Sunday, October 28, 2007

Super Slides and Super Headaches

Fall youth retreat. I have mixed feelings about how it went.

First night - very good. The message was about how we talk about Jesus being all we need and Jesus talks about giving us life to the full, but in reality we tend to chase after other things to make us feel alive and most of us don't really know what it is like to be so satisfied with God that we don't have room for the sinful things. We talked about all the things (relationship, image, partying, cutting, pornography etc.) that we might run to instead of God. Some of the kids were pretty upfront about how they felt on the subject and that was pretty cool. You don't often see that in youth groups.
But - even though it was agreed on that while we talk about pursuing Christ we seldom know what it means to do so - we never got to the point of answering it. Answers, it was said, would come.

Then we went out and played on the superslide.
Day two - we have a new speaker who was not there the night before.

We talked about how the church tends to focus on what horrible awful sinners we are and how we don't deserve grace, rather than rejoicing in the fact that we have grace and are now children of God. He said that when we focus so much on sin it makes us more prone to fall into it because what are we always thinking about? Sin.

I sort of think this is valid. Whenever I read information about Self Injury there are warnings in front of sections that describe SI in detail. People who SI find it hard to read about it without wanting to do it. I have a friend who hasn't smoked pot in over 20 years, but discussion about pot can leave her craving it.

We also had a chart with three columns: Nobility, Testing/Temptation, Sin. Underneath "Sin" we wrote various sins (simple so far). Under "Testing/Temptation" we wrote situations that might make the listed sins seem like a good plan (ex. all you can eat buffet - gluttony) and under "Nobility" we wrote what the better option was (ex. contentment, self control). Then we talked about how instead of focusing on staying out of trouble we should be focusing on good things we could be doing.
I grant that a change in perspective can often be a healthy (and occasionally life altering) thing. However, in light of the previous night's declaration that we were going to learn to pursue Jesus and have life to the seemed a little trite.

Afternoon - low & high ropes courses. It was fun and mostly uneventful. I got good pictures.

Evening message - He starts us off by talking about funerals and asks the kids to list the elements of a funeral: flowers, old people, dressing up, sermons, fancy words, songs. Then he asks where we see all these same elements. Answer: church services. He proceeds to ask why we, who have been saved to eternal life, are acting like someone died.

Alright, I know it fits nicely, but the reason that funerals are like church services is because they are a type of church service. He's trying to make a point, but can't we keep some historical perspective? Please?

I find these thoughts about the church focusing on sin and being like a funeral odd in contrast to people who insist that church people always insist everything is happy, happy all the time and we never confront the bad things. Actually, I find the two different conclusions fascinating, only I didn't know it till just now.

At the end then the man asks us to say what makes us feel more alive. Nature, loud music, acceptance, laughter, friend - all listed, all things that just the night before the first speaker had told the kids weren't a replacement for being fufilled by God. But this night's speaker says God's given us these things to be fulfilling.

Mixed messages anyone?

And this is what truly irks me about youth retreats - even with youth leaders that I think are great. We go and we promise kids some phenominal, life changing revelation and we never even get close to delivering. It happens all the time and the kids think it's great - until they realize that, once again, there are no answers. In fact - we don't even seem to know what we're trying to say.

I know the intention is to have more discussion in subsequent meetings - but I've been to enough of these types of discussions to know that they tend to be the same type of thing. You listen, you discuss, and the topic changes without ever getting anywhere at all.

So - I don't know. I had fun on the retreat. It was good to spend time with the kids and to play games with them and to discuss things with them. I just don't know that we gave them much to take away.


Robin Marie said...

I guess there's something to say for not promising anything except time together and time learning about God?
I don't know...

Melody said...

I guess. I mean - hopefully the kids feel a little more encouraged about where they're at -it just seems like we run them in circles more often than not.

Emily said...

I completely agree.

And if kids/anyone go to enough of these things where great things are promised w/out true delivery/relevance, people can feel like what's the point of even trying anymore.

Melody said...

And if kids/anyone go to enough of these things where great things are promised w/out true delivery/relevance, people can feel like what's the point of even trying anymore.

Right - and I guess that's the thing I worry about. These are kids who have expressed frustration with the status quo and are promised something different - and then the same thing that always happens...happens.

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