Each year, there are probably one (or a few) big events everyone looks forward to, whether it’s a retreat, a compassion experience, or that annual big-bash Christmas dinner. Those big events can be monumental and life-changing…if they’re used well.
One person suggested to me that big events in youth ministry are giant “sledgehammer” moments where there is potential for huge impact in students’ lives. There are a variety of reasons why this could be:
- The students are outside their regular routine or comfort zone.
- They tend to be more “attuned” when their environment is significantly different and are more likely to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
- The students are likely part of a group (i.e. their youth group), which includes youth leaders who prompt spiritual conversations, so there’s a higher likelihood the students will engage in those conversations.
(I’m sure you can add other observations to this list; feel free to in the comments below.)
Understanding this potential for impact, it’s important to “lead in” and “lead out” well with these events.
“Lead in”, like tilling the soil, prepares the participant for the experience. Our events, usually include a lead-in lesson; a program done in advance of the main event that sets the stage for what might happen at the event.
“Lead out” is an opportunity after the event to celebrate and debrief the experience. It includes identifying what significant milestones may have resulted, what elements could have been done differently or improved upon, and what moments should be celebrated/highlighted. Lead outs help bring closure to the experience, while highlighting and providing opportunity to process what God’s been revealing.These sessions also help our teams learn how to integrate those promptings into their lives and the lives of the students.
It’s important to remember that if the big events are the “sledgehammer” moments, the “regular routine” times are the “sandpaper”. If God prompts some drastic changes in a person’s life, the weeks and months that follow are times to help smooth out and continue to shape what God’s transforming. It may not be dramatic, but that consistent “sanding” will shape who God wants that student to be.
Maybe you have a fall retreat coming up, or are preparing for that overseas compassion experience. Whatever is on the horizon, may God use those events to greatly impact students’ lives, and may the in-between times be moments of sanding so we can all be shaped by him.