by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Christ sent his apostles to go and make disciples of all nations — and ReachKCK’s youth ministry here is trying to do its part.
In fact, through its Luke 18 retreat, the number of modern-day disciples are likely to see a boost later this month!
Luke 18 forms strong high school leaders, who then pave the way for eighth-graders who attend their retreats to encounter Christ. Those newly formed disciples then, in turn, continue passing on the faith to others.
“Those that come on the Luke 18 retreat form a bond,” said Liz Miller, Wyandotte County youth outreach coordinator. “They form a kind of faith family that helps to support them through high school.”
“They have fun together, get to know each other deeper and begin to form genuine friendships that are based in God’s love for us,” she continued.
This year’s retreat will be held at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, March 31-April 2 and is open to all Wyandotte County eighth-graders.
Molding modern disciples
Last spring, ReachKCK’s Luke 18 event had a deep impact on her two teams of high school leaders, said Miller, and she hopes to see that repeated again this year.
“The high-schoolers are the ones that get to welcome the eighth-graders into high school youth ministry,” said Miller.
“They are the ones evangelizing and planting the seeds of community and Christian friendship,” she added.
The Disciple Team, which leads the “meat” of the retreat, was responsible for giving small talks, leading small group discussions and managing various activities throughout the weekend, said Miller.
The Cori (short for Corinthians) Team worked behind the scenes and prayed over, and for, the retreatants, all while remaining hidden from the larger group while setting up and cleaning for them.
Last year, the leaders found that Luke 18 was full of both challenges and triumphs that forged them into a tight group.
“Some challenges were getting everyone to get involved without making them feel uncomfortable,” said Alan Rosales, now a senior at Wyandotte High School.
Facing their own fears of speaking in public was another.
“It felt weird being a leader,” said Devin Smith, now a junior at Bishop Ward High School. “I usually dislike taking that role on my own.
“However, being a leader kicked in naturally as the retreat progressed.”
“The retreat taught me how to show confidence in myself and what true friends are,” he added.
Both Rosales and Smith look forward to participating again in leadership roles at this year’s retreat.
The high school teams put in hours of work to make Luke 18 the best it can be, meeting every week for 10 weeks leading up to the retreat.
“During this time, they’re receiving faith formation on a variety of topics and growing closer as a community through praying together and playing together,” said Miller.
Disciple Team members learn to craft and present personal testimonies and lead small groups, while Cori Team members are taught what they’ll need to do behind the scenes to ensure the retreat flows smoothly, she said.
Seven adults make up the adult leadership team, which oversees the high-schoolers.
“We are forming true disciples among these teens, offering them encounters with Christ,” said Miller.
And when the time for the retreat rolls around?
“They’ll realize they now have a chance to share their relationship with Jesus through real evangelization,” she said.
For their part, “the eighth-grade retreatants look up to the high-schoolers so much and learn best from the peer-to-peer mentorship that is offered through the retreat,” said Miller.
“When that mentorship is grounded in Christ and what Christ wants for our life, it becomes discipleship,” she continued. “The high-schoolers choose to walk with the eighth-graders in their faith journey, leading them closer to Jesus.”
This year, every parish in Kansas City, Kansas, is represented by at least one high school-age leader.
And fortunately for those leaders, the retreat is not just a singular opportunity to grow in their own relationship to God, or to help younger teens do so. They can all continue to mentor through ReachKCK’s ongoing activities.
Eric Valenzuela, a senior at Bonner Springs High School and a leader at last year’s retreat, is looking forward to this spring’s.
“It was amazing being able to know that I was a role model for eighth-grade students,” said Valenzuela of his experience.
“From my past experience, I can say that it is much better being able to go through high school close to God,” he said.
To register for Luke 18, contact your religion teacher, religious education teacher or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.