When I started in my position at North as youth minister almost 9 years ago, I kept some of the traditions but also added my own touches. One of the “sacred cows” of their youth ministry is the Lenten retreat. Every year in early March all of the youth – 6th-12th grade – go on a retreat together. I kept the general schedule and location, but I decided to do something different with worship on Saturday evening. I was curious about prayer stations and wanted to explore them with the youth.
I searched online and eventually on Pinterest. There were a lot of really creative ideas out there – using a paper shredder to repent from sin, scanning a world map and using post-its to pray for various places around the world, etc. Eventually I began to create my own. I now have 9 years of prayer stations – that’s almost 60 stations!
In the past I would have an adult leader sit at each station to help those who weren’t sure what to do. The stations I created last year, however, we’re fairly easy to follow along with, so I decided to have the adults hang out with the youth rather than sit at the stations. There was one station, however, that needed an adult. The instructions at this station asked them to think of a situation in their life that needed prayer – perhaps an illness or a struggling relationship. After the student spent time in prayer, they were told to share this prayer with the adult at the station (if they were comfortable doing so) and receive an anointing. As we were setting up the stations, I realized I hadn’t asked anyone to do this. Then it dawned on me – this is what I’m supposed to do.
So that evening, I anointed and prayed for each person on that retreat. It was a powerful moment for me. One-on-one prayer with each student and adult. That’s not something we do often at our church. We participate in corporate (group) prayer all the time – but praying in a more intimate setting like that doesn’t happen as often. I heard the desires of their hearts. I heard their pain and suffering. I saw tears streaming down their faces as I said “Amen.” In all my years of youth ministry, I had never experienced anything like that.
This year I recycled some of the prayer stations we’ve used in past years – including the anointing. Some knew what it was when they saw me sitting there and avoided it altogether. Others waited for their turn. For each person who sat across from me, whether they had a specific prayer or not, I anointed their forehead – “You are a beloved child of God.” We all need to hear that, don’t we?
As the last student walked out of the door, one of my volunteers turned around and asked, “Anne, did anyone anoint you?” No. No one had thought to ask. So, we sat down together and she dipped her finger in the oil – more than I had used. And as I felt the oil dripping down my forehead, I was filled with gratitude. Much of my work involves me giving to others – to others who think the world revolves around them (i.e. teenagers!). There are a few who recognize what I do, but many don’t. To have a volunteer see me – not the youth minister – but me, Anne, the person – that was a beautiful gift.
I was grateful for the reminder that I, too, am a Beloved Child of God.