Planning a Youth Retreat
Do you remember Godspell, the Broadway musical from the 1970’s featuring young people loving God and singing about it? I recently had the great fortune of leading a retreat for a group of multi-talented, faith-filled teens from St. Matthias Parish in Bala Cynwyd. They exhibited the same level of enthusiasm.
I was most impressed by these young people who had founded their own youth group and were hungry to form community and grow in their faith. What a gift to their church and to Cranaleith.
As I do when planning all my retreats, I gave them the opportunity to provide input into the structure and content of the day. I listened carefully as they spoke of their needs, goals and desired experiences.
They told me that they wanted their experience to include yoga, time in nature, and a planning session on the future of the group. I structured the day to begin with a yoga class where the instructor reminded them that yoga “is a form of meditation that slows down our bodies to hear the quiet workings of the soul.” We spent time outside on Cranaleith’s 10-acre property. While enjoying the warmth of Spring, I encouraged them to pause and experience another way of seeing divinity at work in our Creation’s treasures. I spoke to them about St. Francis and his reverence for the earth, the animals and all of God’s creation. I invited them to explore ways of praying or talking to God when in the outdoors.
Next, we went inside to listen to Godspell’s “You are the Light of the World.” We spent a good while discussing how they were Christ’s light and how it shines in each person. I then turned their attention to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” While this song speaks about being carried by God in tough times, I wanted them to focus on two specific lines.
“Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
until You come and sit awhile with me.”
What is this all about? What is the value of sitting in the silence? What would it look like for God to come and sit awhile with me?
I explained that this is how our souls recharge. Within each of us is a soul that is part of the divinity of God. It hungers to be one with God and when we sit awhile with God, in His presence or in His creation, we gain strength. I made the analogy to the solar lamp that first needs to bask in the light in order to shine.
We then shifted to talk about the reality on the ground and how they could grow as a youth group. We broke this initiative into four areas: Community, Fun, Faith and Service. We brainstormed about these areas and discussed how they might follow through on some activities.
We finished our day with a Mass after which I gave each retreatant a vase with pebbles and a solar light. I invited them to place it in their bedroom windows to absorb the sunlight. It will be a reminder to “sit awhile” and to be all that God has made them to be…to be a light.