Tuesday, August 05, 2014

When I Get Older I Will be Stronger

A quick recap of my week at Synod Youth Workshop:  two worship services, a day spent in service, a night out on the town, a 300-person shaving cream fight, a mixer, a dance, five keynote presentations, eight or nine small group meetings, a walk on the labyrinth, a couple of hours’ worth of water games in the sun, another set of group-building games and a variety show.  Gosh, I get tired just listing it all.

They quit calling the variety show a talent show years ago when they realized it wasn’t so much talent as it was ”Come one, come all, let’s see what you can come up with.” And it was truly variety we saw.  I don’t want to discount the truly awesome musical talent; however, no one had ever topped the two girls shining penlight flashlights up their noses in rhythm to the tune of “Dueling Banjos” until last year when a group danced with glow light sticks taped on their black garbage costumes and the stage lights turned off.  This year's truly awesome display of talent was from the girl who could play the piano while keeping a hula-hoop going.  Friends, I give you imagination.  I give you people who understand God’s amazing love.  I give you a new group of people to run our world.  




The backbone of the week is the small groups.  They divide the capacity of the auditorium by 12 (the maximum number of any group) which gives you the number of groups you can have…usually around 26.  They pick 26 small group leaders and bring them in three days early for a weekend of orientation.
Here is my church's new male adult sponsor.  He had no idea what to expect when he signed up but now he can't wait for next year. I think it was the heart that sealed the deal.

Beyond the excellent training and preparation there are two other keys to success, one is the way the groups are designed:  nobody is put into a group with anyone from their home church. The other is the code of confidentiality that every group chooses to honor:  Nothing you say in group can be repeated outside the group.  Ever.  And I have never known anyone to break this code.  Between these two rules you can voice your hopes and struggles in an atmosphere of trust.  You are thrown into an intimacy that many people have never seen before.  You learn how to love yourself and understand how much God loves you.  

I almost forget to mention vespers by candlelight.

After spending a week at the Synod Youth Workshop I came home in pretty good shape so I spent last Friday night at a Lock-In at FPC Tyler.  

The Tyler church is extremely lucky in having Neil McKown as their youth director. I knew he was planning something special for the Lock-In.   For the last month or two I’ve seen on Neil’s facebook page that they were collecting cardboard.  Big cardboard.  Lots of it.  I couldn’t wait to see what he intended to do with it.

Friday night we all walked into their huge fellowship hall the size of a basketball court. In the center of the room was a mountain of cardboard.  The big pieces that refrigerators come in.  The mountain was easily four feet high…maybe more.


Neil gave us very few rules that mostly dealt with safety issues (only the over 18 folks could use the box cutters) and property issues (no duct tape on the walls, use the blue painters tape for that) then he  gave us one simple instruction: "Build a city."

The project was genius:  the kids needed little supervision.  There were plenty of other things to do if building a cardboard city isn’t your thing.  The Tyler church has a huge youth center with just about every game available from ping pong and pool to foosball. They had a movie showing against one wall.  Six couches.  Snacks.  There was no possibility of boredom.

The kids attacked the mountain of cardboard and started thinking.  I noticed some kids worked alone, some in pairs, some with their home church.  I think the five kids I brought from Winnsboro ended up with three different projects.  Katelyn worked with a girl from Tyler that she met at one of the church retreats.  


Here are Nick and Sean from the Winnsboro church. Sean must have decided every city needed a place for the homeless.  This is what he dubbed the "Hobo Hut".  Here he is on the guitar while Nick plays the harmonica around the campfire.  

Catherine made a castle with another group.  But it was the small details that were the most fun.  A lot of the buildings had a mailbox.  One had a doggie door.  One structure was a dog house.  One team built a car that had brake and gas peddles.  Even a rear view mirror complete with dice hanging from them.  Someone ended up with a two-story house.  And an Eiffel Tower.  I’m glad somebody took a picture because it didn’t survive the night and was gone by Saturday morning.

And what a magnificent scene it was the next morning.  Neil woke us at 7:30.  We ate and moved the tattered remains of the cardboard mountain to one of the classrooms.  They vacuumed the floor of the new “city.”  They left the finished product until Sunday so the Tyler congregation could see it. And it looked magnificent. 

When someone expressed surprise at my stamina to do these two events back to back tmy answer came from one of our energizers-- “When I get older I will be stronger.”  And in some ways this is true.  I have far less nervous energy now.  That is because I am learning how to become peaceful.  In fact, my new motto is "I will become peaceful if it kills me." I have learned how to pace myself, when to expend energy and when to save it.  I’ve learned that I can go to sleep at a Lock-In and the world will not end.  There will still be plenty of folks who don’t want to sleep, who have a bit of extra energy to burn off and they can supervise the kids. I’ve also learned to assess a situation and can tell about how much supervision the group will need.  And it’s usually less than you might think. These kids are good kids.


Why do I love to work with youth?  Because they are never boring.  Because they are so energetic. They move in extravagant ways without thinking of physical danger.  They can (and do) bounce off walls. They talk fast.  They think fast.  They feel deeply.They are also some of the most imaginative people you can hang around. 

I give you imagination.  I give you people who understand trust and God’s amazing love.  The future of our church.  The church right now.

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