Recognizing some myths youth leaders and/or students believe about faith-forming experiences can be a big help in not hindering the work of God within extended events, and instead keeping the momentum going, or helping students ride the wave.
The following three myths often come to the forefront of faith-forming experiences:
- The big waves matter most: Sometimes we set ourselves, our church, and/or our students up for disappointment because we put so much emphasis on the event. We minimize our week-to-week programming and relationships when that is the very thing that props up the extended event.
- High tide only comes a couple times per year: We think big churches with lots of resources and staff or parachurch ministries that specialize in wave making are the ones that help our students most. This is false. It’s the youth leader who is there day after day in the students’ lives and the church community.
- Ride as much as you like, you’ll end up in the same place: Have you seen your high school Seniors or Juniors abandon an annual event? Sometimes they don’t have an interest in going after they’ve been there 2-3 years, because it feels like nothing new. Some become loyal fans and love it and others despise it. No two events are the same whether they are meant to be similar or not.
In addition to recognizing the myths, you also need to focus on what you are trying to accomplish. Here are a few primary purposes to help build confidence in riding the waves God gives us through extended faith-forming experiences. Most likely, your retreat/camp/conference/trip has one of these as its primary purpose:
- Growth: Similar to farming, growth is a process. You plant seeds, water them, wait, cultivate (remove hindrances), wait some more, eventually harvest and repeat.
- Training: Sports training is also a process. You have to work out, to hurt a little bit, to eat right, and to cross train, and still, no one increases weights by 25 lbs. at a time, but rather 1-2 lbs.
- Leadership development: It seems that Ministry Training and Leadership Development may need a longer, more detailed post-trip plan than spiritual growth. Typically, our ongoing programming is focused on spiritual growth so you can weave the experience into that programming very simply after returning home. Ministry training and leadership development may take a much more intentionally structured post-trip plan.
Therefore, your church relationships and ongoing programming are the key to developing spiritual growth and it’s important to stray away from the myths or pre-conceived notions that might hold you or your students back. It might not be a bad idea to reflect on your own faith-forming experiences. How did they play a positive part in your spiritual growth or development as a student?
To be continued…