Reflections and Prayers on the Eve of My Last Midwinter

     Midwinter was the first time that I had communion in the Methodist church. One of the big defining moments in my faith was my first Midwinter retreat in junior high. Midwinter was where I met some of the people that have made the largest impact in my life and it was where some of the people I already knew truly came into my heart. I feel extremely definite in saying that if I had never been on a Midwinter retreat, I would not have the confidence in my call that I have today. I honestly couldn’t tell you where I would be or what I would be doing. 

     As I began leading and planning Midwinter, it became one of the most stressful, beautiful experiences of my life. I got to know some of the rock star adults that today are still my heroes. I figured out my own strengths (and weaknesses!) and I made friendships that have moved my heart to a better place. I have had few experiences that have made me feel closer to God than those that are attached to Midwinter.

    Tomorrow is my 19th birthday and I will be driving to Glen Lake to prepare for the last Midwinter retreat of my high school career. This is something I’ve dreaded for a long time. Not only because now I am the person in the place of people that I have looked up to for years; Not only because there are a million ways that things go wrong, but mostly because I know that this is the end of something beautiful and the beginning of something undetermined. 

    But, taking a page from the book of my selfless and magnificent Twin, Carly, I’m praying that God will use me this weekend. I don’t want a good small group. I don’t want to look like a big deal. I want God to put me to work instilling change in the hearts of these youth the same way my heart has been changed.  And if you would pray for this, for me and the other students leaders this weekend, I would greatly appreciate that.

And also that we don’t fill up Glen Hole with our tears…that would also be nice.

Misconceptions of Peer Pressure

My school district starts drug and alcohol prevention education basically when kids start school. I can remember being very young and having a blue dinosaur in a backwards baseball cap rapping to me about how you don’t have to take “gym lockerz” from other kids to be cool. Being drug free is what’s cool.

I think that this misconception of peer pressure is an important part of why it’s such a struggle for so many young people. I’ve grown up hearing adults (and other kids) refer to societal stress as “kids just wanting to be cool,” or people “feeling like they need to fit in.”  But even if from where you are standing, it seems like a lot of the decisions that teenagers make are a no-brainer, you have to realize the context.

Imagine driving your car on an road. The speed limit is posted. You’ve been driving for a pretty long time and there is a small group of cars that you’ve been travelling with. Now, all of a sudden all of those cars start driving double the speed limit, including the cars right behind you. Now, given what you know is right (the speed limit) and completely uncorrelated to you being cool or fitting in, can you honestly say that you aren’t going to change your behavior at all because of what’s happening around you?

It needs to be realized that a lot of us are put in a situation where we are watching everyone that we have grown close to are doing whatever it is that the blue dinosaurs have told us not to do. And despite the facts that we’ve been given and the guidelines that have been laid out for us, those things come into question. Especially when we start to see that a lot of the people who have taught us not to do whatever it is, do it (or have done it), too.

I think a lot of the disconnect lies in that peer pressure can’t be written off as superficial problem without trying to solve it with superficial prevention techniques. I have been to plenty of youth functions where the topic wandered from “GUYS! JESUS LOVES YOU THIS MUCH! OMG” to: “Don’t have sex until you’re married. K Bye.”

A lot of the case for abstinence involves the adults trying to convey the message saying that premarital sex is just inherently bad and that’s just how it is. But completely neglecting the part of the conversation where you talk about why God has laid out this rule for us. It’s also easy to forget the part why Jesus still loves you that much.

The fact that I’ve seen this first hand is why I’m not surprised when I read in RELEVANT that the vast majority of unmarried young adult Christians have had sex.

If the church wants to genuinely make an impact of young people’s decisions about sex (or anything else for that matter), there needs to be conversation that goes beyond what is being said now. And that conversation needs to come with the understanding that these decisions are not cost-benefit analysis, or based on being cool or fitting in, but are serious personal struggles that deserve the same attention as real-life (or even “grown-up”) problems.

The Difference Between a Rebel and A Punk

     It is a common theme in ministry (especially youth ministry) that I’ve noticed. A lot of people who work with young people want to be wild, unconventional, unpredictable, radical and love-driven. The people who are creative and off-the-wall are awesome and exciting. Even though sometimes they make things stressful for the structured, scheduled, curriculum writers of the world, they are an important part of youth ministry. 

    However, there is a danger in both of these. Just like some structured, scheduled people in ministry can become detached from the true “experience” or the “letting the Spirit move you” way of thinking, those who are more off-the-cuff or unconventional [this is phrased this way because there are those who are off-the-cuff and those who are unconventional, they are not mutually exclusive nor are they synonymous.] can become hypercritical or stagnant. Out of fear of being ordinary, we can miss out on being logical. And when we see “typical youth ministry” occurring, we can talk ourselves into not taking an active role in that experience. 

   My suggestion is that we learn from each other, we take turns and we help each other out even when we don’t agree. When you really look at it, isn’t that what you would want your youth to do?

 

[Dsclaimer: this post is not to be taken as an indication of how Midwinter went. Midwinter was AWESOME.]