by: Jason Heppner
“I reconnected with friends that I’ve seen in the past but haven’t talked to in a while and I feel like in my relationship with God, I’ve been able to trust Him more and even reconnect with Him again.” High School Student
In Student Ministries, across all campuses, we desire for our students to know the gospel and be known by the church. This is most realized when we retreat away to connect with the Lord, surround our students with trusted, loving adults, open up and read the Scriptures, worship God through music, and play 9-Square together with students from our other campuses. When was the last time you interrupted your normal rhythm of life to retreat away to be reminded of the gospel while surrounded with community?
This all happened for our high school students a few weeks ago at our annual High School Winter Weekend at Youthfront LaCygne. This is one of those device-free weekends that we create for our students so they will connect and focus their attention on the Lord and have meaningful face-to-face conversations. They may connect with Christ for the first time, or perhaps reconnect with Christ again, and engage in thoughtful reflection with incredible adult leaders who want each student to know the gospel and be known by the church.
Our theme for the weekend was Community—specifically, how we can live out Christ’s community in our local communities, city, and world.
This was both an encouraging and convicting reminder for all of us.
We were left with the question—how are we reflecting and representing Christ in all aspects of our lives? That includes when we are walking the hallways of our schools, studying with a group of friends, practicing on the field or on the court, or just being at home.
Our speaker, Casey Kappel, reminded us that Christ’s community is a community that strives for humility, hospitality, hope, and love.
What would it look like if we really lived out our faith at school, work, or home? How would our communities change and look? What would our church family look like if we sought to reflect and represent Christ first and everything else second?
If you’ve ever been on a retreat you know that it’s one thing to sit in a large group gathering to hear some inspiring and encouraging words from a speaker, and it’s another thing when you engage in a small group conversation discussing what you heard, what struck you as interesting. It’s challenging to be diving into the Scriptures and be pressed with tough questions from adults that desire to walk alongside you, especially when you feel confused or have doubts.
Our trusted and loving adults entered into those sacred spaces with our students and dug deep into what it could look like for us to be Christ after a long football practice and help out the coaches putting away football gear. Or being available to our classmates emotionally who are experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety, or listening to our friends whose parents are going through a divorce. These are the types of things our adult leaders discuss and walk through with our high school students in small groups. To see leaders sit with and process with high school students how they can be the words, hands, and feet of Jesus in their communities is what it means to know the gospel and be known by the church.
After one of our large group gatherings, we separated into small groups to discuss the message we had just heard. One of our leaders asked this question of their small group,
“What does it look like for you to be vulnerable?” You could hear a pin drop…and then one student started to share, and then another, and another, it was incredible. Stories emerged. Laughter filled the room, a unique bond was forged. This is what it means to be community and to delight in community.
JD, a 10th Grader, shared this about his experience while at Winter Weekend Retreat, “This has been a great weekend to be with all my friends, to grow closer to God, to learn more about God, and understand what it means to be Christ’s community, and it’s something I think we should have been talking about and need to keep talking about.”
May we strive to be Christ’s community that reflects and represents Jesus with humility, hospitality, hope, and love to old friends, new friends, and those we come into contact with in our work, school, or play.