I had a fun opportunity over the weekend to speak at a youth retreat in Ohio for Grace Church. It was such a fun weekend and what a wonderful group of teenagers! We were led in worship by a student band from Cedarville University called Heart Song. It was great to see these college students so passionate about leading teenagers in worship. And, it was great seeing them interact with the teenagers as well. They were right in the thick of things at the retreat and provided great examples for the teenagers to follow.
Even though I'm no longer specifically working with teenagers, I still find myself learning from them. Throughout the years, I'd say I've probably learned more from teenagers than they've learned from me. Here are a few things I learned from this weekend:
- Volunteers are invaluable! The pastor may direct and steer the ship of the ministry, but the volunteers are what make it go. This is particularly true in youth ministry. Over the weekend, the adult volunteers did everything from comforting crying kids to picking up trash left over in the kitchen. My life was incredibly impacted as a teenager by some loving adults who for, whatever reason, took me under their wing and poured in to my life. It's great to seek adults still doing that and some day one of these teenagers will be talking about the adults that poured in to them and really helped change their life.
- I've always appreciated the adults who have served with me, but gained such a greater appreciation for them this weekend. I am so thankful for every adult who served with me when I was in youth ministry.
- You never know what investing in a teenager will bring about in the future. In 1998 I was a leader on a summer ministry team and a high school student by the name of Greg Foote was on my team. He was such a good kid and it was obvious he had a heart for ministry. Fast-forward 16 years. Greg is now a youth pastor at Grace Church and because of our connection 16 years ago and being able to stay in touch since that time, he asked me to speak at this retreat. You never know what an investment will bring about. And, by the way, it was so fun watching Greg pastor his students! He did a great job.
- Speaking brings to the surface nearly every insecurity I have and it is always a time for me to trust God and live out 2 Corinthians 12:9 - 10 ... God's grace is sufficient for me ... when I am weak, then I am strong. Before I speak I generally find the enemy trying to fill my mind with lies: "What are you doing here? God's not going to use you like He would use someone else." They're familiar lies he tells me and I'm thankful for the opportunity to trust in God's truth, believe that He is with me, and then walk through those fears that often rise to the surface. I pray. I claim the truth of Scripture. And, I trust that it's God who does the work and certainly not me. I am responsible for my effort. God is responsible for the outcome.
- It's still about the one-on-one. I loved the opportunity to speak to the whole group, but my favorite times were the one-on-one conversations I had. That's when you really get to know people.
- If I stay up past midnight, I'm toast the next day. I did that Saturday night and felt like I got hit by a truck Sunday morning.
- A hard mattress isn't as forgiving as it used to be. When I was younger, I could have slept on a rock and still had a good night's sleep. The mattresses at the camp were ... well ... let's say, anything but comfortable. Maybe that's the reason I felt like I got hit by a truck.
- Finally, I need to remember to always talk about how something can be applied to every day life. After I spoke Sunday morning to the group, I had a teenager come up to me and ask me how they can take practical steps to apply what they learned. So, we talked about that for a bit. Anyway, as I was debriefing the weekend on my 5-hour drive home, I was thinking about that conversation and realized that if she needed to ask me that, it meant that I never explained it during my talk. And, you know what? As I thought back on my talk I realized that I never did explain how to practically apply what I talked about to every day life. I need to always remember to do that any time I speak.
John Wooden said that "It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts." I'm thankful to still be learning and hope to always do so.