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26 November 2014

Looking back on the Youth BIG Weekend Away

Aaron Griffin Aaron Griffin Head of Youth Ministry
Big Weekend Away

In October, young people from Above Bar Church enjoyed a great time together at the BIG Youth Weekend Away. In this Blog, our head of Youth work, Aaron Griffin shares some of the encouragements from the young people as well as talking about silly songs, bacon and pillow fights!

The fire was crackling in the background, excited laughter (and a few silly songs) could be heard in the background, “I just can’t stop smiling” one Box member said as he lay out under the clear night sky staring up into the universe.  We’d just spent the last hour and a half looking into the Bible to see how big God was.  Luke Hammond mentioned that if the earth was the size of a golf ball, the Sun would be 15ft in diameter.  We had seen that Jesus is sustaining that sun.  This boy was marvelling not at the view, but at the God who was sustaining that view.  That boy was one of many this weekend who the Holy Spirit worked in.

Weeks of preparation, organisation, meetings, prayer, study and form filling went into the intense 47 hours that was the Big Youth Weekend Away.  Friday, 3pm the leaders pulled into Avon Tyrrell youth activity centre to pray, set up and have fun together.  Before we knew it, the drop off chaos began and the Big Weekend Away kicked off to a great start.  Food was consumed, excited chatter happened, welcomes were given and songs were sung before we dived straight into our first session “How to Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk”.  How do we do it? How do we act on what we know to be true? In the words of Hebrews 1:1-3, we behold the glory of God, we see him for who he is, the biggest and best thing, ever!  Box went out after to a bonfire, whereas Rooted enjoyed a brilliant Quiz.

The next morning, despite Avon Tyrrell’s water not running, we met in the dining room to consume the best thing God has given to us to eat, bacon!  There were other options too, but the cooked breakfast was welcome.  Tummies full, we filtered into the meeting room, unshowered excitement still buzzing, Paul Etherton tackled “How to make the best friends you will ever have”.  God is love, not just loving, but love.  His very nature is love, which is why it makes sense in John 13:35 that Jesus prays that people will come to know him through examples of Christian community.  How do you make the best BFF’s? Through Christian communities who walk the walk, Christian communities on mission.  Just for giggles, let’s call them missional communities.

The tuck shop opened, unreasonable amounts of sugar replaced the blood flow of many of the young people (sorry to all dentists!) but was quickly burned out in the games that followed.  Zero First Aid incidents later (thank you Jesus!) seminars happened.  What did the young people want? Apologetics, how do we know it is true? How can we defend our faith? What if life sucks, where is God then? I am currently studying an apologetics module for my MA, so it was a delight to have young people practicing how to stand up for their faith.

A mildly surprising cooked lunch happened; I’d ordered packed lunches but I wasn’t complaining, neither were the teens!  With the warm glow of hot food, many box members and leaders conquered their fear of heights on the high ropes; many Rooted members felt the burn while riding mountain bikes around the grounds and zero trips to A+E later (thank you once again Jesus!).  Good news too, the water was back on.  Showered excitement rolled onto an evening meal before teaching session number three “How to find what you’re looking for”.  This began with three of the female leaders running in, pink sweatbands donned and got everyone exercising, why? Because we are running a race! (Hebrews 12) A race that doesn’t stop when you become a Christian, a race that doesn’t stop when ABC is clapping you out of the baptism waters, but stops when we meet Jesus face to face.  How can we help reach the finish line, turns out, in community!  Together we develop spiritual HABITS (Hang time with God, Accountability, Bible memorisation, Involvement in church, Tithing, Studying scripture).

The lights went down, Box lit a fire in a separate room (in a fire place, not in the middle of the room thankfully!) and we reflected on what has been the best thing about the weekend away so far, what came out was the following:

“I conquered my fear of heights!”

“I am now proud to call you my church family”

“How amazingly massive God is”

“I want to take the gospel to my friends”

“The epic pillow fight this morning”

“How my heart has been set on fire for God”

“How the leaders really care about me”

There were more, but this is just a flavour, it made my heart sing, the Holy Spirit was at work!  Rooted came into the room next door from their bonfire and had a spontaneous rave, so we sent Box to bed, sent the rave to bedrooms upstairs before enjoying what was described to be the second best gift God has given us, the clocks changing so we got an extra hour in bed!

After using the extra hour to pillow fight with the Box boys, we began to smell bacon flowing up the stairs.  Our 5th cooked meal in a row was consumed we rolled into our final session, “How to be the best you can be”.  George Bradley opened Ephesians 2:1-10 to us before we went into groups to realise that God has not just left us to run the race ourselves, but gifts us with the best thing we can have, the Holy Spirit.  We looked at what our SHAPE was (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and past Experience) before sharing as a whole group what our interests were.  That was more exciting than I can express, watch this space, we now have a mission focussed, spiritually gifted, God loving gaggle of young people eager to see people experience what they have done.

Want to know what the young people thought of the weekend away? Check out what they wrote:

“Please can we have more time? Maybe 3 nights and go home on the Monday!”

“God wants us to use our talents to change the world, praise him!”

“I want to be closer to God, and my brothers and sisters”

“We need more bacon!”

“The Holy Spirit is working in me”

“God is awesome, bigger, better, wiser than I ever imagined”

“God demands my whole life, my mission and race is not finished until heaven!”

“I need to pray for God to be the most important thing in everything I do”

“God is so awesome, and everyone needs to know that, so that is what I am going to do!”

The ball is now rolling, the stage is now set, let’s see what God does with a God glorifying youth group, can we change the world? With God on our side, anything is possible.

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Children, Youth

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