During the past few months, I have become involved with the youth group at our church, serving as the drummer for the Wednesday night worship gatherings and as a de facto chaperone at youth events.
These roles have been a blessing for me, especially since my oldest son, Jonah, is in sixth grade and is now officially a member of youth group. (It doesn’t seem possible to me that he is old enough to be in the youth — I mean, didn’t he just start on solid food a few weeks ago?? — but that’s a topic for another day).
In any event, Jonah and I both recently attended Glow Weekend, which is our church’s version of Disciple Now.
For me, the event was a “full circle” kind of thing: Many years ago, I attended Disciple Now when I was a student, and now I was accompanying my son on his first one. So that in itself was very meaningful.
But really, the impact of the weekend went way beyond nostalgia. I came out of the event feeling enormously encouraged about the spiritual state of the students at our church — and about the teenagers in this country as a whole.
You see, this wasn’t just a bunch of kids getting together for a Youth Night cookout. Rather, this was far more serious than s’mores.
What I witnessed was a group of students — there were about 40 in our case — who were sincerely focused on strengthening their walk with the Lord and sharing the gospel with their friends.
For those who don’t know much about Disciple Now / Glow Weekend, it is an event that generally starts on Friday night and stretches through Sunday morning. The weekend includes several worship gatherings, deep-dive Bible studies, designated prayer times and various breakout sessions.
There is also free time and game time, and typically at least one “off-campus” event (bowling, putt-putt, etc.). Each night, the youth break into groups and spend the night at “host homes” before gathering again the next morning.
But here’s the thing: Disciple Now is truly different than most youth events. Simply put, it’s far more intense than just getting the students together for a trip to Nashville Shores. D-Now is about growth and grace and gratitude.
Prayer is usually the anchor point of the event — especially during the worship services — and that was certainly true at Glow Weekend at First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville. And I felt priveledged to have a front-row seat for the whole thing.
The emotion in the room was raw and real as the teary-eyed students huddled in small groups to pray for their lost friends. At the end of one service, the students lined the altar, kneeling before the Lord and praying intently and intentionally.
I couldn’t help but think that it was like having our own little branch of the Asbury University revival. The Holy Spirit was in the room. And He meant business.
Yes, there were many lighthearted moments and plenty of laughter during the weekend. But more than anything, there was urgency and intensity. These students were hungry — not for pizza and burgers — but to learn about how they could make a difference at their schools, on their sports teams and even in their homes.
During one of the worship sessions, I glanced up from the drums and saw one of our students — Jack, a seventh-grader — standing by his seat, with his eyes closed and his arms raised.
To say that I was moved would be an understatement. The mere sight of a sincere 13-year-old, standing in complete reverence, locked in on the Lord, is touching enough. But there is more to this story.
Several months ago, Jack’s dad was diagnosed with cancer. And although his treatment is going well, you can still imagine the impact that this news had on a tender-hearted teenage boy who loves his father.
I’m sure Jack has at least been tempted to be angry and bitter at God. And, considering the circumstances, who could have blamed him if he decided not to participate in a weekend of worship?
But there Jack was — not only attending the event, but completely engaged. Singing the songs, playing the games, joining the prayers. It was inspiring.
When the weekend started, the youth leaders surely believed it would be a great opportunity to encourage and lift up Jack. As it turned out, he encouraged and inspired the rest of us! It was truly one of those situations where the “bless-ee” became the “bless-er.”
In the days that have passed since Glow Weekend, I have thought a great deal about the impact those three days had on the students. One of Jonah’s best friends, Zach, probably said it best. When he was asked to rate the weekend on a scale of 1-10, he replied, “It was a 15!”
I am certain many youth around the state have similar assessments. It’s just such a unique event. So powerful and so real.
No, it’s not a trip to Nashville Shores. It’s way better. B&R