Leaven Blog

Lessons from a middle school obstacle course


by Moira Cullings

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cover a retreat at Holy Trinity in Lenexa called Luke 18. The retreat lasts the weekend and is designed for seventh- and eighth-grade students who are led by a team of high schoolers.

Let’s just say 80 middle schoolkids hyped up on sugar and thriving with energy made me appreciate the fact that I even survived grade school.

But once I got past the overwhelming feeling only 12- and 13-year-olds staring at you inquisitively can give (especially when half of them are taller than you), I quickly realized how much I had to learn from their curiosity and enthusiasm.

I was only at the retreat long enough to watch their obstacle course activity, but from talking to some of the kids afterward, I realized how amazing their perspective of the world is.

Here are some of things they taught me in a short two hours.

1. Be open

Middle school isn’t an easy time for a lot of kids. Speaking from experience, I know it’s actually pretty awkward. But these young people were there to listen and grow closer to God, to genuinely get to know each other and to learn more about themselves, regardless of what anyone else thought.

The kids were completely open to all the retreat offered. They weren’t just there to spend a fun weekend with friends; they actually wanted to get something out of it.

It made me think about how easy it is to go through the motions with prayer and friendship and daily routines. But being intentional with our choices and our attitudes can help break that routine feeling.

2. Don’t give up the faith

Everyone has ups and downs when it comes to building a relationship with God. The kids I spoke to are about to enter high school, which is a really formative stage in their lives, so they know this as well as anyone.

Rather than getting frustrated with how difficult it might be to keep a strong faith life during this time of great change, they were spending extra time building a faith-oriented foundation with their classmates.

I think everyone hits a similar rut at some point in life. Luke 18:8 poses the question, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What a great question we can ask ourselves during this Lenten season. Do we give up when things get tough, or do we persevere?

3. Look out for others

During the obstacle course, the retreatants worked in teams to complete a path of twists and turns and inflatable hurdles, all while guiding one blindfolded team member.

The kids were careful to make sure the sightless person got through the course safely, which I thought served as a unique visual reminder that they are called to care for those around them.

I think these lessons, however obvious, are sometimes seen as so basic that they slip through the cracks. We often forget how valuable living them out can be, and there’s nothing quite like a pack of vibrant teenagers to remind us how.

Watch for a print story on the Luke 18 retreat in The Leaven in the coming weeks.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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