This month, I had the opportunity to chaperone the SCREAM retreat. (Students Celebrating and Rejoicing Enthusiastically in the Almighty Messiah). We took eighty five 4th- and 5th-grade students into the North Georgia Mountains to enjoy a weekend of worship, fellowship, and a whole lot of fun. Voluntarily signing up to chaperone a trip like this may seem crazy to many, but what may seem even crazier is that this is my second year doing it! While I don’t disagree that it’s crazy, the experience and privilege of watching our children flourish during the weekend are worth the long days and sleepless nights.
Sending this many 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds into the mountains for two nights without their parents could be problematic and full of countless challenges. At drop-off on Friday afternoon, nervous parents articulated a myriad of worries and concerns that they had about their children being away. The staff and chaperones did our best to allay these concerns and not look too nervous ourselves. After some organization and fine-tuning of logistics, and—most importantly—a send-off prayer, the nervousness subsided and parents put on brave faces to watch the buses pull away, hoping their children survive the two-day adventure. I’m pleased to tell you that we were already confident your children would survive! (Obviously, by now, you know that each one did, in fact, come home in one healthy piece!) But, what you may not know is how self-reliant and capable these kids are by themselves: they make their own beds, clean up their own messes, arrive to worship and meals on time, and even take showers and brush their teeth—all with only minimal reminders from the chaperones. More importantly, though, their independence extends into their thinking about and understanding of Jesus.
By design, SCREAM retreats create opportunities for young people to become closer to God through fun and engaging activities. Such an environment allows kids to create new friendships and build stronger relationships with their existing friends. SCREAM accomplishes this by offering a series of rich worship experiences and many exciting outdoor activities that are collaborative and fun, which results in our children connecting with each other in new ways that challenge them and push them out of their comfort zones. Whether it is kayaking in the large lake against a beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, braving a giant swing that soars 3 people high into the air off the side of a ridge of a foothill, being launched 20 feet into the air from the lake’s giant blob, or waging an enormous water balloon battle against the chaperones, our children are building and strengthening relationships with each other—and with God.
On a very simple level, SCREAM provides a terrific opportunity for our children to disconnect from school, homework, organized sports, and technology. They can quiet their minds, simplify their routines, and just be crazy, fun-loving kids without judgments, expectations, or (too many) rules. But, at the same time, they are experiencing how awesome Jesus is—from the awe of nature to the simplicity of sitting by the lake to the beauty of hundreds of voices praising God together—because we only really get to know and love Jesus by getting to know and love each other.
During the final worship time on the last day of the retreat, many of our children went up on stage in front of almost 500 worshipers to explain how they experienced God this weekend, and many shared that they had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior during the retreat. Watching our children have the confidence to proclaim this, especially in front of such a large group, and do it with such sincerity, was amazing and inspiring. Overall, the weekend was one to remember and I’m so fortunate to have been a part of it.
If you would like to be a part of helping our children grow in faith on Sunday mornings, we are filling spots for Summer Sundays at http://signup.com/go/hdrRcvT.