Those of you who have spent a weekend with teenagers helping them focus away from the everyday demands and more toward God’s presence and providence in their lives will most likely agree that a retreat is one of the most powerful opportunities for young people to grow in their faith. It’s a wonder when we get to witness how God uses the retreat environment and the leaders in such a way that faith is strengthened, grace is experienced, and Good News is heard. Can you imagine how you might feel if you witnessed such a retreat environment twice in one weekend?
Last weekend I got to witness God’s grace on both sides of the faith journey as I participated in the leadership of two Conference retreats. The Confirmation Retreat, at Glisson Camp and Retreat Center, is a retreat where we help confirmation groups recognize God’s presence in their lives and show them what it means to promise their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. They are about to confirm the vows made at their baptism, and so many of these youth are seriously considering for the first time at what it means to be a person of God.
The second retreat was a new retreat called the Campus Crawl. This is a retreat for high school students and is designed to help older youth begin to look at colleges and campus ministries in the state of Georgia. From Thursday night through Sunday afternoon we traveled by bus to nine different campuses and had a total of 18 exposures to different campuses or Wesley ministries. (That’s 402 miles of driving and 21 miles walking in over 67 hours.)
The Campus Crawl retreat was helping older youth focus on their call to ministry and their next step in a journey of faith; the Confirmation Retreat helped youth recognize God’s presence already in their lives.
I couldn’t be at both retreats at once, so I was keeping in touch with the Confirmation leadership team while I was experiencing the Campus Crawl retreat firsthand. You can imagine that I was a little anxious to hear how things were going at Glisson while I was halfway down the state of Georgia.
On Friday night, in the middle of a worship time at Wesleyan College (in Macon) and while in prayer for both groups I realized that the group at Glisson was also just beginning worship. A wave of comfort and appreciation came over me as I realized that while we were celebrating God’s call on a new journey with older youth that same God was (at the same time!) preparing younger youth to begin their journey of confirming God’s presence.
Lots of journeys; lots of beginnings and new directions; God present at the same time with all of them.
As a member of your congregation, you are also a part of the faith journey of the young people in your community – or you can be. Offer your life and what you do up to God for use in the faith journey of children and youth. Then choose one or two youth or children that you will start naming in prayer daily, asking God to use you in strengthening the faith of that individual. You will find that you are being used throughout the journey in ways that you never expected.
If you’d like to know more about the retreat opportunities through the North Georgia Conference, including future Confirmation and Campus Crawl Retreats, go to ngumc.org/retreatsforyouth.