Our Youth Ministry theme this year has been “Transformers.” We started saying a creed together at our fall retreat which says,
“I am a child of God.
I am transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am part of the body of Christ.
(yelling, passionately) WE.ARE.TRANSFORMERS!”
We have been living into that theme all year as we have studied the book of Romans in Sunday School, focused more specifically on Romans 12 during Youth Group, and through various transformation projects – including refurbishing a dresser and a variety of mission projects (caroling; serving at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, walking in the CROP walk, etc.).
The youth have been part of the planning process all along and have enjoyed learning more about our identity as children of God and really living into what it means to be members of the body of Christ.
This weekend we went on a Sabbath retreat. It was a lot different than the traditional Fall Retreat this group is used to having, where time is structured heavily by set meal times and the challenge course/team building games. It required a lot of faith on my part, as the planner, to really trust in the Spirit’s presence with us to guide our time together. I planned possible activities and had a tentative schedule outlined, but most all of it was flex-time, according to the needs/desires of the group and the Spirit’s guidance.
Saturday we played with dogs and cats at an animal shelter; most of which were strays. We ended up making friends with another youth group staying at the camp because they wanted to play in the human fooseball course but didn’t have enough people to play. We enjoyed a fabulous day of hiking, playing volleyball, yarn crafts, and enjoying God’s creation. We worshiped and played and laughed together and it was really one of the best youth retreats I’ve ever participated in.
Saturday night we shared all that we had done to love God and love our neighbor. We talked about experiencing God through relationships and through that intentional (and sometimes not-intentional) sharing of love. Then, we went out in the chilly air, laid in the grass, looked up at the magnificence of the stars, and sang praise to our most awesome Creator. We could have ended right there and it would’ve been a magical night.
But something told me to pick up my guitar. I noticed the other group kind of watching us sing, and could feel a sense of energy coming from them that I couldn’t quite explain. I said aloud, “I wonder if the other group likes to sing” which prompted some of my youth to ask if they could go ask the other group to come sing with us, and they did…all of them! We crowded around the room and sang worship songs…most of which were requested by the other group, all of which were my favorite songs. It was incredible!
I am NOT spontaneous. I am a planner, I like structure, and I like following the rules, so to speak. Even planning this much unstructured free time for the youth to “somehow love God and love our neighbor” was uncomfortable for me. But something kept telling me to be open, to not over-plan, to simply trust.
I could never have known to plan for all that happened on this retreat. The bonds that formed, the stories shared, the jokes made, the glorious blend of silliness and Spirit-movement that infused our time together.
*deep contented sigh*
The goal of this retreat was to experience God…to love each other and all whom we encountered with purpose, with intention, to bring glory and honor to the One who created us and to connect with God through that love which binds us all together as One.
Praise be to the One who goes before us to prepare the way for the Spirit to move in unexpected ways. Praise God for answering my prayers to keep me out of complacency and routine and for challenging me out of my comfort zone and into a space of delightful suspense where I am tickled by the Spirit’s nudging all around.