I’ve been coming to MOVE for years – both as a student and now as a grownup – but there was a time when I didn’t fully understand or want to know God. I didn’t let Him in all the areas of my life when I was a teenager. I was prideful and overconfident, and I kept living a double life until I literally couldn’t hide it anymore.
I love sharing my story with students now because I truly experienced the love of God’s Church. The people stood up for me, came around me and loved me the way the local church should. There were people who challenged me and patiently pulled away my layers. I was in denial about what I believed about God, and they loved me right where I was – in my mess. They kept the balance of truth and kindness. That balance is the best way the local church can love teens because that’s what pushed me to choose Jesus in all areas of my life.
I get to tell my girls in my small group that in my experience it’s better to hold tight to God and keep your hand open to what He wants for your life. I’ve learned this specific lesson by working with teens. You can have elaborate plans and think through how a conversation will go, but then God will take it a totally different, beautiful way.
I’ve also learned youth leaders have to earn some respect from high schoolers – they don’t give their love as freely as the younger ones do. Teens are more guarded and have some walls around their hearts, but challenging them is so important. This is why MOVE is such an amazing experience.
CIY provides an environment that lets teens put down the walls around their heart. They feel safe and that they can be real. They look around and realize these are their people. It’s one time a year youth leaders can see changes happen, but we also see the struggle when students have to go back to hard environments and life. That’s reality, and that doesn’t change when you’re an adult, either. We all have great, intimate moments with God to strengthen us so that we can face life, but the greatest thing is we don’t have to do it alone.
I’m blessed to be a part of this team that shares His Church with students.
Allison Ronning has been a small group leader for 12 years with Foundry Church in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s married to Rich, and they have three kids: Grace, 16; Cole, 15; and Camryn, 13.