Micah Thomas is my guest blogger today. Micah is my son-in-law. Before he became my son-in-law, Micah was the Director of Youthfront Camp South. I know he is a smart young man because he married Jessica nearly three years ago. Last Thursday, Jessica gave birth to Teagan. This is their first family picture. We have pretty much done nothing since her arrival other than be grandparents. The transition to parents is big for Micah and Jessica. In this post Micah writes about his experience at Youthfront South this summer and the importance of Christian community and prayer.
A WAY OF PRAYER by Micah Thomas
This summer our team has worked harder and more intentionally than ever on perfecting our prayer times. We think prayer is at the heart of life and ministry here and that if we can orient ourselves to this reality—that we need God-space in which we can be silent, pray, listen to scripture, and declare what we believe as Christians—then we truly have something unique and special to invite people into.
In fact, while all of the work we do here is important: the relationships, sweating it out on the sports field, cleaning up from meals, mowing the grass, watching people swim and blob, leading discussions, hikes, musical worship, and experiential learning opportunities, our times of fixed hour prayer (9:00am, noon, & 9:00pm) are what anchor us.
What is interesting is that as we grow in understanding this reality for ourselves…first as people choosing to be a worshipping community, we find that teenagers discover the same gift of beauty, peace, and contemplation as they are immersed in this environment, even if only for a short time.
I know this because I hear it from several sources. I had the privilege of being our storyteller for a week this summer, and I spent some time asking kids what their favorite experiences had been from the week. Of course I heard about the blob and ATVs, but I also heard about space to take a walk early in the morning, or the opportunity to worship and learn together in our outdoor worship space: the altar field. I heard about morning prayer, midday prayer, and evening prayer, and time each evening to be still, be alone, and read or reflect.
During the week of storytelling I met with a youth worker, Jacob Taylor, who brought his group here for the first time this summer. In our conversation he related to me how the rhythm and practice of prayer at South had caused him to rethink some of the programming in his weekly gatherings with youth. While it may seem that kids need an experience to charge them up and unleash their adrenaline, often the result is a group of people who have had their stress response systems piqued and are in fight-or-flight mode. Especially in the course of a week of camp, if we choose to do this because it seems that kids respond in bigger ways, we are probably doing more damage than good. Instead, providing regular, intentional, and quiet space to worship may be the best medicine.
Jacob told me that he did not have to deal with any incidents or bickering among his kids during the time they were here. He told me that even though there is a lot of open time and kids have the ability to make their own choices, that having an environment that isn’t built on hype may be the reason kids settle down and function better.
It’s not just behavior modification either. How do I know? If all we were doing here was getting kids to fit the design of our expectations for a week, they would instantly return to their normal way of life and patterns upon leaving. What do we find instead? At least in small ways, an awakening to new practices of faith that do not end when a week of camp does.