Written by:
Kelly Peterson-Cruse

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Extravaganza

By definition, "extravagant" means "to exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures."

When we apply this to God’s amazing love, it is a blessing, a source of hope and the foundation of our faith.  It is asking us to be fearless in our faith and to trust to expect the unexpected when it comes to God’s love.  “Let me near of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting YOU.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you”.  Psalm 143:8 How do we share this with our youth in times that often feel hopeless, and trust is hard to find?

Guide youth to not rely on their own understanding by:

  • Trust Walks -  where one person is blindfolded and the other guides them through an obstacle course.  Then the partners switch roles and repeat the exercise.  Debrief asking what was hard about leading and about being blindfolded.   Lots of conversation usually comes up about how the leader can see everything, but it was hard not knowing what was ahead for the blind folded person.  Talk about how they came up with a way to communicate and lead into a discussion of the importance of time and a true relationship with God through prayer and scripture, which allows them to rely on God. 
  • Trust Falls can also be a way of experiencing not relying on their own understanding. http://www.ventureteambuilding.co.uk/trust-fall/   in the debriefing questions, also discuss  things that keep them from trusting in their faith.  Beyond discussion, journals, or a place to write or draw allows them to express themselves if they aren’t comfortable speaking.
  • Sending them daily texts around trust and faith to allow them to think about it through their day. https://countingmyblessings.com or look for places to sign up for automatic text messages-  www.shinetext.com . During this season of lent, I signed up for a daily auto text that reminded me to stay in prayer and focus on my faith and Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
  • Encouraging them to post questions of faith and trust on social media. Have them bring the responses they get as a spring board for discussion.  This allows them to agree or disagree, rather than having to enter in discussion on their own, which often results in young people trying not to make eye contact and deadly silence.  I tried this out myself posting “Is fear of the unknown a lack of faith?”   I got very thoughtful and insightful answers that I am able to reflect upon.

Sometimes Giving Unconditional Love Helps Us Accept/Understand Unconditional Love

  • Spread the love. At camp, we do two different things to show love and appreciation to each other.  One of my sites has each camper decorate a bag or box with their name on it. Then they write 3 “love notes” of affirmation, or thanks to different people every day. At the end of the week everyone receives their “love notes”.  Now, with that said, you might have to do some oversight on the notes. I don’t have them sign who they are from, but just put the recipient’s name on the outside and then it goes into a “delivery” bag.  My counselors check them out before putting them in the individual bags or boxes.  Since they know they are looked at before delivery, I haven’t had much trouble with inappropriate notes.  I did however had to help them to think beyond “you’re nice”, “I like your hair”, “you’re cute”; my counselors handle this in a cabin meeting.   A similar activity is using colorful pieces of paper with a name at the top of each one.  During the week people write positive comments about the person and again we teach more than superficial comments, and ask that each day they choose someone new.  Talk about how it feels to have so much “love” expressed towards them.
  • Acts of love. Choose people in your church for your youth to show “acts of love” for a given amount of time (Week? Month?). Have them think of the people in your church that go unrecognized; the pastor, the administrative assistant, or the sound person on Sunday? You get the idea.  Have your youth appreciate the person through notes, baked goods that they make together, or other small gestures or gifts .  After the experience is over have a gathering to talk about what it felt like to give and receive love in an unconditional, unexpected way.  This is also an excellent way for your congregation to connect with your youth.

Ask God to Give You Patience

  • When trying to teach and guide young people about trust and faith, it is important that they understand and pray for patience since total reliance on God in all situations does not come easy.  I have given my youth a physical reminder like a rubber bracelet or even a simple colored hair tie to wear.  I tell them when they are facing something, or are unsure, or in need of God and His love and grace, to use the bracelet as a reminder and even sometimes pull and release on it to “snap out of it”
  • Engage in a growing project from seed to plant. Experiencing how it takes time and care to achieve a mature healthy plant can lead to talking about patience and belief. You can use this as a service project as well. Do you have a church or community garden that you can contribute to?  Perhaps you can plant wild flowers that can eventually be cut for the altar or just a beautification project.
  • Most important, model it yourself.  It can be hard to guide youth in something you sometimes struggle with yourself.  Be open and honest about your journey in having an EXTRAVAGANZA of God’s love and grace beyond your wildest expectations.