“For the first time, I feel like I belong. I want to start the journey and be confirmed.”
“I know enough about Jesus to make a decision and I want to follow Him, here.”
“This weekend was the first time I felt like I experienced God. I want to start the journey.”
These were the responses to the question we asked our Confirmation students on Saturday night of the retreat. The retreat was held at Lake Junaluska, a United Methodist retreat center surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and lined with lodging: houses, hotels, and motel style rooms. The purpose of the weekend was simple: to culminate our classes with a simple invitation for each student to no only follow Jesus but do so with our faith community. The three days were filled with cheesy songs, laughter, small group discussion, and of course, play. We learned about God’s grace, the importance of partaking in the Lord’s supper, that each of us are “ministers,” and many other truths of the Christian life.
Saturday evening, we snuck away to have our own time of reflection, set apart from the rest of the retreat group, which was about 200 people. The first question I asked was “Raise your hand if you have you never actually been asked whether or not you want to follow Jesus?” Students’ limbs shot up. A little surprised, I backtracked to the very first time we gathered for Launch, when we told each student that this decision, which I believe is the best choice they will ever make, is ultimately theirs. Though the decision is theirs to make, this journey is not one they traverse alone. So each student received a packet of letters, one from their parents, one from their mentor, and one from me.
As they read and pondered the question “Do you wish to not only follow Jesus but do so with each other and in the community of our church?”, the room was quiet. Worship music played softly. Envelopes were ripped open and papers rustled. We reconvened and I opened the floor for any student to share what God spoke. Some students spoke with tears, other with few words, some only with body language, and some chose not to. The thirty minutes we spent together were beautiful. We watched middle school students boldly and courageously share about their personal faith journeys (a few answers of which are at the top of this column). Not every student had decided, which was fine by me. We circled together, hand in hand, in prayer, thanking God for his invitation to life, for the weekend, for our group, and asking for discernment as Confirmation Sunday approaches.
Join us Sunday, May 5th as we hold a special ceremony at the 10:45 a.m. worship service in the Sanctuary for these students.