I always kind of giggle sheepishly before answering peoples’ question about where we’re going this summer… “The Disney Summer Mission.” But in addition to our kids getting to meet princesses and Goofy and Donald Duck, the purpose of the Disney Summer Mission is something we can really get behind.
What is the Disney Summer Mission?
There is a year-round Cru staff team at Walt Disney World who aims to be a spiritual resource to the 12,000 college students who work at Disney every year. These students represent 500 campuses from 60+ countries all over the world. In the summers, we join what they’re doing by providing our summer mission leadership track for Christian students who want to grow in their faith while working at Magic Kingdom. We then equip these students (who are a part of the Disney College Program) to engage in spiritual conversations with their co-workers (cast members at the Parks) who are spiritually seeking and would like to explore the Bible & questions about Jesus, the existence of God and their purpose in life.
Partnership with Disney:
A friend of ours who is on Cru Staff worked in the Disney College Program when he was a student. He got excited about potentially providing some Biblical exposure to these 12,000 students from all over the world. He started what has been a 10 year recruiting partnership between Disney & Cru. Disney loves hiring Cru students because of their positive attitudes & good work ethic. Because of this, Disney goes way out of their way to be flexible with us, letting all our students live together on non-Disney property, giving them specific hours based around our project and letting them all work together at the same park. And true to Disney’s value of diversity- they allow our students’ ministry focus as developing friendships with their co-workers & engaging them in gospel conversations after hours.
We have a diverse group of Cru students from campuses all over the United States that come to be a part of the Disney Summer Mission. Part of what draws them is the fact that they will get to work alongside other college kids from all over the world in the Disney College Program. Last summer, one Bible Study started specifically for just Chinese students. Year round, there are students involved from Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and many other countries.
Where do we live?
I think some people think we actually live in Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom- I wish. Overall, Disney tends to want those participating in their college program to all live together in housing that they provide. However, because of the great relationship Cru has developed with Disney over the years, they make an exception for our project to live off of Disney property in condos/time shares about 15 minutes away from Disney World. This allows us to keep costs down, while being together where we can create a sense of community, just us. I’ll be honest- as a mom, all the mold in Florida kind of freaks me out. And sometimes you do have to be up for the occasional Florida cockroaches… but overall, it’s a nice place and there are great pools, which is awesome. I mean, I’m a homebody and as a mom of 4 littles, I just don’t love packing up my family for 6 weeks… But after traveling to Africa, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and other developing countries, I’m thankful for a nice, safe place to stay for the summer. And getting to take our kids to Disney World doesn’t hurt.
What do the students do?
In the mornings, the students have project activities such as Bible Study, Weekly Meeting, Prayer, Discipleship, Evangelism and Men’s & Women’s Development times. In the afternoons and evenings, they work at the Magic Kingdom theme park where they’re connecting with fellow Cast Members and Guests from around the world. They work 40-45 hours a week (often times late at night, as the parks can stay open as late at 2am) in entry-level positions such as Quick Serve Food & Beverage or Merchandise.
On their days off, they might meet up with a friend/coworker from China or New Zealand. Or they might head over to a Disney park for a night of rollercoasters and fireworks.
What do we as Cru staff do?
We run the program for the students- so, leading the Bible Studies, Discipleship, Teaching at the Weekly Meeting, Men’s & Women’s Times, etc.. Last summer, Chris & I both discipled students, meaning we met with them weekly for their spiritual development. We also did quite a bit of teaching, which we enjoyed. Chris taught an overview of God’s big story throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1:1, moving through the Scriptures until the book of Revelation- and how our lives fit into His Story.
Chris also did some teaching from the book of Mark on “God’s Grace Despite our Unbelief” and led the men’s times on Biblical & Authentic Manhood. I (Elizabeth) spoke at a women’s time on “Grace for the Real Self” based off of the book of Galatians and facilitated a learning activity to go along with it called “The Grid: Grace, Legalism & Total Excess.” I also served on a Moms, Marriage & Ministry panel and we both gave our Dating by Faith talk.
What are some Disney highlights/benefits from the summer?
In the past, we have been able to take our kids one time over the course of the summer to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom… almost totally for free! This was because of the buddy swipes that our Cru college kids are given. Since then, Disney has become more strict with those, so we may have way less free tickets this year. Regardless, we still hope & plan to take our kids to Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom (for a day in each park) over the course of the summer. Plus, there are many other fun free/ inexpensive things for families to do. Whether it’s the Chip n Dale Campfire Sing-a-Long at Fort Wilderness, watching an outdoor Disney Movie at one of the resorts (they don’t require you to stay there to come for a movie) or just walking around Downtown Disney… there are a lot of things we’ll get to do with the kids. Not to mention, it will just be fun for our kids to get to rub shoulders with all the college students that are there. We’re so excited to head back!!
What other questions do you have about the Disney Summer Mission?
Any suggestions for other fun things we should do while we’re there???