Almost 300 junior high students and their adult chaperones came together June 3-5 for an event called "20/20 Vision" to explore the meaning of "fixing our eyes on Jesus" (from Hebrews 12:2). The Junior High Youth Gathering is a yearly event sponsored by the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the smiles show that everyone was glad to be back after two years of pandemic cancellations.
Participants traveled from all over the state to Frankenmuth, Michigan - a tourist destination city with a definite gift of hospitality!
Students could enjoy individual group time during their stay at the Bavarian Inn, and experience the game room and pool with water slide. Large events - speakers, meals, and worship - took place "next door" in the pavilion at Frankenmuth Heritage Park.
On Saturday, students traveled to nearby St. Lorenz Lutheran Church for breakout sessions.
Pat Maier led a breakout focused on teaching the students how to "pray Scripture." The session was based on Jesus' words in Matthew 6:22 - "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light." Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12) - so it makes sense that to have "20/20 spiritual vision" and healthy eyes, we need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus!
Students sat at cafeteria tables. Each table was set up with pens, a mug of colored pencils, a handout image to help with discussion and practice, a half sheet of Bible verses to pray, as well as a few prayer cards - all within easy reach.
There was discussion on what our eyes take in, specifically through entertainment and technology - things like reading material, TV, movies, music, games, computers, cell phones, and social media. Students shared that they were often distracted while praying, that they were often at a loss for words, or that they tended to pray the same words a lot.
Philippians 4:8 was written inside the first set of spaces as they prayed "Whatever is true, honorable, just.....pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, [Lord, help me to] think about these things," and especially as they considered the topic of entertainment. We personalized Romans 12:2, using phrases like "I will not be conformed" and "help me to know your will and see what is good" as we prayed about our technology use.
Creativity was set loose to color in spaces and images, as well as to "doodle" colorful designs to help with focus and avoid being distracted during prayer.
We changed focus to our faith lives as we chose one or two words from each phrase in Colossians 3:16 -"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God"- and using prompts like God's Word, worship, Christian friends, and prayer to pray about the spiritual choices we make.
Finally, we used the word of Philippians 2:4-5 ("Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.") to write out a prayer or prompts to pray for how God might use us to share our faith in our relationships with others.
Our final conversation was an invitation to give a friend, leader, or family member the "gift of prayer" by creating a prayer card to give away. A simple card with "cross-divided" spaces was provided to write in a name and pray by adding words of Scripture or a personal prayer. Another option was to add words and color to a Visual Faith® Ministry prayer card design. The Visual Faith® Ministry website was shared along with an invitation to download, print, and use our resources, and a variety of prayer cards, Versicles, and lunch hugs were on display so that the students and leaders could see what is available.
Why not check out these resources for your own personal or ministry use?