Sunday, May 3, 2009

Challenge Course: Team Building

In two weeks our 9th graders will be confirmed, publicly declaring that they want to be disciples of Jesus for the rest of their lives. Even though they have studied for three years, gone to camp three times, built relationships with their peers and other adults, I'm pretty sure they don't know what they are getting into.

But that's okay. Nobody asked them when they were baptized: are you sure you want to get into this? Are you sure you want to be disciples of Jesus? Their parents just carried them up to the baptismal font and had the pastor pour water over their heads, and made that dangerous promise.

And here they are. They are two weeks from being confirmed and they have just spent the weekend at a place called Camp Friendship. It is a camp especially for developmentally disabled youth and adults, so everything is handicap accessible. When other groups (like us) use the camp, all of the money goes toward scholarships for others to attend a camp week in the summer.

But that's not why we go to Camp Friendship. We go because of something called the "Challenge Course", an afternoon of guided team-building activities. The activities are somewhat physically challenging (as evidenced by my aches and pains today), but they are more challenging because the group has to complete them together. They are not successful because of individual prowess, but because everyone made it through the challenge.

So the group has to figure out how to get everyone over the wall, how to get everyone to swing on the rope from one side of a fake "ravine" to the other (and also, by the way, how to get everyone to fit into one round hoola-hoop on the other side). Other activities are difficult to explain, but require those with more agility, balance, and speed to pay attention to those who do not have those qualities. Also, we discover that other problem-solving qualities are important, too. And patience. Patience is very important.

I was so impressed with the patience, good humor, intelligence and good will exhibited by the youth this year. We talked a little after the "challenge course", about the lesson for our lives as Christians -- about the challenge of living a Christian life, about how we can't live it alone, about the necessity and difficulty of trusting God, and one another.

And yet, they don't know what they're getting into. How can they? I'm fifty-two, and I don't know what I am getting into, still, and I am still discovering new challenges.

So, in two weeks, they will all say yes. I'm confident that they will all mean it, too, even if some of them fall away at some time. I pray that even those who fall away will discover again God's faithfulness. And I pray that there will always be others willing to share the challenge and the joy of being a disciple of Jesus with them.


Barbara B. said...

The challenge course sounds like the perfect exercise (both for the theory and practice)!

Anonymous said...

We love those outdoor challenge courses! And often we tell young confirmands they are 'getting their license to drive'. Much like driving a car, horizons have been expanded, and the open road beckons, but having the license doesn't mean you're a good driver. So let's be careful out there. I know you will be beaming with great joy as each says 'yes' for themselves. They are as ready as they ever will be to step up and step out. Peace.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Just wondering: do you have kids in confirmation who have or haven't attended Sunday School those previous years? Also, do most of them know each other from the past, ie probably went to the same grade school and Jr.Hi? or are they strangers when they get to confirmation? At our church, we seem to have a lot of kids who never went to Sunday School and whose parents don't seem a connection to the church, but they've gone to public school together, so they really know each other. I think that these factors contribute to an interesting atmosphere and interaction among the kids.

Lindy said...

I am glad your church spends three years preparing people for confirmation. At least you know for sure that they have a solid foundation. True, I imagine, that some will fall away. But, they'll know how to get back when the time comes.

Purple said...

As as good friend in an email to me said this is a wild ride. So glad you are there with them in this phase of their ride.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

They certainly have a better chance than all those who have never been exposed to all of that. It sounds like a great program and reminds me of my own youth.

Rev SS said...

Blessings on all of you as you "confirm" this next step in their faith journeys!

Diane said...

PS -- re: your question about SS, it is different from year to year. This year most of our kids have been active in church most of their lives. In the now-seventh grade class, we have several who are new to us at confirmation, but who know other kids from school.

It's interesting.

Diane said...

seeking servant -- i love your analogy about a drivers' license.