We’ve all had it before.
That feeling that you’ve been somewhere before… or already experienced something. It’s one of those weird phenomenons that we all know, but can’t really explain. It’s something that connects us and makes us inherently human. I’ve always been fascinated by it.
Deja vu for me is usually a very unclear and hazy experience, or at least I think more so than most people. I know I have the feeling, but I don’t have the slightest clue where it came from or what triggered it.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I had a moment that wasn’t deja vu, but it was familiar. One of the guys in my small group told us that our church was needing a few more leaders for an upcoming youth retreat, and he invited us to volunteer for it. I jumped at the chance to do it because I am up for a weekend retreat any time. Pretty much all the rest of my small group volunteered as well, so not only would I get the chance to lead on a youth retreat, but I would get to do it with some of my closest friends.
I wasn’t planning on getting involved in my home church’s youth ministry until the fall, after my current youth group in Athens graduates. However, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to meet some of the students and leaders, and give me a feel for how this ministry operated. After I completed all the registration and paperwork, I was assigned to the 9th grade guys group with two other guys from my small group. We were paired with the main leader of that “small” group because there were a total of 25 students in it!
I’m no stranger to leading large groups, in fact I led 9 high school guys by myself about a month ago in Athens, but it was certainly going to be interesting having that many students at once. I was glad to have my small group guys with me.
The retreat turned out to be way better than I expected. The music was incredible, the teaching was awesome, and the students were so much fun to hang out with. It was the first time my friends had led a group of high schoolers and watching them connect with the students was definitely one of the highlights.
The other leaders and I also got a chance to hang out with our new college and young adults pastor, who is in the process of starting up that ministry again. We’ve been without one for about a year now since our former pastor left to plant a church, but thankfully we’ve continued meeting as a small group since then. It was great to just talk and get to know him more. He’s an awesome guy and we’re really excited for what’s ahead.
My favorite part of the entire trip without a doubt was the Saturday night worship session. Every year during this retreat, they have every leader, pastor, and band member spread out through the room and pray for every. single. student. We get to ask them for specific prayer requests, lay hands on them, and pray over them. It was such a moving experience and I felt my heart breaking for this ministry all over again. It was more confirmation that this is where God wants me.
It’s funny how similar this weekend was to how I got started in youth ministry to begin with. Kind of like deja vu… 😀 (see what I did there, with the title?). Anyways, the similarities didn’t stop there. When we were loading up the buses to head back, one of the guys from my group came up to me and asked if I was going to start leading on a regular basis. This was the same question asked to me two years ago at the retreat in Athens. This is an excerpt from one of my first posts:
“I stuck around for the high school Sunday school, and one of the guys came up to me and asked: “So, are you going to start helping out every week?” It’s difficult to describe how hard that question impacted me. As soon as he said it, my heart was struck with such an intense longing to continue working with this group…”
I believe that God is a personable God, and has a distinct way of communicating in people’s lives that is unique for every person. I believe He works in our lives in ways that are deeply impactful to us, which makes our relationship with Him very intimate. In my life, one of the ways I believe God communicates with me is through patterns, and this weekend had His fingerprints all over it. The similarities between my first retreat and this one were so numerous. It was really cool to watch that unfold and reflect on it the past couple of weeks.
So in yet another turn of events orchestrated by God, and not Paul’s Life PlanTM, I am now serving in the youth ministry at my home church. It was a little earlier than I planned, but I’m so excited to be doing it. I’m hoping that by starting earlier, this will make the transition between the ministry in Athens and this one a little smoother.