We had our Trinity Community Church Student Ministries Leaders' Retreat this weekend in Round Lake, IL. It was a really powerful time. Friday night after we ate we started at 7:30 into a time of intentional encouragement. Nate had asked us to write something encouraging down beforehand for each of members of the leadership teams for 3-D (middle school ministry) and/or Third Place (high school ministry) depending on our involvement. During the encouragement time we went around and people shared their encouragements for each leader and often pitched in even if they hadn't written anything. This time was scheduled for about 90 minutes. We finished around 12:30 a.m. It was amazing listening to the student leaders encourage one another and the adult leaders. It was a powerful and convicting time as I realized again how much influence God has allowed me to have in the lives of the students and leaders in 3-D. I love watching kids that I knew as shy or goofy 6th graders grow into leaders in the church and in their schools. Later that night we watched Juno until most people were asleep.
On Saturday morning we had a great time of worship and prayer (originally scheduled for the night before) and then had a discussion about what kind of students we wanted to see graduate from our ministries and what kind of disciplers we needed to be in order for that to happen. After lunch we had a brainstorming time to determine our fall teaching series for the two groups (for organizational purposes we teach the same series in both groups, though we adjust the material to the different age groups) and then split into ministry groups to dream about possibilities for our ministries. This was also a very encouraging time as we shared about how we can be more intentional about connecting with the 3-D kids outside of our Wednesday night group time.
During one of the morning sessions one of the adult leaders mentioned that "Shame is often a major tenement in many religions." Obviously he meant to say "tenet." Nobody mentioned the mistake at the time (amazing for me) but as I thought about what he said I realized it carried a lot more meaning than he intended. I had this image of decrepit, neglected building in a slum filled with people who had moved in but were unable to move out because of their poverty and life circumstances. For a lot of people their shame is a really nasty place that they can't see any way to move out of so they live in the squalor and despair. I don't want to say which religions he was referring to, but that can often be very unfortunately and ironically true of evangelical Christianity. Even though we claim to be "evangelical," i.e. gospel based and oriented, too, too often we load people down with a weight of shame instead of the gospel of freedom. As another friend said a couple of days ago our guilt is often more powerful than others' because we get it both ways. We feel guilty for what we've done wrong but then we compound that by feeling guilty about feeling guilty since we're supposed to be all about grace. We just don't believe Jesus when he says, "It is finished!" It's time we piled our stuff on Jesus' back and moved out of the tenement.
Anyway, this retreat is becoming one of the highlights of my August. It's really only surpassed by the annual Labor Day trip to Tennessee to see Ann and Daniel and Lydia and Geron.
Verse of the Day:
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)