Last week 300 middle schoolers and 79 chaperones and volunteers from around the synod gathered at the UNI Wellness Center in Cedar Falls for the Northeastern Iowa Synod Annual Middle School Lock-In. The Northeastern Iowa Synod Lutheran Youth Network and University of North Iowa Lutheran Student Center have partnered for more than 13 years to put on this annual event.
This year’s theme and bible study was “Love Your Selfie” and used social media to look at Psalm 139, verses 1, 13-15:
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
“The theme ‘Love Your Selfie’ addresses teen self-esteem issues,” explains A. J. Houseman, Campus Minister at the UNI Lutheran Student Center, who led the bible study.
“This theme helps to address this by having a proper view of their beauty and significance in God’s eyes. By going through God’s Word, they will be able to see that their uniqueness is God’s special thumbprint on His relationship with us.
Understanding that God made every one unique, with unique qualities, gifts and appearances is an essential piece of the growing faith of a teen. Especially one who suffers from ridicule, rejection, and judgment at the hands of others.”
Throughout the night, the youth were encouraged to take selfies and tweet them. The tweets were then projected on a rolling feed up in the main worship space all night.
Houseman then showed a selfie she had taken that “wasn’t the prettiest picture ever and talked about what I see in my selfie and in contrast of what God would see in it. Then we did the same thing with the Jesus Selfie from the theme.”
“Selfies are taken with the intention of sharing a moment with others. Jesus on the cross is the most authentic, personal, and vulnerable he ever was, this is the moment that he laid down his life in love for all of us. This is a moment worth sharing.”
Later in the evening, during worship, everyone was invited to tweet prayers throughout the service, followed by prayers of petition time with some quiet music.
“My youth and I loved the theme, it brought something that is a part of their daily lives; social media and taking selfies, and made it a part of their faith story,” commented Kristin Johnson, Youth and Family Minister, who brought youth from both St. Petri in Story City and Bergen in Roland.
“They were reminded that, no matter how many ‘likes’ their selfie may get on Instagram, they were made in the image of God and that is the most important ‘like’ of all.”
And that is a message adolescents (or any of us) cannot hear too much of!
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELcA