Rite of Passage

[I get lots of questions about leading rites of passage experiences for young people. This is an article I wrote for the Journal of Student Ministries (now Immerse Journal) about a rite of passage I helped facilitate along with Nancy Wiens , who is the Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Nature and Christian Spirituality

“Mark, are you awake?  It’s time.”

Unzipping the door to my tent, I looked out across the pre-dawn sky at the dark shoulders of the Mendocino Mountains.  I quickly dressed and joined Nancy and Lori by the truck bed where we kept our food. Nancypulled the coffee kettle off the camp stove and poured me a cup. The three of us looked quietly across the moonless sky.  Somewhere out within the early morning darkness, seven high school students were each loading their packs, preparing to begin their trek back to the base camp.  Three days earlier they had left as kids, but this morning they would return as men and women.

It started with an injustice.  One night at a December youth group gathering a group of ten seniors from our high school ministry announced they couldn’t commit to our summer mission trip.  These kids were at the heart of our ministry and we were crestfallen to hear they were going to miss our annual trip.  After a little investigation we discovered the story behind their decision.

At the end of each school year a local travel agency would meet with the junior class to propose ideas for a celebratory “graduation” trip the following summer.  The agency offered a package deal that included chartered airfare, lodging, and meals at a Mexican resort.  In the agency’s presentation, they mentioned there would be no adult chaperones and emphasized that the alcohol policy in Mexico would be very lenient.  For the past ten years each junior class had voted to do the package trip.  It was now considered a tradition among high school students. Read More