ATF is always a fun experience for me. I enjoy the student sessions, but I always felt like the Leader sessions were more of a sales pitch, like “come enjoy a great fun weekend, but you need to listen to our time share sales presentation …” sorta deal. I’m sure the resources are great. In fact I almost bought some of the resources this year, but only because they kinda tossed it out as an aside, not as a big part of what they were talking about.
Normally it’s like “this is what we’ve done to help youth groups grow so let me give you a few tips, and you can buys these books with the full details …” very frustrating, but this year was different. I really felt like they want to push to the next level.
First session they had a time of prayer for the students to be touched by God. There is normally a quick prayer at the outset, but this was, well, more.I’m not sure how to describe it, but it wasn’t a “God bless the event and people, Amen … now lets get onto other business” kind of prayer. They seemed legitimately concerned.
Second session was something totally new, nothing I’ve done at ATF before. They asked for feedback and made notes and people talked things through, and then they put phone numbers, twitter accounts, and emails up for the ATF directors so we could give additional feedback. I thought that was pretty cool. I hope they do find some good tips to make things better, I know I’m sending a bunch of things I would find useful their way.
Third session, typically the sales speech, started with the same kind of push for feedback that the second session had. Not so much a “tell me what we can do better” but sharing contact info for feedback and sharing their heart to be a ministry to our ministries. I was bracing for the sales pitch, but it moved on to Mike sharing some ideas on how to follow up the event with our students, not a book or video to buy but practical steps to encouraging them in making the changes from the event a permanent part of their life, like
- Meet with each student after the event
- Ask what God did for them, what changes He challenged them in
- Ask if they are ready to repent of those things, not just ask forgiveness.
- Forgive me is what you say when you get caught
- Repentance is turning from one life to another
- Encourage them to endure on the long road, help them setup accountability and make plans to succeed, but also to get up until they succeed.
Then John spoke. I only remember vague parts of what he said because early on he started talking about having lost Joy, said “some of y’all need to get your smile back.” I got to say I was fighting back tears the whole time after that. Everything in the past couple years just kinda came back, but in the sense of how I know God will lift me up. Then he had a time of prayer, praise, and worship. Apparently he struggles with time constraints, but I’m ok with that. This time was the most powerful of the experiences I had at Acquire the Fire, including previous years. It was a refreshing I desperately needed.
Then they had a time of prayer for students again, followed by the shortest “here are a couple resources we have, and quite frankly if you can’t afford it then I want to give it to you” presentation I’ve heard. Honestly, I don’t think they are lying about it, I really felt like they would give me the resources if I wanted them but couldn’t buy it.
We went from that to dinner then to the powerful Worship session I wrote about yesterday. By the end of that I felt like I could evangelize the whole world by myself. God is good.