Conferees posed for a silly photo.

Love Led Me to Montreat

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Written by: Patti Grayson
MYC Small Group Leader

Patti at Friday candlelight.

For two amazing weeks, I had the joy of serving as a small group leader for Montreat Youth Conference 2019: Let Love Lead.

I had been to many youth conferences as a back home leader, but this year our church did not have a youth group attending. I decided to take the plunge and apply to be a small group leader for the first time. I’d been thinking about it for years. My biggest regret? Why did I wait so long?!?

Being a small group leader was an incredibly rewarding experience, even though I felt enormous pressure to “get it right.” I remembered how important a good small group was to the youth I had brought in the past. I so desperately wanted to help lead a group during weeks 5 and 6 that provided a safe, inclusive space, positive memories, and lasting relationships. I was completely unprepared for how much those precious weeks would mean to ME!

If you’ve ever been to Montreat, you know that just being there is a spirit-quenching, peace-filled respite. The more you embrace your time there, the more it feeds your soul. You give and Montreat gives back, ten-fold.

Being a small group leader for me was the best of all worlds. I got to know the planning team and Omega conference leadership. Their energy and commitment were contagious! The conference is a dream for them for two years… and then they bring it to life. They were celebrities to me, yet real, compassionate, caring folks who gave endlessly of themselves to make this the best conference possible.

Patti sitting second pew!

After spending years in the wayyy back of Anderson Auditorium, being a small group leader entitled me to seats in the second pew. That’s right – VIP seating front and center! I was entranced watching Neeley get pumped up for keynote, hearing Amos weave sermon tapestries that filled the auditorium with silent wonder, dancing like a joyful fool to energizers with Cal and Megan (I mastered the Church Clap!), and singing the best theme song ever at the top of my lungs with John and Leslie.

And then, filled with the Holy Spirit and fueled by these incredible leaders, I had the pure joy of sharing these experiences and digging deep into Scripture with my own small group. As much as I enjoyed getting to know the folks mentioned above and building new friendships with other small group leaders, I was truly in my happy place with these amazing youth. Learning from them, listening to their stories, and being a part of their faith journeys is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I watched them support and encourage one another as they shared their struggles and beamed as they celebrated one another’s victories and gained confidence in who and whose they are.

And somehow, by the grace of God, it was exactly what I hoped and prayed it would be. It was a safe space where grades didn’t matter. Popularity didn’t matter. Appearance didn’t matter. Orientation didn’t matter. It was a place where you were valued as a beloved Child of God, created in love. It was a precious space where love led us to trust one another, reach out to one another, and leave equipped to take that love home to our schools, churches, and communities.

Was being a small group leader a lot of work? Sure. But there was a fantastic manual to follow, a team of folks to provide support, and when it came down to it, all I had to do was Let Love Lead.

See you next summer, Montreat. I’ll be counting the days.

About the Author:
Patti Grayson was a Small Group Leader during Weeks 5 and 6 of the Montreat Youth Conference 2019. Patti is 5th grade teacher, a singer, a youth leader, and a certified Montreat fanatic! She has attended conferences as a back home leader since 2007, until serving as a small group leader this year for the first time. Her two daughters both attended youth conferences and worked on Summer Staff. Her eldest daughter met her husband (Montreat’s Wilderness Director) on Summer Staff and got married in Convocation Hall!