Every year about this time I appreciate the fact that our winter retreats are over. They are amazing times where God really works, but they are exhausting. Each year we do a Sr. High retreat and a Jr. High retreat. The contrasts between the two groups are really quite pronounced. The younger group has an innocence about them. They don’t have the drama that high school so often brings. They are willing to be fully involved in all that is going on. The older group has more drama, but also they have more to share during cabin times. Each retreat has its own positives and negatives. Each one is an important time God works.
This year retreat focused on identity who we are in Christ. This is an important concept for all of us to get a handle on in our lives. Each day we allow other people to shape certain things about us. Should this ever happen? To be sure there is something to be said about group dynamics and identity But that only works if each person knows who they are and contributes something to the whole of the group. Our identity is not something the culture throws at us, it is something that God gives us through Christ.
“As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through JEsus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:4-5
Can you picture this? As followers of Christ we are rejected by men, but chosen by God. As ones who are precious to God, should it ever really matter what other people think? This is the crux of the matter for teenagers and adults. It is hard to live out the Christian faith in schools and the workplace. People will not always like it, but your identity as a follower of Christ is in Christ. If we took a poll and asked each person to tell us who they are, what would we find out? I could tell you that I am a father, friend, pastor, follower of Christ, fisherman, but is that the essence of who I am? It is certainly part of my identity, but my identity is far great than that. I am a chosen, precious, child of God. It is in Him where I will then find my direction in life and decisions about what I devote my life to.
To that end, retreats made a difference in lives this year. We were able to show the group that they are not shaped by their friends, but rather by God. When this is applied it will make a difference in how they think and how they live. What an impact they could make if they would stand up and be who they are despite what others think! These things highlight how thankful I am that God allows me to be a part of His work in the lives of teenagers. It is a unique calling that God has led me to, but there is such life and joy in it that I can’t see doing anything else.
The negatives of retreat really are all about the application of the things learned to lives. So much is said about the mountain top experiences and the desire to live there. That would be nice and exciting, but we are not called to live on the mountain top. We go and hear from the Lord and then return home to live it out in our daily lives. Many decisions are made each year and are forgotten. It is important for us to remember that God is at work in that life. It is a process that takes time. Discipleship is not easy and you do get messy in the process. But when we are faithful to the things God has called us to, God gets the glory as we are able to invest in lives.
I am glad God has called me to serve in youth ministry. It is not for everyone, but God has uniquely positioned me to do this. What has God positioned you to do? Whatever it is, live it out to the fullest. God does not make mistakes and He has a purpose for your life. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!