We had our middle school retreat over the weekend called Sub-Zero. Our ministry tagged up with 4 other churches and spent the weekend at Splash Universe in Shipshewana, about a 20 minute drive from our church. We took 14 of our middle school kids, 6 adults, and there were around 200 kids total at the retreat. Here are a few of my random thoughts from the weekend:
- It's cliche, but it's still true and ALWAYS will be ... youth ministry is about relationships. A weekend retreat is one of the best ways to build relationships with kids in the youth ministry. When you're with them 24/7, in an environment away from home, at a retreat that's been covered in prayer, and at a place where God is moving ... that's just a great formula for getting to know students better.
- I will take a loving, kind, accepting environment with not a whole lot of bells and whistles over a very flashy, high tech, but cold environment ANY day of the week. This retreat had "it" ... that special something where you know kids are being loved, adults are genuine, and God is moving. It's hard to explain, hard to define, and sometimes really hard to put your finger on the "how's and why's" of it happening ... but you know it when you see it. Every student there was loved and accepted and I really believe got a clear picture of who Jesus is. There was nothing real fancy ... just lots of love. Students will ALWAYS respond to that.
- Our worship team is incredibly gifted. The worship team from The Link at Grace Community led worship most of the weekend. They just have a great ability to help us connect with God and lead us before Him in worship. The heart, the talent, the passion ... it's all there. I really love those guys.
- That said ... the student worship team that led the last session was very special. Honestly, the talent wasn't the same, the music selection (in my opinion) wasn't as good ... but, man, there is something special about seeing kids on stage leading their peers in worship. The drummer on the Link worship team was a former student in our youth ministry. I remember him playing as a freshman in high school. His skill set was limited, but he was able to develop his skills and gifts in the church. And, now, he's REALLY good. If we would have been looking for "talent" all the time, that freshman never would have had the opportunity to develop a gift that God had given to him. It can sometimes get messy and, honestly, difficult to listen too ... but I would rather see a student band leading students in worship because it allows them to serve each other. Now, you pair that with a talented, loving adult willing to help those student develop their gifts ... that's a win. I'm very thankful that Jeremy (our youth ministry's worship leader) is that type of adult.
- Teenagers are fun.
- Teenagers need to have opportunities to serve.
- I'm not sure how many adults were there as leaders, but there were several. No "big" names ... nobody outside of their specific youth ministry would really even know who they were, but each of those adults was an amazing picture of service to teenagers. So much time and energy and love has been poured out from those adults throughout their years in youth ministry either as a volunteer or paid staff. Youth ministry is not the easiest thing in the world and can often be a trying thing to be a part of ... but when you build trust, slowly keep plugging away at it, and when a student knows that you love them enough to speak truth in to their life ... the hard truths and the encouraging truths ... that pays off. I'm so thankful for men and women who do that.
- I had a former student of mine, now in college, helping lead our group. I also had two other college students who are helping with our group, but grew up in the ministry of another church who was also at the retreat. That's special ... when you know see students you've invested in now investing in other students. Just very special.
I'm glad our group was invited to this retreat by another church and have already been asked "Are we going again next year?!" It was a great weekend with lots of lessons learned and some good reminders for me.