Riding the Wave, Part 1 of 3

There’s nothing quite like the sound of waves. We typically like to think of that sound as soothing, but in some situations, it could send your fight or flight mechanism into chaos.


When you view a big wave from a distance and you are ready for it as it approaches, you can get lost in a sense of awe and appreciation, taking it in with your whole being: seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting, for a truly amazing experience. On the other hand, if a wave catches you off guard, you might remember the tossing, scraping, churning, choking, sand-in-every-crevice feeling for a long time. Waves can be a great blessing or a brutal reminder. With their power and majesty they can cause appreciation or disillusionment.


Similar to that image, a youth event of two or more days can cause a wave of impact that reaches a student emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually. When we send a student home from what they thought was a weekend or one-week event, they may feel like a huge wave has come. It can be full of spiritual adrenalin, but will an environment have been set for them to make the most of that momentum?


Though we realize we cannot create spiritual momentum, we can set an environment for God to stir the hearts of students. We can follow best practices while planning so we don’t hinder the work of God, but we really can’t make it last or keep it going after the immediate situation is over. Once students go back to their day-to-day lives, we cannot keep that ongoing fire for them.


What we can do is plan with excellence. We all realize that it’s possible to have a bad retreat, camp, mission trip, etc., so let’s start with a few questions to ponder:

  • If you were the enemy of the Kingdom of God and knew that churches were going to keep sending kids to youth events or faith-forming experiences, how would you attempt to mess it up? What could you want the churches or students to believe that would do more harm than good?
  • Do we set students up for difficult transitions back into “real life”? Have you seen students respond both ways (spiritually thriving and crashing and burning) a week or month after going home? Is it possible for even great retreats, camps or mission trips to have a negative effect on students in the long run?


To be continued…