The last weekend of April, we took our youth group to my alma mater, Taylor University, for the annual Youth Conference. Taylor was my alma mater and I love being back there. It’s like visiting an old friend even though most of my good college friends are no longer there.
We left on Friday afternoon just as Chicago rush hour began. I drove my own car and the rest of the youth counselors and the kids went on a school bus. We needed my car so we could drive around off-campus (for those of you who know Taylor, you know it’s in rural Indiana in the middle of nowhere) and in case of emergency. While I liked driving on my own and in the comfort of my own car, I also felt like I was missing out on bonding with the kids on the bus.
Since they were in a school bus, I got to Taylor about an hour before the bus did. When they finally arrived, I was pretty excited to see them. I passed out all the registration packets and some of our kids small group leaders (Taylor students) came out to meet our kids since they missed the first main session and the first small group session. All of a sudden, our group was completely split up and the Taylor leaders just took our kids away to their dorms and planned on meeting them for breakfast (last year the kids usually ate with us). The kids that I was ready to share Youth Conference with were suddenly taken away from me. Later that night I told Tiffany (the other female youth counselor), “It’s like they stole our kids!”
I felt like these were the youth I’ve been working with and that I’m impacting through my ministry. So part of me was a little disappointed and for most of the weekend, I felt like I was supposed to be doing something with our kids and trying to build deeper relationships with them–after all, isn’t that what you do on retreats?
But throughout the weekend, God showed me that the teens in our youth group are not my kids, they’re His children. The conference speaker, the amazing Jeremy Kingsley, shared an image that stuck with me. He mentioned how the Bible says God can hold the oceans in the crevice of his palm (like that part of your hand that forms when you cup it). Then he had us imagine what it would be like if some guys were playing frisbee at the beach and all of a sudden a giant hand reached down and just scooped up the ocean. We’d say, “Wow–that’s a big hand.”
And isn’t that true? I was struck by the idea of God’s hands. His hands are so much bigger than my own and wouldn’t I rather have our youth group be in the safety of God’s hands rather than my own feeble ones? Really it’s my own pride that kept me thinking that I’m the one who makes a difference in the lives of these teenagers–only God can change and transform hearts.
So while I felt as though our youth group had been taken away from us at Youth Conference, as I heard the stories and excitement of how God was working in the lives of our girls (during the short time Tiffany and I got to spend with them in the dorm on Saturday night) and saw how the majority of our 21 students went forward on Saturday night saying they wanted to lay down their pride and humble themselves before the Lord, I knew that it’s God who does work–not me.
God used Taylor small group leaders, Jeremy Kingsley, and, of course, the work we’ve been doing with the youth group over the past few years, but all those things were to further His purpose in the teens’ lives. So I’m learning to let go–I don’t need to be in control of everything that goes on in this youth group because I know Someone greater holds it all in His nail-pierced hands.
What’s something you need to let go of and entrust to God?