Recently I returned from directing a “Winter Retreat” for Senior Highers, where we had about 140 people for the weekend. It’s called “Frostbite” every year, but this year the ground was a bit darker shade of white. More like brown, actually. Frozen over mud.
But this year’s experience brought yet another reminder of how youth ministry continues to prepare and connect to my journey as a parent. Like any youth retreat weekend for 140 people, we have quite a few activities planned for the weekend. Flag football, masquerade party/concert, and “Frostbite Idol/Fear Factor” just to name a few. But this year, we also offered a “Prayer Experiment”. An unused house on the campground where 7 stations of prayer were set up, each focused on a different aspect of God. I had used the 7 stations last week with our youth group, and it seemed to be a good fit.
The weekend went incredible. The speaker was great, the worship with DANYA was exactly what these teens needed to bring them before the throne. There were no major injuries (that I’m aware of), and no one got sick from eating live worms. But as I processed the surveys from teens, a few of them reflected a similar sentiment:
“I wish there was more quiet time, and time for prayer.”
Who wouldn’t smile in agreement with that statement? Coming from my side, however, I saw and experienced quite a bit of available silent/prayer time. My alarm went off both mornings at 5am, giving me plenty of time to read and walk with God before the buzz of the day began with breakfast at 9am. Not to mention 3 hours of open space on Saturday with an actual “Prayer House” being offered. It was an issue of priorities. During the 3 hours, there was also a flag football tournament for a while. There were friends everywhere to hang out with. During the early morning hours, there was sleep to gain because I stayed up ’til 3am, or time needed to do my hair. 🙂
We may find the same issue in our homes as parents. It may seem like quite an achievement to offer and protect a few hours of quiet for prayer in our child’s life each week. But sometimes it may not be obvious to them why it’s being offered, or how exactly to embrace those moments. Heck, we may have the issue ourselves. “Okay, the book said I should have more quiet time in my life. Here I am. What do I do?”
Many of us don’t know where to begin. Here’s a great book to start with for adults. For kids, here’s one of many. For both adults and kids, remember prayer and spending time in God’s presence can be kind of like starting a new sport. At first it feels unnatural. We feel awkward, and probably strain to make it happen. But as we dedicate ourselves to doing it, our prayer muscles/synapses grow, and it becomes a natural part of who we are.
Someday, when our toddlers/teens naturally sense a hunger/thirst to be in God’s presence, our hope is that they can make the sacrifices it may take to experience it. May we continue to model this as a worth-while pursuit…