I spent this past weekend with 99 5th and 6th graders. No, I am not insane (not yet anyway). Yes, I chose to do so. I was a little apprehensive to say the least. I am use to doing big events with students but never with a group this big and this young. I mean, at 11 and 12 these kids are just as likely to be home sick for mom and dad or a stuffed animal as they are to swim in a freezing cold lake. You never know what you are going to get. So the thought of being responsible for 99 of them for the entire weekend was a bit daunting.
But to my surprise, the entire retreat was amazing. For the past 6 years I have been on at least 15 retreats within our student ministry and I cannot remember having as much fun as I did with this group. The students were respectful and obedient, attentive and engaged, excited and involved, appreciative and responsive.
Throughout the weekend we had a variety of games that were all based on Japanese games show events. The students rose to the occasion and gave all the effort they had to win for their team. On Saturday night the Fusion band led us in a variety of different musical songs and challenged the students to worship God with their voices. It was quite a blessing to see them disregard what others may think, the awkwardness of singing, and various distractions to fully engage.
Additionally, they were pumped about free time which included a giant swing, a zip line, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and a canteen full of sugar. I honestly can't think of one moment where they were bored or lacking.
Most satisfying for me this weekend was our large group discussions about the book of James. As young students, it is often easy for them to be overwhelmed by the Bible. Language, times and cultural differences can make the scriptures hard for the average adult to digest, much less a grade schooler who is still primarily a concrete thinker. It was good to give them small chunks of scripture and help them understand what it means both to the original audience and for us today. We spent the majority of our time talking about biblical wisdom and how it is necessary for all of us.
On the ride home, a car load of students told one of our leaders that the teaching was their favorite part of the entire weekend. Wow! Really? Maybe they were just trying to "say the right thing." But maybe they were really understanding in part how amazing God's love is for them as revealed in the Bible, and they were pumped to experience God in a fresh way. My prayer is that the weekend was just a taste of what is to come for them in the future: that their passion for the scriptures would grow and grow and that they would cry out to God for wisdom.
National Review Children's Books
4 years ago