Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
After a two-year hiatus, almost 70 of us (55 youth, plus 14 volunteers) recently attended the Great Escape Youth Retreat at beautiful Lake Champion, NY. After the retreat, I requested some of our youth to summarize their experience and they mentioned how it gave them a much-needed respite from daily routine, how meaningful it was to participate in worship and fellowship with youth from sister churches, and how the speaker impacted them, causing them to reflect on their life, specifically around their relationship with Jesus. Colossians 3:16 represents the weekend well: the speaker spoke to us about how to die to self and live for Christ in practical ways in our modern age. We sang and worshiped the Lord, we admonished one another in small group discussions, and we enjoyed our time with full gratitude to a gracious and kind Father. The retreat caused me to ponder how we as a church body can connect more deeply with, learn from, and be a part of discipling these young folks God has blessed us with.
Throughout the retreat there were a number of occasions for me to hear from the youth: while eating breakfast, while walking, and during small group times and I realized that I have a lot to learn from this generation, and it challenges me to grow in Christ and serve His mission in my circle. For one, I learned that our youth are experts in interpreting modern culture, its origins and where it’s heading. They face this culture, with its good and bad, in their various venues in fresh ways that brings me insight in how to be a follower of Christ in my corporate environment, or with my neighbors. Secondly, as a result of this insight, they have much to teach us about the way the gospel applies to this modern generation. They offer new perspectives about where and how the gospel message resonates freshly so that we can redeem the culture. I think we as the church could grow significantly in how we serve the world around us if we sat down and really listened to the insight the youth bring about how they face this modern culture.
Secondly, I also learned that I do, after all, have a lot that I can contribute towards the youth and their development. As we had small groups and the youth shared their thoughts and experiences, along the way, I was able to contribute my insight into God’s Word, as well as my life experience in my walk with Christ. Sometimes adults may feel that the youth are neither interested nor do we have anything significant to offer them. Rather, I learned that these conversations allow us to mutually encourage one another – I gain insights about the modern times, the youth and their struggles, while I contribute my struggles and experience from my history. There is a large bridge that connects our experiences even if the times are different and if we were to take the time, we would find there is a lot that is in common. I want to encourage all of us as a church body to reach out to the youth and have these intentional conversations where we listen well and also share insights from God’s Word and our own life experiences.
Thirdly, the Lord desires and blesses this intergenerational discipleship. In Deuteronomy 6:7 He speaks about our responsibility to disciple on all occasions. In the New Testament in the relationship between Paul and Timothy we see this relationship modeled. During the retreat, the speaker said “The call to discipleship is the most gracious thing that Christ can offer” and he encouraged the youth to find “deep, intentional non-romantic” relationships. I am asking how I make myself not only available, but the kind of person that these youth would seek an intentional discipling relationship with. And this is not only for their benefit but also for mine.
I am hoping this article encourages us all at GRC to bind together and build these intentional, long-term bonds with our youth. The health of us, our church and our youth depends on this great work that the Lord blesses.
Kumar Venugopal is a member at GRC and co-leads a high school boys small group.