At TeenStreet Europe, the teens’ small group time in the mornings after the main meeting is an essential part of the daily programme. During these times, teenagers and their small group leaders meet together to reflect on the theme of the day, read the Bible, talk and pray.
Normally, small groups meet for about 75 and 105 minutes, depending on the age of the teens. But for one group of girls from Austria, this small group time at TeenStreet 2014 was not long enough, so they decided to extend it.
“We know each other and talk about everything,” explains Sarah, also known by her friends as Fischi. She is one of seven girls in the group, which is coached by two small group leaders. “And it is good that we ask so many questions,” she continues, “so we can open more conversations. The time [we met] got longer – but for us it was worth it.”
The group members agree that talking more about what they hear at TeenStreet and read in the Bible helps them grow in their faith. “When you get to know Jesus, it is important that you change,” says Tanja. “You can see that with our small group leaders – how well they know Jesus – that they live a good life and teach us a lot.”
When asked what they talk about in their group, Fischi, Tanja and their friend Sarah look to their small group leader, Christine, to give an example. “The Book of Revelation says that Jesus will come back with the clouds. And a specific question was, which clouds? Normal clouds that we see or other clouds?” explains Christine, adding that the other small group leader had a study Bible with her, and if she couldn’t find the answer, they would ask their M&M* leaders. “We’ve come to the conclusion that it will be heavenly clouds.”
If you were to spend some time with Fischi, Sarah and Tanja, you’d easily understand what a typical small group time at TeenStreet looks like. Their comments and questions bubble out with excitement. “With God at your side, you can overcome problems simply better,” says Fischi. “I always say that He is my energy drink!” And with full energy, the three girls share about what they have learnt at TeenStreet and what they will take home to Austria.
“I have learnt mostly that you can totally trust God, and that He cares for us,” says Tanja. “We don’t need to worry at the age of 16 to get a boyfriend or a good job. We simply can know that God cares for us, and that He will provide us with whatever we need.”
Sarah, who has been quiet up to this point, adds, “I have learnt that when you pray, it really comes true. Even if things do not go the way you have dreamt or imagined, it will come out for good. Even if you don’t understand why it is the way it is, at some point you will understand it.”
“After TS I want to change my life a little bit,” says Fischi, “because I have seen in the Global Village that there are lots of people out there who are troubled. In contrast, our problems are small. I want to fight this, or share about Him with people who do not yet know Him. I took some of the free books, and I want to give them away to non-believers.”
Sarah directs the conversation to her experience during Throne Room, the main hall worship times with the Outbreakband in the evenings: “Every time, I get goose bumps from head to toe and I feel God being really close.”
She specifically mentions times when everyone held up his or her arms in worship. “That reminded me a few times that God will pull me up someday. I think it’s fascinating that God is with us the whole time, and that He has His eye on every single one of us. Even though there are over 4,000 people in the main hall, He knows all of us intimately!”
Adds Tanja: “I think it’s cool that you can express your emotions freely. It’s cool to see how others worship and to know that they follow Jesus, and that you’re not alone.” She also thinks it is cool to see that Jesus is in their midst. “If you talk to people here, they have so much to share. And even if they experienced bad things, they always see hope.”
And so the girls continue to talk, and it’s evident that they are excited about God. Fischi shares how, during a small group time outside, she was lying on the ground and watching the clouds, which looked like sheep. They reminded her of her favourite verse: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1; KJV).
Sarah says it’s cool that Jesus solves even the small problems and that she doesn’t have to explain something to Him when she prays. “I sometimes cannot explain things well, because my brain is always so full,” she says. “Often other people do not understand what I mean. Only God knows what I say, and He understands me.”
The girls also use pictures and examples to explain what God means to them. Fischi, who calls the group a “group of poets”, compares humans to an uncoloured picture book. “If God comes into our life, it becomes – hour by hour, year by year, the more we experience with God – colourful.”
And for Tanja, Jesus is like a “heart-patcher”: “When you experience bad things, and parts of your heart are broken, Jesus comes with a needle and sews it up, so it becomes beautiful again.”
After about 20 more cheerful and talkative minutes Fischi closes the conversation: “At some time in our lives, God can give us the quietness, that we become speechless.”
*M&M – a leader at TS