Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church Youth Retreat
Event Location: Camp Hanes – King, North Carolina

Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church youth took a weekend retreat to Camp Hanes in North Carolina to ponder the thematic ideas behind “When Did We See You?” We took 12 youth and 2 young adult chaperones.

Friday night, we opened with worship reflected using the PYT Connect resources. One of the ways we departed from traditional worship was the integration of Ted Talks throughout worship both nights in place of a “sermon.” This felt super successful because it was a new voice (accompanied by visuals) that held their attention better than a traditional sermon would have. Small group discussions were also included in worship (small groups were pre-set to be a mix of genders/ages/friend groups). In fact, one of the ninth-grade boys on the retreat came up afterward and said, “That… that was really good,” which I would take as the highest of compliments from teenage boys.

In the morning, we engaged in team building activities led by camp staff. It was fascinating to see the way the group interacted because there is very much two different “cliques” in this group of youth. The camp staff made a comment that they were excellent at setting aside their differences to engage with each other in problem solving, but refused to let any kind of emotional guard down. Doing team building in our small groups, though, was productive in its ability to at least create some necessary cohesion between the groups.

In the afternoon, kids engaged in intentional rest and sabbath. One of the focuses our congregation has had this year is examining the intersection of faith and mental health. We ran with the idea that a retreat needs to be more than just a schedule kids buy into – it needs to have intentional opportunities for sabbath built in to not overwhelm or over-schedule our young people. What was really great about this, though, was to see how many youth decided to complete a puzzle, play games together, read actual physical books, or spend time in nature. I looked around at one point and even if kids weren’t doing the same thing, every single one of them had gravitated to the same part of camp, where they could be around each other.

In the evening, we closed in a similar-style worship as the opening worship experience and a vespers style prayer service around a camp fire. Many youth chose to linger afterwards and there was really deep, meaningful conversation that took place. It was a super meaningful weekend all the way around that brought the kids closer to each other and to God.