High school students were recently trained as team leaders for a new GROW program in Connecticut. GROW, which stands for “God Reaches Our World”, is a 5 hour mini-retreat program designed for middle and junior high school students. It began over 25 years ago in Pensacola, FL when Sr. Nancy Walsh, MSBT was working to initiate youth ministry programs in the diocese.
Sr. Nancy involved youth leaders to help develop and refine the program’s content and activities. The logo itself was designed by an 8th grade boy. The image reflects the theme that God reaches our world through Jesus, symbolized by the cross. The green earth symbolizes life and growth in faith and the blue water represents our baptism when we became members of God’s family.
The founding team of youth leaders went around the diocese offering the GROW retreat for other youth in Tallahassee, Bonifay, Quincy and parts in between. In doing so they not only had the opportunity to grow in their own faith, but also had a deepening sense of being missionaries to other youth. Since that time the GROW program has spread to many other local communities in Florida, Alabama and Connecticut.
At the end of each GROW, the youth were challenged to serve on a GROW team. Any person who responded to the call was accepted to serve on the next team and that is an important part of the philosophy. There is a job for everyone- from leading the activities to taking photos, from making posters to being the supplies manger. Youth who did not see themselves as “leadership material” often blossom into great leaders after their experience on the team.
Today, GROW continues to be led by youth themselves with adults serving as resources and supervisors. There are no talks, rather, a series of interactive dynamics, activities and discussions through which youth are invited to consider their worth in the eyes of God, the negative and positive aspects of peer pressure, God’s unfailing and unconditional love, the need to nurture their life of goodness and faith, and to help other youth do the same.
In coming week’s we will share with you the story of the new GROW program in Connecticut. Please check back to this webpage to hear how this retreat touches the lives of our youth, calling them to grow in their faith and their role as missionaries to others.