, miraculously, could not be extinguished. The High King surrendered to Christ and the druidic priests are said to have prophesied,

“This fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.” – St. Patrick

We praise God that the fire blazes on in Ireland! Isn’t this an amazing picture of how a celebrating, counter-cultural community can transform nations?

When Jesus speaks of the “city on a hill” that can’t be hidden in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s not talking about a glaring, neon, festival of fluorescence like Las Vegas. There is no electricity in the New Testament: He’s imagining a skyline illuminated by hundreds of simple campfires, each surrounded by their own conversations and celebrations, hopes, dreams, hurts, and healings.

Our simple campfire gatherings can be powerfully missional.

People are drawn to the light, heat and safety of Jesus and His church. Our best efforts of evangelism are our best efforts in the area of loving one another – see John 13:35. It is so much more attractive than any sermon ever could be. Our love is luminous in the darkness of a Darwinian, “survival of the fittest” world. But it doesn’t stop with loving our family in Christ: we have to be recklessly indiscriminate in spreading that love to the rest of humanity, after the pattern of our extravagantly gracious Father.

There are no outsiders in the Kingdom of God. All are invited into this mystery of God’s love. Don’t even waste your time sorting people into such categories as “in” or “out.” Rather, spend your time learning how to love better! Your fireside gatherings need to be as welcoming as the Father of the prodigal son. Surrender your social life to the service of those with whom others won’t socialize.

Be like Jesus and be held in the suspicion of the religious because you are the “friend[s] of sinners”, all the while maintaining a purity of heart that outshines the most zealous Pharisee.

There is no point developing a cozy sense of family and community in Jesus’ name if we are to ignore his great commission to invite the lost into the kingdom!

There is no point in inviting the lost into a so-called Christian community of backbiting, malice, ego and selfish agendas!

Let us love with a white-hot intensity, both within our gatherings, and when reaching out of them.


In Defense of Summer Camp

4 Must-Do Items To Have The Best Camp Ever

By Jeremy White / Valley Church / Vacaville, California / jwhite@valleychurch.com


NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO

My parents could never afford to send me to summer camp as a kid, but when I was 12 I landed my very first job as a staff member at one. Camp has changed a lot since that time – as have youth workers’ opinions about its long-term effectiveness. I’ve battled with questions about the validity of camps in our annual programming, and I continue to believe in camp wholeheartedly. Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of camp every time.

Define your purpose

In the late 1990’s, Doug Field’s Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry was an important book for youth workers. God used it to give me the hope that I could actually do this youth ministry thing long-term – and do it well. The book taught me how to define the purpose behind the programming that I offered to students, and to not feel bad if every program wasn’t an “all-things-to-all-people” effort.

Is your camp effort primarily evangelistic? Discipleship-focused? Oriented to leadership development? Mostly for fellowship and building relationships? Answering these questions will give you clearer focus on your target audience and much-needed permission to give yourself a break if everyone in your city doesn’t sign up for your camp. Knowing that camp may or may not be for everyone can help shape realistic expectations.

Take advantage of the unique opportunities that camp creates

Some of my friends serve in churches where they are forced to bring their kids to camp because that’s where their church has gone every year dating back to Noah and his three sons. Whether you love or hate the camp you’re locked into, being away from the status quo with your students can be special just about anywhere.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

If you’ve laughed together, built trust, helped students gain confidence that they’re loved unconditionally, and shared a few blue-flame moments, you haven’t wasted any time. (Why do those blue-flame moments never seem to get old?)

Consider designing and running your own camp

Pulling off your own camp may sound like a lot of work (and it is), but doing so can have some huge benefits. We currently do winter camps at a pre-programmed camp here on the west coast. But in the summer, we run our own camp. This gives us the flexibility to plan summer events, teaching series, and other elements of our programming around our camp theme. It gives us more control over content, scheduling, and activities – and helps us keep the price down. This may or may not be the case for you, but it’s worth considering.

Don’t try to do it all yourself. That would be a disaster. I suggest the following as a basic time line for putting together your own camp. If camp is to be in July 2017…

  • Summer 2016 – Assemble a team to help brainstorm and commit to making camp a success. Come up with the camp’s purpose(s), goals, themes, etc. Make sure your Lead Pastor or supervisor is 100 percent behind you and will support your efforts. Keep him or her in the loop often. The more in touch they are, the better they will be able to defend and promote your efforts. This may sounds cliché, but begin with prayer. Ask God to show you what He wants for your students.
  • September 2016 – Based on your hopes, dreams, and plans for camp, find and secure the host facility. Our church has done camp everywhere you can think of. We’ve reserved a large public campground by a lake. We’ve rented out a small mountain hotel near a lake. For this next year, we’ve rented a government-owned camp facility that is used for public school environmental camps during the school year but sits dormant for most of the summer. Don’t be afraid to start small and limit the number of sign-ups if you have to. This can build momentum for future camps.
  • October/November 2016 – Begin to recruit the camp staff. You’ll need a food service team, a technical team, an energetic and creative recreation crew, counselors, boat/equipment donors/drivers, transportation, etc. If you haven’t done so already, book a speaker and worship band. Consider using resources in your own community such as fellow youth workers or worship bands from other youth groups. Or use your own in-house band if students want to serve in that way.
  • January/February 2017 – Take a trip to the camp facility with the leader of your food service team, tech team, recreation crew and whoever else may need a look. Spend some time dreaming about where to do what – and how the flow of camp will happen. Also, begin to float summer camp dates to your students. You’re way too early to provide promo materials at this point, but ask them to save the date.
  • March/April 2017 – Begin to challenge students to pray about whom they would invite to camp in the coming summer. Design or hire out the design of attractive promo material.
  • May/June 2017 – Utilize every option you have available for promotion – website, MySpace/Facebook, printed materials, etc. Get the word out BIG!
  • July 2017 – A week or two before camp, meet with your entire camp staff to finalize logistics, responsibilities, and expectations. Spend time in prayer for students and get ready for God to do great things.

Evaluate while it’s fresh

Don’t wait for the Fall to remember the lessons learned from your camp experience. I’ve been doing camps for a dozen years and I still write down lessons learned, ideas I don’t want to forget, and observations to make next year even better (by God’s grace).

It’s been a long time since my first job on camp trash patrol, but God has helped me develop a healthy respect for what He can do when we follow Jesus’ example by taking those we disciple out of the normal routines of life and placing them in environments more conducive to hearing God speak to them. Hooray for Summer Camp!


I can trace my lifelong career back to a week at summer camp

By Ken McCoy / JumpStart Ministries / Charlotte, North Carolina / kennymac@mac.com


NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO!

I decided to become a youth minister when I was a camper at summer camp. The camp was a small, under-funded, very-little-to-do-there place high in the Sierras that my church’s youth group attended each year. Our cabin’s counselor that week was the camp speaker—a theology professor from a Baptist Bible College, of all things—who didn’t spend much time with the dozen rowdy boys in our semi-permanent tent/cabin thingy.

I don’t know why, but in the absence of our theology professor adult figure, I became the default “Counselor” of my cabin. The other guys in the cabin with me were from a different church—and boy were they, umm, “carnal”! I had my hands full all week trying to encourage those guys to keep out of trouble, let alone follow Jesus.

I remember praying a lot that week.

At the end of the week, eight of those guys approached me as a group. I thought maybe they were gonna pound me, but they wanted to give me their drugs, booze, cigarettes, and, uhh, birth control devices so that I could dispose of those items. And, they wanted to give Jesus their hearts and lives.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

“Ken, we’ve always thought that Christians had to be boring and lame. This week, you’ve shown us something different. We want what you have.”

Whoa! I had NO idea that living for God could be such a rush! I was more than thrilled!

The last night of that camp, around the campfire, all the students were giving their testimonies and generally working themselves into an emotional state. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) I, on the other hand, couldn’t shake the thought that I wanted to experience again and again the joy I had felt in seeing my new friends come to Christ. And so, I stood in front of that fire and verbally committed myself to a lifetime of youth ministry. (I didn’t realize then what that commitment would mean—to my parents, my future wife and kids, and now, my grandkids. Something about “Be careful what you ask for” comes to mind.)

That fireside comment was made to a group of friends a LONG time ago, and I’m still living out that commitment.

Summer camp is like that. Someone once told me that summer camp is a youth minister’s payday. We work hard, day in and day out, for months and months—and then, we are rewarded at camp. That idea makes sense to me. I don’t get a paycheck every day; it comes only after a couple of weeks of labor. Summer camp IS a youth leader’s payday!

He Is Risen

#TBT Vintage Easter Playlist

Greetings and Happy Easter Co-laborers in Youth Ministry,

God became one of us, lived the perfect life, offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, and rose from the dead. This message has changed our lives forever.

We love students. Our greatest hope is that they will come to know Christ personally and grow in their relationship with Him

Yesterday we gave you a BRAND NEW  Easter playlist to share with the kids  in your ministry. Here’s a Throwback Thursday Easter Playlist (Chuck Girard-Love Song, Larry Norman, Andrae Crouch, 2nd Chapter of Acts, etc.)

What songs did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below!

He is Risen – let’s tell everyone!