Heaven Reveals Itself In Youth Group

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministries

On May 8th, our Church celebrated Youth Sunday. We had three Senior preachers - Julia Green, Ginny Wise and Amanda David - and then the rest of the teen crew presented on our yearly service trip to Appalachia. As the teens spoke about how they saw God in the world or in themselves, how the service trip affected their lives and how our community of Holy Comforter feels like, home for them, I saw those... flashes. You know. Those moments of like, I can feel what heaven will be and I think it's something like this.

Don't worry. I know everyone likes proofs, especially when it comes to God. So I'm building a case for it. Here's what I've got so far: C.S. Lewis has a name for these moments.

Exhibit #1:
"Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight' in the woods of our experience."

What I think he means is that often the Divine isn't explainable. The kids can tell you about ASP and service work and youth group and church and friendship. They can talk about it and affect us. But eventually, it's the indefinable fact that they are doing it at all that is the Divine. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

And that is an experience. That is something that God transmits to us beyond words, beyond understanding. It is an inkling in us that we often shy away from because it feels a little dangerous, a little ecstatic.

Some more citation. I know lots of people (including myself) love citations in their proofs. It's elegant.

Exhibit #2:
"What does it mean to be ‘with God'? ... To say that a person is ‘with it' is slang for saying that whether he's playing an electric guitar or just watching the clouds roll by, he's so caught up in what he's doing and so totally himself while he's doing it that there's none of him left over to be doing anything else with in the back of his head or out of the corner of his eye. It's slang for saying that the temperature where she is is forty degrees hotter than the temperature where she is not, and that whatever it is everybody's looking for, she's found it... If the IT you're with when you're really "with it" isn't God, it's enough like him to be his brother." - Frederick Buechner

Connect this feeling of "with it" to something Amanda David (17 y.o.) said about our service trip:

Exhibit #3 (paraphrased):
"It's more than getting to be yourself, it's like you're completely stripped down, nothing extra, and everyone is just being that all around you."

Youth Group is a place where you can be silly putty. Silly putty that's buzzing - our kids talk about being comfortable not only with each other, but with goodness and energy and love. They are comfortable with being loved, as well as loving others.

Youth Group is a practice space for later in life. At Youth Group, you flex the spiritual muscles you'll need later. You practice empathy and doubt and courage and vulnerability. You practice humility and divinity at the same time. That way, where ever the kids are in 20 years, they are prepared to be their most complete divine selves. But if you don't practice now, it's hard to figure it out later.

One more detail about heaven, and that is the looking forward to it.

George Wise told his dad almost three years ago in 6th grade that he couldn't wait to go on the mission trip and that he hoped his Youth Group was as talkative and invested as his older sister's was.

Exhibit #4:
"Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning" - Luke 12:35
This ‘looking-forward' is an important part of my heaven-picture, I think. One of our High Schoolers calls this time of year "ASP Season" because Youth Group is all about ASP training and sensitivity. It makes her excited and ready and able. Looking-forward is totally about that can't-wait feeling, and it's also about preparation. And Youth Group is SO about that combo: their lamps are always burning, they are always looking forward and always ready and bright.
I imagine that is a little of heaven here on earth. I imagine that is why I want every teen to be a part of it. I imagine that is why I keep doing it myself.