This past weekend, Emma and I were asked to chaperone the youth on their All Youth Retreat (AYR) and it was awesome! I love our youth group for so many reasons, not least among them is the love that our youth have for life, for God and for each other. Here is a photo of the graduates who, with the incoming seniors, planned and led the entire retreat:
They are a crazy bunch, and they did such a great job leading the retreat. They played slip-n-slide kickball, which was hilarious and lots of fun to play! You haven’t lived until you’ve run full speed down a tarp covered in soap and water, and slid face first into a kiddy pool. It’s a rush like no other.
The theme for AYR this year was “God loves you from the Inside Out” and they used the new Pixar movie, Inside Out, as the basis for the theme. If you haven’t seen Inside Out, you should. It’s about the emotions in our heads and how they guide and direct our lives. The emotions are: fear, disgust, anger, sadness and joy. The movie is super cute, and it made for the perfect AYR theme.
The small group curriculum that the seniors and graduates created focused on each of these emotions. Each group shared how they experienced and overcame fear, anger and disgust. They discussed the positive things about sadness, and how a good cry can sometimes be the only way you can process grief and move forward toward joy. The youth did an incredible job writing these lessons.
On the final night I got to experience one of our youth group’s best traditions: senior legacies. This is a time in which the recently graduated seniors share some of their favorite memories about their time in the youth group and give advice to the rest of the younger youth group members.
Some of these stories stretched back six or eight years. Many from this class of recent graduates have been a part of our church for most of their lives. Hearing their stories brought laughter, tears and tons of joy. Almost all of the graduates said that to them, this youth group is like a family. Some of them shared their belief that they would not have made it to graduation without the friendships and support they found within this group.
It was one of the most powerful testimonies to the grace and love of God that I have witnessed. These young men and women have been bold leaders of our youth group, and on Saturday night they performed their final act of leadership; they passed the torch onto the next group of leaders.
Letting go and moving on is incredibly hard. Most of us don’t know when to quit and we all struggle when things that we love come to an end. But I have to tell you that if most of us handled these moments of transition with the type of class and maturity that our graduates demonstrated this past weekend, we would all be so much better off.
Several of our graduates encouraged the rest of the youth to move outside of their little group of friends in the youth group and meet new people. I think this is incredible advice for us as well. How many of us don’t regularly venture outside the group of people in our Sunday school class or the people that usually sit next to us in our Sunday morning pews?
The theme scripture for AYR came from the fifth chapter of Galatians, and the 25th verse of that chapter says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
Our youth have lived by the Spirit, and they showed me this weekend what it means to be guided by the Spirit. Many people like to say that the youth are the future of the church, but I disagree. I believe that the youth are the present leaders of our church and they are calling for us to respond to God in the same manner that they have done.
I pray that we will all have the courage to listen to the advice of our youth and move beyond our comfort zones and get to know some different people in our church. I pray that we will stand up for our faith and also know when it’s time to pass the torch onto someone else, just as our youth have done with such grace.
God loves you from the inside out, and I believe that if we follow the example set by our youth we might just slip-n-slide right into the Kingdom of God.
Have a wonderful week my friends,