Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Time to Rethink the Youth Retreat

I don’t know about you, but I am seriously rethinking the youth retreat…maybe we all should be? After spending nearly a week being sick after a youth retreat weekend, I have had some time to reflect on the whole youth retreat idea.

The world has changed a lot on the past 20, 10, 5, and really even 1 year; and how we approach ministry for the most part has not. 

In the past, youth retreats made a lot of sense:
1. They provide a time away to focus on God.
2. They create a time of group bonding that doesn’t just happen in an hour.
3. They give youth and leaders a shared experience that they could fall back on.
4. They give youth an opportunity of fun that they would not otherwise have.
5. They were an atmosphere of exhaustion/emotion to bring a certain response.
6. They give youth the opportunity to stay up late, if not all night, for a change.

All of this sounds great on paper until you factor in youth culture. 

Youth today are more connected with the world than ever before.  Through social media and technology, they can talk to, communicate with, and access anything and anyone in the world whenever they want.  Technology is great for bringing people who are far away, together; but it is also great at taking people who are close together and pushing them far away. So to have them get away and focus on God, you have to tear them away from the technology that runs their lives.

Secondly, youth have more entertainment thrown at them in one day than they did in a month 10 years ago.  Everyone is trying to gain the attention of the youth through entertainment, and if they church thinks that we can win that battle, we are in for a very harsh awakening.  

Finally, youth today get less deep sleep than any generation ever.  This sounds like a crazy claim, but think about it.  Since youth feel that they always have to be connected, night and day; throughout the night if they receive a Facebook or text at any hour of the night or day, they feel an anxiety that they must answer it; and so they do.  All of this leads to a lack of full sleep cycles, less hours of sleep, and eventually completely exhausted teens.  And the last thing they need is another excuse not to sleep.

If the church can be anything, it needs to be “Holy” meaning set apart from the world.  So then why do we jump in on the newest whatever thinking that is what we are supposed to do?

All this brings us full circle to me typing this while being on antibiotics after a three day youth retreat.  It wasn’t just me; over half of our group and other groups as well have all crashed in one way or another, several coming down sick.

Is this the Gospel?  Is this what we are called to be as the Church?

What if the Church found its identity as a place of Sabbath?  Relationships where you connect on a deep, meaningful level gathering together to refuel, recharge, and rest; knowing God is God and we don’t have to be.

So is the youth retreat dead?
Maybe.  But more importantly, we as the church need to revision and live out Sabbath.
What if church was not another thing you had to get up and go to, but rather it was where you came when you were worn out?
What if church wasn’t a place for people to tell you what to do, but rather a place we shared life together?
What if church wasn’t a place you hid from when life was hard, but rather a place you ran to when you had nothing left?
What if Sabbath wasn’t a day a week or a place you went, but rather time spent with people of God doing the things that brings you and others life?

I don’t know about you, but I am seriously rethinking the youth retreat…maybe we all should be?

1 comment:

  1. One thing that I really enjoy about retreats and trips is the extended time that I get to spend with my youth. I am constantly in contact with them over Facebook and email but I feel like in the chaos of everything on Sunday I might get one to 5 minutes to actually discuss life with a couple of my youth. My best moments in youth ministry have usually been late at night on retreats and trips when we are just hanging out and really get a chance to discuss life.
    Now I do think there are ways that we can make retreats better and one of them involves finding time for rest. Does that mean we need to take away all the fun and craziness of retreat? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe there is a time and place for both. As I told my youth on Saturday night, go run around for 30 minutes and then we are going to do devos. And they got out their energy and then we had some great discussion.
    I also admit to spending a workshop taking a nap in my room because I knew that is what I needed and that may have totally changed my perspective on the entire weekend. Naps make me a better person.

    As for the church being a holy place, set apart, that is a whole other discussion that I would love to take part in.