You CAN get 100 teenagers to sit and listen intently...

You CAN get 100 teenagers to sit and listen intently...

If you were in church on Sunday, you noticed that I was conspicuously absent. I hated to miss our Thanksgiving service and potluck, as I love the fellowship and food that everyone brings. But this year, I was up at Camp Mikell with two of our young people, Olivia Cain and Sam Dixon, at one of the most important weekend’s in their lives (according to them!).

Happening is a weekend for teenagers in grades 10 through 12. It is a weekend for teens and run by teens, which makes it very unique. Of course, there are lots of adults present, but mostly young people are the ones keeping the schedule, giving the talks, leading the groups, playing the music, etc. It’s a phenomenal event that I’ve been a part of for over 15 years. In fact, Happening was the event that changed my life forever, and started me on the path to leadership in the church, so it’s extremely important to me, as well.

img_0112I was so excited to hear that our youth intern, Cami Fanning, had gotten Olivia and Sam to sign up. It’s one thing if your priest tells you to go to a spiritual retreat at camp, but much more effective if someone closer in age can encourage you. Thankfully, that’s what Cami did. I had been planning to attend the weekend for a while, hoping our kids would sign up, so when Cami told me they wanted to go, I was happy to tell them that I’d give them a ride.

On the ride up there, we talked about our expectations of the weekend. Sam and Olivia knew practically nothing about Happening other than that it was at Camp Mikell. They were nervous, and frankly, so was I. I wanted them to love it so badly. Once we got there, we were greeted by friendly youth who took their bags up to their cabins for them. They both commented later about how weird it was to go to a place full of teenagers and have everyone be welcoming and nice. Happening is all about hospitality, and most churches could stand to learn a lesson from programs like these on how they welcome newcomers.

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Dance Party at lunch

I intentionally took a step back with Sam and Olivia, and observed them from afar. I didn’t want to “cramp their style” by hanging around too much. Instead, I watched them integrate into their family groups, and the larger community. I watched their faces as they we met with surprise after surprise. I saw how intently they listened to their peers share their stories in the talks that were given. As the weekend went on, I saw the lightbulbs pop over their heads as they realized that this weekend was all about showing them how passionately God loves them. While I think they knew that in their heads, the experience of the weekend reminded them in their hearts.

We talked the whole way home about faith, their experiences, and the weekend. It was holy time indeed.

If you have a teenager who could use a weekend like this, be sure to ask Sam and Olivia about it. I’ve been to 20 or 30 of these weekends in my life and every one is unique. But every one also allows young people to see that the worlds they live in (which is very different from when we were teenagers) isn’t all there is to life. There is a deeper reality, one that God intends for each of us, where you are constantly reminded of God’s love and grace.

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Me, Sam, Cami, and Olivia

If you are an adult who could use a weekend like this, Happening also has a small group for adults who experience the weekend right along with the teens. What’s also powerful is to see adults learn spiritual lessons from the youth. It’s a great reminder to adults about how wonderful teenagers are and can be a jumpstart to adult faith as well. The program Cursillo is also available to adults for a similar kind of weekend.

I will be attending another Happening weekend in January in the Diocese of Georgia, as I was invited to serve there again. Then, February 25-27, the next Happening at Camp Mikell takes place. Sam and Olivia are hoping to be able to go back on Team to serve the next group of “candidates” who are attending for the first time. If you are interested in taking part in any of these, please let me know! If you are seeking to deepen your faith, Happening is the place to do it.

Jeff+