Looking for a no set up youth devotion that quite possibly will be the hardest devotion ever? This is for you then.
The Wesleyan movement that became Methodism / Wesleyanism and other faith expressions of today, had a few key practices that helped to facilitate the revival led by John and Charles Wesley. One of those practices of early methodism was the ‘Class Meeting‘. The class meeting was a small group gathering where participants were committed to the group and strove towards ‘perfection’ through the group. They regularly answered one question as part of the class meeting.
One a recent youth retreat I introduced the class meeting history to our group and asked them to answer this one question. The results were not a ‘home run’ as I imagined. However, what did happen was, I trust, a much deeper reflection toward God and the youth’s spiritual life.
Here’s how I made this Work
- I brought the group together and told them I wanted them to answer one question. I didn’t tell them the question
- I gave them a quick history of the Methodist Class Meeting and what the purpose for them was
- Mentioned that a main practice of the class meeting was to answer this one question
- Then I gave them a note pad and writing implement
- Told them that I wanted them to write in a stream of consciousness their answers to this one question
- (at this point they were begging to hear what this ‘one question’ was, which I took evil youth minister joy in)
- I prefaced the stream of consciousness that I didn’t want them to edit themselves or try and write clean or worry about finished thoughts. “Just write whatever you are feeling, hearing, crying.”
- Let them know that there wasn’t going to be a reading of what they wrote. I was going to ask them to share a theme or something that surprised them, but what they wrote was for them.
- Gave the group a time limit to go wander someplace quiet and set apart from the other for 20-30 minutes
- Then I gave them the one question
How Is it With Your Soul?
After the allotted time frame I called the group back together. Here’s where it didn’t hit a home run. I asked them to share a theme of what they wrote or something that surprised them. All I heard were crickets. The youth just stared at each other. As a good youth group discussion facilitator I gave ample awkward silence to try and get one of them to utter a word or two. But nothing came. Eventually one of my girls spoke up, but not what I was expecting. She said essentially, “I think we all took this seriously enough that we have some really deep personal issues we do not want to talk about.” Knowing my group, they really did have some very personal and deep hurt issue potential. Totally respect that they did not want to talk about it, but in the same, hoped they felt comfortable to talk about the placement of their soul.
Where this started to redeem, and where I trust God was in the movement of this practice, is that in conversing about the personal nature of the reflection they acknowledged that writing it down brought to light a number of things they had never noticed before.
We had a really quiet ride home.. Only time it has ever been more quiet was when the group has been sleeping.
I felt bad, like I had ruined their weekend with this retreat ending devotional. Truth is, it wasn’t ruined for them, they had a great weekend (they have told me so). I trust that reflecting on “how is it with your soul?” was also fruitful (they haven’t told me so, yet).
Suppose that was one of the significant powerful pieces to the Methodist Class Meeting, in answering that question you placed a huge amount of faith and love in the others in the group. They were keepers of some of your deep dark holes, yearnings, pains, and joys of the soul. That act can be very powerful.
I suggest to you fellow youth ministers. Give a run at asking the hardest one question youth devotion ever.