Hi there moms and dads!
Another year of middle school retreat has come and gone. We had a great time with your children, laughing, playing, and worshipping God together. Thank you for that blessing and privilege! I know that the Spirit of God moved in the lives of our teenagers; he certainly did in me.
Recap of the Retreat
Here’s a little of what we did and talked about together over the weekend:
With retreat, you know we’re going to do some big, fun, things! There was Clash of Clans where each grade competed against the others for glory. They surfed mattresses, entered giant inflatable globes to play human bumper cars, and wrestled for inner tubes. There was free time with open gym, game rooms, and a chance to simply be together. And then there was the dodgeball tournament. Our kids won their first match (a first for us!) before losing against the second team. But the retreat was about more than fun.
We met with the whole camp for large group Friday night, Sat. Morning, Sat. Night, and Sun. Morning. There were games, lots of candy, fun videos, and time singing together in musical worship. But something else we also did each large group was a time of personal devotion. We want to help train youth to meet with Jesus regularly, so we introduce them to it and give them a chance to practice right then. Using the process of “Slow, Know, Grow, and Pray”, teens took a few moments of silence to prepare hearts and pray. Then we dug into passages of I John 1, 2, and 4 asking, “What do I learn about God here?” Following that, we take time to ask “What do I learn about myself here and how do I want to respond to God?” Finally, we end that time in prayer. It was time well spent as every teenager can learn what to do in their own devotion times.
Beyond personal devotions, our speaker, Josh Luce, walked us through I John 1, 2, and 4 in a much deeper way in his talks. Friday night we looked at the fact that God is love; in fact, he has always perfectly loved because He is Three in One (that’s right, we dropped the doctrine of the trinity on middle schoolers). God, as a perfect community, loves himself perfectly and he loves US perfectly as well!
Saturday morning, we considered HOW God has loved us perfectly - He gave Jesus to save us. Walking us through the grand story of the Bible, beginning in Genesis, and pausing for a long on Abraham and the covenant God made with him, we learned of God’s single-sided love for us (ask your kids about the cut up stuffed animals!).
When we see perfect love lived out, it makes us want to join in! God’s perfect love for himself and for us lead us on Saturday night to consider how we love God. Josh started by having us consider what loving God is not - it is NOT loving the world. We can’t love both. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life all make up love for the world; those things will pass away. We were challenged to consider what loves we had that kept us from loving God.
Finally, Sunday morning, we saw (from I John 4:11-20), that loving God is seen in loving one another as we love ourselves. Josh took us into an illustration from marriage, I Corinthians 13, and Luke 10 & the Good Samaritan story to help us see loving others means opening our eyes and being aware of who God is bringing into our lives to love. Honestly, turning our attention outside ourselves and being aware of others is probably one of the things our middle schoolers need most right now.
There was a lot to take away from our time in God’s Word. Many of our teens took notes and had great things to share as we discussed the talks together in our church groups after each session.
It may be that you and I don’t see the fruit from this experience right away, but remember that the work of disciple-making is more like growing an orchard than creating widgets on an assembly line. With that in mind, you can help that fruit mature in the life of your teen by helping them frame and debrief the retreat experience over the next couple of weeks. How? By asking questions and taking time to help them process what they felt and thought. Here are some suggestions for you:
----One or two days after the trip----
- Allow your teen some time to process. Don’t expect to get all the answers to your questions right away. It takes time for teenagers to understand and apply their experience. Be patient with them.
- Rather than barraging them with questions right away, what is one thing you could do for or with your child that lets them know you are excited to have them back?
- Ask your child some basic questions about the trip the first couple of days. Here are some examples:
- What is a favorite memory from the retreat?
- What will you always remember about this retreat?
- What is something you learned about yourself?
----First week after the trip----
- Ask questions about what they learned, not what they did. The easy stories to tell are the ones that deal with what your child saw, ate, or did. The hard – but more meaningful – interaction encourages your child to tell you what they learned and how they changed. Ask how they saw God at work. Here are some examples:
- What did you see God do in and through you?
- What did you learn from the Bible studies and your time alone with God?
- What applications did you make from the Bible studies?
----First two weeks after the trip----
- Ask the deeper questions. When your child tells you about the retreat, ask a deeper follow-up question. This will help your child come to a deeper understanding of their experience.
- How did you see God at work? When did He intervene? Answer prayer? Show his faithfulness?
- How did God show Himself to be real to you?
- What is your plan for staying connected to Jesus?
- How has this experience changed your mission at home, at school, with the youth group?
- Plan to process the experience with them more than once. It is important to realize that the learning for a teenager can happen weeks after the experience is over. Be sure to ask your teen what they are still learning from their retreat one to three months after the trip is over. This will force your child to reconsider what they have learned and how the retreat has had a lasting impact on his or her life.
- Is there any kind of follow-up journal or study you could go through with your teen? Are there regular times you could set aside to talk with them about how the trip is continuing to affect their life?
We loved this time with your teenager. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this disciple-making journey with you and your child! If you have any questions or concerns about the trip, please reach out and talk with me. Thank you again!
Websites to Frequent
Our Top Website Recommendations
Sticky Faith Parents - What makes faith "stick" for teenagers as they head into mature adulthood? Fuller Youth Institute took the time to study the data and found some surprising answers. They bring those answers home for parents, guardians, and grandparents here.
Axis - Axis is an organization that serves as a Culture Translator, resourcing parents to disciple and transfer legacy to their children, so that the next generation is challenged to think clearly and critically about what they believe and own their faith. They offer training videos (requires a subscription) and a Culture Translator email/archive.
CPYU - The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding is a great place to go for current culture news and resources on engaging your children and the surrounding culture.
Growing Leaders - Tim Elmore works with schools and churches to raise up the next generation of leaders. His blogs offer fantastic insight into how we can help our youth transition into mature adulthood.
Faith-Building and Thinking Well
Stand to Reason Parent Resource List - Looking for ways to engage the mind of your teenager (or even your own)? STR is a solid place to find just that.
Mama Bear Apologetics - Good articles on apologetic, philosophical, and worldview matters.
Books to Check Out
Parenting Guides from Axis
Here's our folder with Parenting Guides on all kinds of topics.
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp
A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos
Get Your Teenager Talking by Jonathan McKee
Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony
5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney
Understanding Youth & Youth Culture
For Parents Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
A Parents' Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys by Mark Oestricher
A Parents' Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls by Mark Oestricher
Marriage, Sex, and Dating
Mom, Dad... What's Sex? by Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick
How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex by Stan and Brenna Jones
More than Just the Talk by Jonathan McKee
Preparing Your Son for Every Young Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn
Preparing Your Daughter for Every Young Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge
XXXChurch Parent Resources - XXXChurch has done a great job resourcing the local church in how to combat pornography.
Sexuality and Gender Issues
Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
On RightNow Media:
Members of Fellowship Community Church have access to RightNow Media. Get hooked up and find all kinds of video resources, studies and more to do with your teenager. Contact the Church Office for more information.
Some video series that talk about sex and dating:
- Simple Truths (Live Presentation)
- XXXChurch It's Valentine's Day Session 3
- Multiple series for youth on sex and dating - watch WITH your student, then talk about it together.