I spent the weekend at Camp Gilmont with the middle school kids. As the female sponsor, the only kids I had to really watch out for were my two granddaughters. Talk about easy duty. It was almost like a private vacation but with 80 best friends present. We were in bed on time, got lots of rest and had no nervous breakdowns. It was almost boring.
I didn’t take too many pictures because I was having too much fun to stop moving and grab the camera. We played games, danced, sang, ate the best camp food in the country (…Really. They were recently featured in a camp magazine), we made up skits, had S’mores and, yes—last but not least, had some bible study. The bible study appeared to be the footnote to the weekend but it always ends up being anything but a footnote. I’m regularly amazed at how succinctly the people who organize these events can condense bible study. Through four different short skits they explained four of the most basic concepts in Christianity. I thought to myself, how on earth can they expect these kids to remember any of this with so little time spent on it?
When we got home and were greeting the parents I invited one kid to tell his parents what he had learned. “Jesus was there all the time. Jesus is always there when two or more are gathered in His name. Jesus is in us. And Jesus is always there to help the people who need him.”
Word for word. The kid blew me away.
The Austin College Activators are a fantastic group of college students who manage to cram a lot of living into their days. I walked into the dining hall around midnight and saw them all lined up at the tables with their laptops working on papers or math problems. In their spare time, they wrote the curriculum and skits for the retreat. They reduced it all to a one-phrase cathecism that can be repeated three times in the skit. And the amazing thing is that this is all it takes for the kids to remember the concept. You might call it “enhanced catechism.” The combination of seeing a concept explained through drama and comedy and then reinforced by one short phrase hits the mark. And voila! The kids have that concept for the rest of their lives.
I still remember the lesson from 10 years ago when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush:
Sees (pointing to the eye),
Hears (pointing to the ears),
Knows (pointing to the nose-that one always gets a laugh but you remember it),
Comes down (palms of hands lowering down),
Brings up (palms come up),
Sends out (palms pushing out.)
Check my work: Exodus 3:7-10
The other interesting thing about middle school youth retreats is watching the kids grow up. I’ve known some of these people since the day they were born, was present at their baptism and promised God I would help them learn about Jesus. Middle school is one of those places where kids first investigate what kind of person they want to present to the world: “Should I be intellectual or a total goofball? Should I be open and honest or mysterious?” Through the years I’ve learned that who a person starts out as is not the person they end up being and it’s a real trip to watch this process unfold. And I can’t help but fall in love with the goofballs who advertise their loveability.
Church retreats are a place to relax and have fun. The adults don’t have to worry too much about teaching the kids about Jesus because Jesus has a way of sneaking in no matter what you do.
The only other pictures I could show you would be the skits that my grands were in but those pictures didn't turn out that great. This is a shame because Essie played the part of a zombie in her skit and she looked seriously Zombie-like.
Zombies seem to be a thing with youth nowadays. A couple of years ago the theme was based on the interesting concept that Jesus was “kind of like” a zombie. It made perfect sense at the time.
Sarah got the most applause of anyone in all of the skits. Mostly because her part in the skit was to walk across the stage several times holding a sign that said, “APPLAUSE.”
And that's my weekend. Next week: "Getting Ready for the Holidays" which might be sub-titled, "Make sure you have enough medication to last through December."