Reflecting on our Sr. High Winter Retreat

Primary Audience – Our students and the fine folks of MEFC
Secondary Audience – Youth workers who can relate

We just got back from Harvey Cedars on Monday afternoon and I am enjoying that post-retreat afterglow/hangover that youth pastors/volunteers know very well. It’s a great way to spend a weekend but each year has its challenges. For one, in today’s crazy busy culture, it’s tough for students and volunteer leaders to commit to a weekend like this, especially since we go from Friday-Monday to take advantage of the holiday weekend. We dragged ourselves there Friday and left on quite the high note Monday afternoon.

It may be a bit too early to write this post but here some initial thoughts on this past weekend’s retreat. Each year, I appreciate our group more and more. We keep doing movie-themed retreats because if you have a good enough movie, you have a working metaphor that can last the weekend. Further, it’s so difficult to discuss a movie over a month (given that few students can attend each week of the month) and of course, we tend to forget scenes and lines as time goes on.

This year was the ever-popular, The Matrix. It being our second time doing at Montvale, it was the first time for anyone in this group (as this class of seniors were still jr. highers last time). Though I hate doing “repeats” (I know, I know, work smarter not harder but still…), we were able to build off of the previous retreat and offer add some more serious content. Since last year’s retreat on Bill Maher’s Religulous and our typical youth group gatherings, I have a lot of faith in our group. We may never become an gigantic-sized youth group, but we are going to be a deep one.

They caught on pretty well, asked good questions during our recap, followed along during our lesson time and had some pretty intense small group sessions. I know it sounds like I am exaggerating (and maybe even bragging) so forgive me, but I am so grateful for this group. One of the biggest discouragements in ministry is when you offer something that you think is solid and the feedback is negative or apathetic. One of the greater encouragements is seeing students connect with deeper content and also hearing them say, “Wow, I never thought of our faith like that before” and “I needed this.”

They’re not perfect kids (I blame the volunteers ;-) but they continue to demonstrate their desire to grow in their faith. Even our time of worship is improving! We have a solid senior class that is leaving and I feel that we have some underclassmen that are ready to go. The combination of great homes and Pastor Tim Nye’s Junior High ministry is yielding fruit in each new 9th grade class. I needed it too and a few of our leaders offered similar sentiments. It’s not because we are discouraged. In fact, we find ourselves in a good rhythm these days but I think we needed it because we are committed to this work. May the Lord forgive us for our missed opportunities and our shortcomings and may He bless our faithfulness as students draw closer to Him. Indeed these are special times for us and though we are tired, we are grateful.

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