For LOTS of years (about 10) i traveled from retreat to retreat. The school year was full of them for me! I might do 10 - 20 retreat in a year. And i loved it, at least most of the time i did! But now i’m the other side the microphone you might say. Instead of coming to a planed and prepared retreat where i bring the message and get to have fun with students i’m not on the side of things where i’m doing all the planning and preparing and i’m the one bringing in the speaker to deliver what will hopefully be an effective messages that stirs students toward love and service of Jesus. It’s a new game. It’s harder for sure. And much more involved in many good ways. I want to say it’s more rewarding but really it’s just rewarding in a very different way.
When you’re the youth pastor you are so involved and invested in the lives of your students that there is a different pressure and prayer involved in a weekend retreat. You’ve been investing and journeying with students all year long and a retreat is a sacred space you have been able to facilitate where hopefully things will click, all dots you have been putting in place will connect and students will be faced with the Gospel in a unique way and take a giant step in their joinery as a disciple.
Maybe i place to much pressure and value on retreats and camps but because i’ve been to so many i’ve witnessed how God moves in these spaces when people have prayed and prepared to created such a space with students.
This years retreat was this kind of space. It was sacred. We had great service; band, speaker, atmosphere. It was great. We spent time praying together on the grass at noon, we prayed together in our cabin late at night. There was lots of time to play and grow together. We invested heavily in our group community building time, we did 3 hours of ropes / challenge course time, a bit much in hind site, but this really facilitated what was the highlight of the weekend, connections! Our spiritual times were good but the overall highlight of the retreat seems to be that students connected with one another, that our community of middle schoolers was made tighter because we all came and participate in such a great weekend.
Part of me wishes that the highlight of the weekend was salvations, big hairy spiritual moments, or earth shattering encounters with God. But this year for us wound up being about connecting. And i trust God was doing exactly what our little community of middle schoolers needed!
So my prayer is that God would take this retreat and make it a starting point to something profound in the life of the Christ Church Middle School Ministry!
A couple other things that were very cool about our retreat…
#1. A very good friend of mine, Bryce Gernand came and was our speaker. For many years he would bring me in to speak at his events. It’s been a privilege to get to bring him to speak at our retreat the last 2 year now. His heart is so strong for God and for students! I honestly don’t know a better middle school pastor. So to expose my students to his wisdom and passion and insight is really an amazing thing. Bryce shared on our theme, NO EQUALS where we broke down the idea that Jesus should have no equals in our lives. It was awesome to be able to creatively brainstorm together and think of ways to hammer home the messages together, literally!
On Saturday night we gave our students play dough and had them craft their idols only to them give them rubber mallets to smash those very idols! It was a bit crazy but was a very cool moment in the weekend!
#2. Fr. Erick Arowo was also able to come to the retreat on Sunday morning and celebrate the Eucharist with and for us. I read 1 Corinthains 10 where Paul says, “flee from idolatry. Is not the bread we break a participation in the body of Christ and is not he cup we share a participation in the blood of Christ.”
I could thing of a better end to a great weekend!