As we talked about at the beginning of the year, one of the key things we wanted to focus on was greater collaboration between religious ed and youth ministry. We realized that religious ed would benefit from more encounter opportunities and relationship building and youth ministry would benefit from more catechesis. Specifically, we strongly believe that if a student doesn’t have a personal relationship with God, then catechesis is largely ineffective, but without catechesis retreats and relational ministry lacks lasting depth.
Perhaps the thing we’ve had the most success from this year has been the interviews for Confirmation preparation. We have met individually with many of the current freshman class and have had some really incredible conversations. We’ve been able to listen to students share about their relationship with God, their experiences and their struggles, and give them some concrete direction on how to grow closer to Him. We’ve helped students know how to respond to what the Lord is doing in their lives and sustain their relationship with God in the day-to-day outside of retreats and big events. Further, from those interviews we’ve been able to better understand the needs of the students and adjust our events and retreats accordingly.
One of the best events we’ve had was the High School Encounter in September. These events are designed to be a combination of catechesis and encounter with a large group teaching, individual prayer, small group discussion, and then a time of Adoration and prayer teams. One of the students we meet with for Confirmation shared that they were able to take some of the ideas from the class portion and bring them to prayer in a meaningful way. Then another student shared how this event was a moment of encounter, of intimacy with the Lord, during a time of spiritual dryness since their last retreat.
Another new event that we are excited to dive into is our Middle School Encounters. In our culture today, kids are coming to difficult questions sooner. “Is God actually real,” “Does God really love me,” “Why does God allow suffering,”etc. These realities need to be met with more than just teaching. They need to know in their hearts through an encounter with God, and currently few of our structures for middle school students include an opportunity to encounter the person of Jesus. With the help of volunteers in our prayer ministry and in our school, we are able to provide a time for 5-8 graders to sit with Jesus in adoration and to be prayed with.
This encounter for the Lord open the students up to really receiving the teaching we have to give them in class. For example, since their day long retreat in October, where many students had a personal encounter with Jesus that they were hoping for, the 8th grade religious ed classroom has changed. The conversations in class have a new depth because the students are more open to being vulnerable about their thoughts during discussions and in times of prayer. It’s been very exciting to see and we can’t wait to walk with them and other middle schoolers through more of their journey with God.
Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to help our students experience the transforming power of the Lord and grow in a personal relationship with Him.
And as a quick reminder, our next High School Encounter is Sunday, December 8th at 6:30pm in the Activity Center. Also, the High School Retreat is December 13-15 at Camp Roger in Rockford (cost is $65), you can register for this retreat on the website: mhtparish.com/youth-ministry