Earlier this month, I packed up my sleeping bag, pillow and winter boots, and headed up north to Muskoka Woods for Getaway – a junior high church retreat. I’m one of the leaders for my church‘s awesome junior high group, Endeavours. I was the only woman from my church going on the retreat and, to be honest, was a little anxious about what it would be like to live with a bunch of 12-13 year old girls for a weekend. All week, the girls were posting on my Facebook wall: “Rachel, we’re bringing candy!!!!” So, needless to say, I was anticipating not getting very much sleep. I love these girls, but I approached the weekend with a “Lord, please just help me survive this weekend” mentality.
I’m so pleased to say that God, through these girls, blessed me greatly and changed my perspective completely.
Over the course of the weekend, the kids sat in on four sessions filled with worship songs, fun games and a sermon from Aaron Ottaway. With my judgmental 27-year-old hat on, I began to wonder (aloud) if there were too many songs, if the sermons were too long, if the teaching was too deep or profound for our 11 to 13-year-old kids. If I was losing concentration, how could they possibly be grasping everything Aaron was saying? After the evening session was over on the Saturday night, we went back to our cabin. I had already decided that the small group questions I was to ask the girls would be poorly received. The girls would be tired. The girls wouldn’t want to talk about what they had learned – if they had learned anything. So, I lay their on my bunk and let the girls chat and eat junk food. After about 10 minutes of hanging out, one of them asked, “Weren’t we supposed to talk about the session and answer some small-group questions?” Promptly sitting up I replied, “Why yes….yes, we are. I guess we should do that now.”
“Girls, what did Aaron talk about this evening?” I asked. “This should be good,” I thought.
Then, to my surprise, they proceeded to succinctly outline everything Aaron had taught: our relationship with Jesus impacts what we worship and how we worship. We had a thoughtful discussion on what we might “worship” or give too much attention to: social media, our phones, popular teen fiction, make up, clothes and boys.
I guess my theory was wrong. They were paying attention, and they truly cared about what Aaron had to say.
Throughout the weekend, while – yes – my girls were loud and hopped up on sugar, they never complained about all the activities they had to participate in while rain and snow poured down. They ran through the mud at the giant swing, played rumble ball, learned how to do graffiti and made new friends. I never had to supervise them. They were always where they had to be, and on time, without me ever having to ask. To top it off, when I said “Lights out!” the lights went out. They were a youth leader’s dream.
Needless to say, they earned the chocolate bars we bribed them with. That’s Youth Leadership 101, isn’t it?
Then yesterday, I approached one of our youth who’s on her phone pretty often (about as often as me). Out of mild concern, I asked her, “Whatcha doing on your phone?”
I was preparing myself for: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or SnapChat.
“Writing a book,” was her calm response.
I learned that this Grade 8 girl spends most of her time engrossed in writing chapters of her mystery novel on her phone through WattPad for her avid followers to read. “My readers always message me asking to add another chapter because I’ve left them on a cliff hanger!”
Now, that’s a social media platform I can get behind!
Once again, I had underestimated junior high girls. Once again, they proved me wrong.
To the girls that attend my youth group and will likely read this blog: you mean more to me than you know. I am so proud of all of you. I couldn’t be more honoured that God has entrusted you to my care every Thursday night. Please continue to prove me wrong. Continue to be the fantastic young women God has made you to be.