I was so encouraged at the youth winter retreat for many reasons, but mostly because of the involvement and support of Bethel English Church. P. Dan and Helen attended as both family group (games/skit team) andsmall group (discussion group) leaders and brought their kids Abby and Isaac with them! P. Justin came as a small group leader for 12thgrade boys and Tabitha came along! And, of course, there were quite a few other retreat counselors from our Ardent, Thrive, and Covenant ministries. On Wednesday night, the parents were invited to come pray with/over their students. On Thursday night, volunteers from BEC came to cook a meal (which was also prepped by BEC volunteers the night before) for over 200 students and leaders! We had a delicious chicken teriyaki dinner and one BEC member even donated boba for dessert! These were such loving ways for BEC to show care for and commitment to the next generation and a practical way to live out the retreat theme: United.
About a year ago, the high school, junior high, and Korean-speaking youth group were all combined into one ministry and christened, “Bethel United.” This was a huge change as you can imagine, but the students, parents, and volunteers have grown to see the benefits of being together. At BEC, we have the same heart: to break down barriers between age groups and life stages, share life with each other, learn from one another, and grow together.
I can see how the thought of serving or even just speaking with teenagers can be intimidating. However, even though the outward struggles of teens may seem very different from when we were their age (social media, gender issues, etc.), the inward struggles are very much the same (acceptance/belonging, identity, etc.). I am an only child and was neither a believer nor plugged into any community during my high school years. I felt alone, misguided, rootless, and made some very bad decisions for myself. After I encountered and accepted Christ as my Savior, I wanted to do everything possible to prevent youths from ever having to feel the way I felt in high school. I want them to know the Savior who loves and leads us and I realized I could be a vessel to carry that message and help guide them through those tough years. Sure, I can’t keep up with the slang and they still tease me that I’m old-fashioned, but I just do my best to listen with an open heart when they share their lives with me, continue to point them to Jesus, and share my own experience of who God is and how he has sustained me. That kind of connection is no more intimidating than connecting with people my own age…plus, it keeps me young!