Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Faith Statement Workshop

The pinnacle of our confirmation ministry is our beach retreat to Edisto Island, SC where the youth create the first draft of their Faith Statements. I have developed a simple workshop that helps to pull out their core values and beliefs so that the youth can really sit with the foundations of their faith stories for the weekend. This workshop has evolved for five years while remaining a powerful tool for tapping those perfectly wrapped stories the youth have never thought to express. 

First, we venture to the beach for a weekend of fellowship and a sense of really getting away. Middle school youth, like adults, are drawn to the idea of Revelation (God revealing himself in nature) so going to a place like the beach seems to help them become aware of His presence in their lives. We start our first full day with the two hour workshop. The youth are split into small groups and rotate to five stations during this time.

Photo courtesy of Rusty Williams
 Each station invites the youth to dig deeper into their own belief system. One station asks them to look at the Apostles Creed literally and circle what they truly believe in this moment and underline what they still can't wrap their heads around. Then they ponder how this informs their faith journey. Another station asks them to look closely at the Lord's Prayer and decide how prayer contributes to their belief system.
Photo courtesy of Rusty Williams
 In the same way, they will describe the character of Jesus as they perceive him and then compare him to someone they admire and even to themselves. Finally, they will create an identity map that allows them to draw from their value systems (socially, politically, morally, etc) and decide how those values are actually informing their beliefs. By the end of the workshop each youth has five handouts full of revelations and ideas.

In a rush, we will frolic out to the beach where we will all lounge and swim for the afternoon. Tired, sun-kissed and happy we will prepare for sunset. About 30 minutes before the sun goes down I send all the youth out to the beach to find a quiet place to sit on their own. They will spend 30 mins to an hour in spiritual solitude. Oh, hold on, you think that is impossible for middle schoolers, right? Wrong! They are desperate to turn off their ipods and phones. Youth, just like me, are dying to be released into the quiet of nature to just be still inside. I have witnessed incredible reverence and intentionality in these moments. The youth pray, meditate, sit quietly, breathe deeply, and best of all, they complete their faith statements. 

Each year the youth have shared faith stories that are authentic to their faith journeys. They speak truth with vulnerability and so much wisdom. When is the last time you sat with your beliefs? If I asked you could you tell me what you believe to be true? It is a great spiritual practice for an 8th grader but let's face it, it is a great practice for you too. What do you believe?

Full Faith Statement Workshop (curriculum and handouts)