2016teaFifth graders in February are closer to sixth grade than most moms wish to admit. Many will be transitioning not only to middle school, but also from children’s ministry to youth ministry. Transitions can be no big deal for some students and completely terrifying for others even with the most intentional training-up. How can we help? A winter retreat for fifth graders.

The North Georgia United Methodist Church conference presented a retreat specific to and only for fifth graders at Camp Glisson just a couple of weeks ago. We arrived early in time for hiking and setting up cabins which we shared with other amazing local churches. Half expecting to hear about when we would be ziplining, swimming, or high swinging, not one time did my students wish to be somewhere else or to be doing something else.

rocksolidWe attended workshops specific to kid-friendly spiritual practices.  They learned and practiced multiple prayer positions from a pastor in camo with a heavy leaning toward Star Wars. They learned to communicate at all decibel levels and listen for the wisest voices that will get them to their goals. The activities and debriefing was inviting and done especially well in small groups. Not wanting to give away all the details, THIS event has best prepared my fifth graders to take on the next season with a greater confidence.

We attended multiple worship services with teaching elements led my Chuck Bell. Chuck is amazing at involving multiple worship preferences in a service beyond the music component. He also led a workshop on worship to offer students the chance to discover their own personal worship style preferences AND learn to appreciate other’s preferences. He used video, storytelling, and small group teaching. He even led each group to be prepared to participate in the remaining worship services in liturgy, music, motions, visuals, voice, and so much more. He invited the students to interpret a music video from Bethel kids that was spot-on in helping them grow their ‘fearless’ muscles.

chloeI had multiple favorite moments, quick visual pictures in my head, and enjoyed amazing conversations. During our ‘cabin visit’ we shared time and space outside with another local church we do a ton of things with giving our students a chance to talk, pray, and give their hearts, minds, hands, and feet to Jesus. I mean, how can we do these intensive practices of giving our hearts, minds, hands, and feet to Jesus and not give them a chance to do just that? A place and a date for some. A reminder and another step forward for others.

HUGE difference from the first worship service on Saturday morning to the last on Sunday morning. During the first service, students looked around to do what they saw others doing…formal…cautious…reserved.  By the last service, students prayed in multiple positions. Students sang in multiple ways (voice, motions, movement, etc.) Students received communion and reminder bracelets to take home. Students were writing their contact info in other’s notebooks to stay connected. Made me smile.

We will go again next year. I can’t imagine missing it. Last Sunday’s worship at home was different with the students who attended. We were all so very comfortable in our own worship-style-preference-skin. We smiled at one another across the sanctuary. Pure sweetness. Will you join us next year?

“This day flew by.” C. Reed, WC 5th grader
“I’ll never forget this day as long as I live, Ms. DeDe.” A. Smith, WC 5th grader