Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Incapable

Last week's youth conference was a mixed bag of emotions for me.  The conference was amazing:  well planned timing, a wide variety of activities, the right amount of scheduled and unscheduled time, broad musical tastes, a very spiritual emphasis, etc.  For at least a couple months, I had been feeling very depressed and out of touch with God, and CHIC was a great catalyst to bringing me back into his presence.  But, as any youth leader will tell you, conferences are incredibly draining, physically and emotionally.

I was the only leader for 8 high school girls, six of whom were members of the church.  It's kind of an expensive conference, but it's also only every 3 years, so it gives churches a chance to do lots of fundraising.  The church paid for almost all of the girls (and my) fees.  Because of this, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that the girls "got" something out of CHIC.  It's a really fun event, but it's also designed to be a deep event.  Naturally, a high school kid's first inclination is to just focus on the fun part and brush over the rest of it.

The first night of mainstage worship, half of the girls remained seated the entire time, even though the 5,000 other people in the auditorium were on their feet with their hands raised in praise.  I was really offended by this, and afraid that it was a sign of what the rest of the week had in store.  Regardless of the pressure I felt from the church, as the girls' youth leader, I wanted to make sure that they "got" it, too!  I said something to them later, about engaging the real reason why CHIC existed -- to bring them closer to God.  The rest of the week, I kept emphasizing that they needed to engage in the seminars and speakers so that God could speak to them.  But the second night of worship, I had a realization.  Even if I forced them to their feet, made them raise their hands in praise and bend their knees in prayer, if I made them answer questions after every seminar and write down what they learned, they still might not learn anything from the experience.  Despite my best efforts, it was still possible that they would leave CHIC thinking about the fun they had and the cute boys they met.  The only person who had any influence over what they "got" out of the conference was God.  It was out of my hands.

After we got home, the Sunday morning church service was devoted to us sharing with the congregation about CHIC.  All the girls were to share at least a little bit about what they had experienced.  I was pretty apprehensive -- I had only spoken with one of the girls about what she had experienced with God during the week.  The rest of them were wildcards.  

Thankfully, naturally, God had been working while I was worrying.  All 8 girls shared some great things about what they had enjoyed and what they had experienced at CHIC -- everything from awareness about human trafficking to a new sense of identity and purpose in God.  Had I two months to prepare, I could not have given a better speech than they did.  Afterwards, one of the parents complimented me on how the service had gone.  I answered, "I had nothing to do with it.  It was all God."  

I heard these words from a Caedmon's Call song a few days after we got back:

I'm so thankful that I'm incapable
of doing any good on my own


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