Our retreat was a wonderful opportunity for fellowship, bonding, rest and exploration of nature and Scripture. Our group was made up of three advisors – pastor of our church and the church members who lead the youth group – five young adults and five youth. We were gone Friday night to Saturday and then the participants led Sunday worship back at church, so the whole congregation joined in the exploration of the theme “When Did We See You?”
Once we arrived Friday evening, we ate dinner together then did some icebreakers followed by Bible study where we introduced the theme and read Matthew 25:31-40 together. Individuals shared what they heard in the verses, including observations of the kind of community that Jesus is describing – where everyone shares resources and cares for one another. The Bible study led to the introduction of an activity we maintained throughout the weekend, where participants wrote on a slip of paper where they saw Jesus and put the paper in the jar. We read these slips of paper aloud at our closing worship service.
We held an “impromptu talent show” where each youth was paired with a young adult and given a prop that they had to use in their “talent.” After the talent show, the group shared something new they saw in someone else as we continued with the theme of looking for God in others. We closed the night with a bonfire and vespers.
Saturday morning we made sure folks had a chance to sleep in. We really, really wanted this to be restful and rejuvenating for all – especially the busy young adults. Our conviction is that our own lack of rest is one of the main barriers to seeing Jesus in the face of those around us. Then we did more group games, reviewed the verses from the previous evening and divided into smaller groups.
The young adults were given Psalm 27 (verse 1 references God as a stronghold which is the name of the camp we were staying at and the Psalm talks about seeking the face of the Lord) and given time to wander outside to spend time in solitude and reflection. Meanwhile, the youth read together the next portion of Matthew 25, verses 41 – 46. After some discussion, the younger youth were given the task of preparing a Children’s Moment for worship the next day. They focused on God as a shepherd. One of our youth in particular has a lot of firsthand knowledge caring for animals and was able to truly elaborate on the beauty of this metaphor. The older youth worked together to write the prayer for after Communion for the next day’s worship service and a reflection on Matthew 25, both of which invited others to see the needs around us and see God’s invitation in those needs. They and the young adults shared their reflections in worship the next day.
Throughout the weekend as we talked about the needs others have that we often overlook (especially the things we take for granted!) our young adults decided they wanted to lead an effort in our congregation to collect hygiene products. Our group came away from the retreat feeling rested and more attuned to seeing God in others, especially those in need, as well as more connected with one another.