Vacation Bible School (VBS) and youth conferences are sometimes seen as simply the work of children. You know – keeping the kids busy for a week or two with some fun crafts and entertaining music. Those who have worked during Montreat and VBS weeks, paid or volunteer, know otherwise. They can tell you story after story about children and youth discovering God at work in their lives during these weeks. Through the crafts and stories and music and scientific experiments and snacks and games, there are many opportunities to encounter Christ in new ways.
It is not just that these activities are planned around a Biblical theme and Biblical stories. It is that these activities provide many different ways for young Christians to encounter God and to express what God’s love means to them. We all have different learning styles, and the parts of story or small group time that may not hit home are then introduced and understood in a new way through a silly game or artistic response or time alone.
Another primary way that we see God’s kingdom coming to life right here is in the relationships created between leaders and children or youth. Whether it is older youth or adults leading, the show of care, love and trust build up our community. Yes, your parents love and care for you, but that’s their job. Other adults choosing to hang out with us kids? Wow! It shows the very thing that we hear Jesus talking about in Scripture. And what about older youth and college-aged adults choosingto hang out with us? They are the coolest!
Plus, though many parents volunteer during VBS or chaperone Montreat weeks, most of the time spent is away from one’s parents. This allows children and youth to explore their faith in different ways than they are used to at home and to truly own their own faith experience. And what an amazing moment it is when a child shares what they have learned with a parent, and it expands the parent’s understanding of God.
We see this especially in the opportunities provided to our youth as they are old enough to go to Middle School or High School Montreat summer conferences. The youth are encouraged to truly take ownership of their faith as they hear about God in new and challenging ways, in small group discussions, and in meeting Presbyterian (and other Christian) youth from many different places and churches. Youth gather from churches large and small, urban, suburban and rural, from all over the South, but also from churches thousands of miles from our own. Once again, we see leaders in the church taking time and interest in our youth in ways they will never forget.
The Holy Spirit inspires our teaching, our creation, and our play. We show Christ in how we treat each other and those whom we are leading. These are all ways that God is at work bringing God’s kingdom into reality right before our eyes.
We see the seeds being planted and growing as leaders, and we hear it from the children and youth we work with. When they talk about the most powerful faith moments in their lives, most of them will be holy encounters in worship around the campfire, or in walking in God’s creation, or when they figured something out about God through the stories we tell or a skit they perform.
Some of the most powerful work that we do comes in the simplest acts. Telling a story for the first time. Making a meal together. Smiling at a stranger. These are happening every day at Montreat and Vacation Bible School weeks. And you can be a part of it! We have many opportunities to support children and youth (and on mission trips), and to lead. Ask us!
For Potty-trained 3-year-olds through 5thgraders.
This year’s theme is Rolling River Rampage
This annual conference is for rising 9th graders through graduated seniors. A Montreat Youth Conference is a gathering of young people from all over the country for a week of fellowship, worship, and recreation. This year’s theme is: Lift Every Voice.
Contact: Steven Barnes
More Info: http://www.montreat.org/montreat-youth-conference/
This annual conference for middle schoolers (rising 6th through rising 9th graders) is held each year at Maryville College in Maryville, TN. Similar concept as Youth Conference but geared to younger crowd. This year’s theme: Living Mosaics.
Contact: Steven Barnes
More Info: http://www.montreat.org/middle-school-conference-resources/