We had an awesome time over the weekend in Northern Kentucky and the CIY Believe Celebration on Sunday Morning was indescribable. Thank you to all of you that were able to make it out to the Transit service on Sunday. If you were there, were probably heard most of this, but if not I will go over the highlights of the trip. At the bottom of the post, I will give you some specific questions that you can ask your middle schooler this week to follow up with the trip.
A lot of parents ask their student questions like “How was it?” or “What are some things that happened?” and they tend to get one word or one sentence answers. A lot of times, it is difficult for a middle schooler to open up to their parents about their experience, so I want to give you a detailed account of our trip, so that you can ask specific questions to help generate a dialogue to help them open up a little.
Another thing that tends to happen when middle school students go on a retreat like this is that they experience a huge spiritual and emotional high. They may have even experienced something completely brand new and they do not know how to process or deal with the emotions that they experienced over the weekend. As the parent, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to help your middle school student process these emotions.
Furthermore, these emotions and this spiritual high will inevitably fade over time. A lot of times, a person’s relationship with Christ will be solely determined by these emotions. When the emotions fade, so does the relationship. That is something that we want to try to avoid with your help. We want to help you help your student continue to grow in their relationship with Christ even after the spiritual high tapers off.
So here goes….
The First Session
After you dropped off your little angels, we loaded the buses and headed for NKU. We arrived at the university about 20 minutes before the doors opened for the first session. When the doors finally opened, we were seated on the floor. The Jordan Howerton Band (JHB) led us in worship and we were introduced to Slap Happy Comedy, which was a two-man comedic team that specialized in improv comedy.
The first improv session was the lying on the floor and acting out a scene as if they were standing up. There was a camera that was set up directly above them and it made a pretty cool effect on the big screen.
After that, we were introduced to our speaker, Kurt Johnston, the middle school pastor at Saddleback Church in Los Angeles. (You may have heard of their senior pastor, Rick Warren). He did a great job of introducing the main theme, Upside Down, and then we were dismissed to a break time.
During all the break times, the students were allowed to roam around the arena and check out the Experience Stations, use the restrooms, buy something at the merch table or the concession stands, or just simply hang out with their friends.
The Experience Stations
There were three or four Experience Stations that the students were able to check out. One of them was for the mission organization 1Mission. This organization is based in Phoenix, Arizona and works to raise money to build houses for people in Mexico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The people in these countries live in shelters made out of scrap metal with little or no electricity or running water. A lot of times the electricity that they do have is dangerous because of unsafe grounding and wiring. The lack of a foundation makes these houses susceptible to being destroyed easily by floods and mud slides.
1Mission’s philosophy is to not simply give a family a house, but have them feel like they have earned the house by requiring that they fulfill a certain amount of community service hours. While they are working to improve their community by working to improve police, medical facilities, churches, and other institutions in the community, other people are working to raise money to build the house. Then 1Mission sends mission teams to their community to build the house. So far, they have built 174 houses and we have the opportunity to help build more.
We are partnering with 1Mission this year to raise enough money to build 2 houses in Mexico. Each house costs $4000, so we are trying to raise $8000. One way that your student can help with this is to donate his or her birthday. Instead of asking for presents that they will get bored with after a couple months or money that they will just blow, they can ask for donations for this project. In order to help them follow through with this, we are asking you as parents to help keep them accountable to go through with it. Please join with us as we try to raise money for this project. Check out 1Mission.org to learn more. Click “join this team” to commit your birthday.
Claim Your Campus was another Experience Station that the students could check out. This organization unites students across America in praying for their school. The students were given the opportunity to register their school and pick a day and a time each week to pray for their schools. They were challenged to invite 2 of their friends to join them in praying. Again, this is another thing that you as parents can follow up and keep them accountable to continually praying for their school and their fellow students. Check out claimyourcampus.com to learn more.
In the second half of the first session, Kurt Johnston talked about how in an Upside Down world, everyone is pursued. He used the three parables from Luke 15: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal Son. In each of these stories, something is lost and subsequently radically pursued.
He explained that we can find ourselves lost similar to these three things, but that each one gets there in different ways. The coin just kind of gets lost and doesn’t even know that it is lost, but is still radically pursued. The sheep just kind of wanders off unintentionally and doesn’t know how dangerous it is outside of the shepherd’s care. However, the shepherd knows and radically pursues the lost sheep. The son intentionally leaves his father and gets caught up in reckless and extravagant living. Still, the father pursues his son and looks for him to come back every day.
Likewise, we can find ourselves lost due to various circumstances, but God still pursues us. We might think that since the lady still had 9 coins, she should just be happy with that or that since the shepherd still had 99 sheep, he should just be content with them. We might also think that since the son left so disrespectfully, the father should just write him off. But God thinks upside down and still pursues us even if we don’t deserve it.
The Second Session
That night, we stayed at the Hampton Inn and some of us got some sleep. We woke early that morning and headed back to the NKU arena. In the second session, Kurt talked about how in an upside down world, everyone is invited.
He used the parable of the great banquet found in Luke 14. He talked about how in middle school it is easy to feel excluded. Sometimes we might feel like we are left out, but God doesn’t leave anyone out. He invites everyone. But the caveat is that we have to make the decision to accept the invitation.
During this session, the staff (Taylor, Corbin, Evan, and Jordan) attended a leader’s meeting, so we missed most of this session. You’ll have to ask your student for more information about this session.
We dismissed for lunch and when we got back to the buses, we found out that the girl’s bus was broken down. We had to pile all the students on one bus to get to the church to eat lunch. At the church, we had Chik-fil-a delivered. During this time, we also had the opportunity to have small group time. In this time, we were able to talk over the messages and how they applied to our lives.
The Third Session
When we reconvened after lunch, Kurt talked about how in an upside down world, we are all sent. Getting invited to the party isn’t the end of the journey, but actually it is the beginning. After we get invited, it is our job to invite others. In order to do this, we must be a kingdom worker. Each student was directed to write down on a piece of paper how they could be a kingdom worker as a middle schooler. Then they were directed to fold that piece of paper into a paper airplane and launch it into the arena as a symbol of being sent.
Throughout the sessions, they played a series of videos about a middle school student named Duncan. He had noticed a bunch of mysterious paper airplanes flying around his school. He noticed that a bunch of his friends were acting different after these airplanes began to appear. He found out that the airplanes were invitations to a prayer meeting at his school and the prayer meeting was the thing that was changing his friends. His friends were becoming more like Jesus.
The After Party
After the conference ended, our group headed to Cincinnati Christian University to have some group time. We spent about two hours playing in their gym. We played a game called Poop Deck, basketball, volleyball, and other fun things. We also had pizza!!! After that, we headed to the campus chapel to have worship with Corbin and Jordan. After worship time, Taylor gave everyone an opportunity to talk about their experience and what God was doing in their heart.
This was a powerful time because many students, who do not normally open up, shared their heart with the group. The students displayed a higher level of spiritual maturity than we have ever seen as a staff.
We loaded up the buses again and headed back to the hotel. Sunday morning, we had breakfast and headed back to Northeast. We got back to the church for the Transit service, where we invited the parents to join us. We had a total of 220 people in that service and it was a great way to end the weekend. Thank you again to all of you who shared in that celebration.
- What was it like being on a college campus?
- How did you like the arena?
- How did you like the Jordan Howerton Band?
- What was your favorite part of the singing?
- Were you able to go down in front of the stage? What was that like?
- What was your favorite part of the comedy team?
- Tell me about the movie about Duncan? Why do you think they showed that movie?
- How does Duncan’s story relate to your life? How is it similar/different?
- What do you think it means to be pursued by God?
- How can you make other people at your school or in your neighborhood feel pursued by God?
- What do you think it means that God invites everyone?
- Have you accepted the invitation?
- Do you know how to accept the invitation?
- Have you thought at all about being baptized?
- How can you make other people feel like they are invited?
- What do you think it means to be sent?
- What do you think it means to be a kingdom worker?
- How can you as a middle schooler be a kingdom worker?
- Did you go to the 1Mission Experience Station?
- What do you think about donating your birthday?
- How can we get people to donate money to 1Mission for your birthday?
- What are some other ways that we can raise money for 1Mission other than just donating your birthday?
- Did you check out the Claim Your Campus Experience Station?
- What do you think about committing to pray for your school?
- Who are 2 friends that you can ask to join you?
- What was your favorite part about the hotel?
- What were some funny things that happened over the weekend?
- What was your favorite part of playing in the gym?
- What was your favorite part of the time in the chapel?
- Did you share anything? What did you say?
- What are some ways that you can continue grow in your relationship with Jesus?
- How can I help you grow?
- What did you think about the Sunday morning celebration?
Remember, these are specific questions that you can ask your middle schooler to get them to open up about their experience over the weekend. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to email us. We want to do anything that we can to help you help your student continue to grow spiritually beyond this retreat. Thank you so much for spiritually investing in your middle school student!