Encountering God at MAD Weekend

27.10.2017 | Congregational Life, Youth & Children

This Friday evening will see about 1,000 young people, leaders and helpers from youth groups across the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) travel to Ulster University, Coleraine for the weekend.

Why? Because it is MAD 2017, a key event in the calendar for 11-18 year olds in our Church. MAD, which stands for ‘Making a Difference’, is a two-night residential that aims to help young people grow in their relationship with Jesus – with ‘Encounter: Meeting God in Prayer’ as the theme this year.

MAD is now in its 19th year, and Graeme Thompson, PCI Youth Development Officer, explains why the event is still going strong after almost 20 years, “For all churches, but especially for the smaller churches, MAD adds something they can’t do for themselves. It is also the experience for the young people of doing something together – of being a part of something bigger.

“MAD has always aimed to be inclusive of everyone, from kids whose faith is on fire, to those who simply go to a youth club but don’t really know what to think. These elements together have contributed to MAD’s endurance.”

During the weekend two main speakers, Richard Powney and Kathy Craig, will focus on how God can be encountered in prayer because of what Jesus did on the cross. They will also explore how to pray, and how to pray with and for others. Richard works in the Unity for Mission team at the Evangelical Alliance and will speak at three sessions. While Kathy, the youth worker at Lowe Memorial Presbyterian Church, will be teach God's Word on Saturday morning. A range of seminars are also on offer, covering topics such as, how to share your faith, social media, how to encounter Jesus when it’s hard and how to pray.

Graeme said, “We hope the young people will leave having encountered God in a real and fresh way – with a real faith, even if they didn’t have one before. And for the Christians who attend, we hope they will be inspired and equipped to share their faith with their friends.”

As well as the teaching sessions, worship will be led by Matthew Welsh and the MAD band – and, of course, the programme also includes the usual combination of high energy and fun activities, varying from jiving, computer gaming, and chill-out acoustic zones, to photo booth, laser tag, soccer skills, inflatable fun and a scavenger hunt.

For some 11 or 12 year olds, this year will be first time that they are going to the MAD weekend and they feel nervous or unsure about what to expect.

Graeme encourages them saying, “I would remind them that there have been many before them who felt exactly the same way, and who are now back year after year – MAD is something that grows with them. I would also say that the weekend has something for everyone and that they don’t have to do everything.”

The MAD Weekend ends on Sunday afternoon, with special thanks to those churches in the area that allowed their halls to be used as sleeping and breakfast accommodation.

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