Youth who attended last weekend’s annual SHINE retreat were surrounded by images of light at Silver Lake. Blazing orange leaves stood out amidst a forest of evergreens, the shimmering full moon cast light across the ball field, and dancing flames of a campfire provided warmth and light. A group of high school students from CT and MA conferences gathered for time of discernment on how they are being called to let their light shine in the world.
“Youth often feel overloaded with school assignments, tests, college applications, and busy sports schedules. Retreat is an important spiritual practice where we take time away from normal activities and step back to listen for the voice of God,” said Debby Kirk, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “We tried out various disciplines such as testimony, compassionate listening, prayer walks, and journaling.”
The SHINE retreat seeks to nurture young leaders. It is for youth who may be Thinking About Working For God
and want to explore their call. Along with conversation and reflection, there was time for basketball, team building through the challenge course, a walk to the lake, songs and s’mores around the campfire, and worship at the waterfall chapel.
The CT Conference collaborates with local congregations to identify, nurture, affirm, network, and build capacity of young leaders. As the weekend unfolded, leadership was evident in many different forms:
- Being vulnerable and honest in sharing a faith story
- Recognizing growing edges and living into confidence
- Paying attention to special needs of others
- Leaning on our support networks when we have doubts
- Growing in cultural awareness through racial justice training
- Accepting offers of help when faced with obstacles
- Dreaming about the future and setting intermediate goals
The CT Conference provides a ‘Leadership Ladder’ of events and experiences that foster faith formation. In addition to the nurture and instruction offered in their home congregations, youth have the opportunity for a variety of growth experiences at Silver Lake. There are summer conferences, CIT training and counseling, camp staff, and the Joseph Clemmons Job Training program. Those who want to develop skills for worship leadership can apply for a Thinking About Working for God Apprenticeship (spring 2018). Youth can learn advocacy skills and network with other leaders through wider church events such as National Youth Event, Youth@Synod, and the upcoming Eastern Regional Youth Event (summer 2018).
As the group said good-byes on Sunday, faces glowed, spirits were rekindled, and hearts were rededicated to sharing light in the world.
Debby Kirk is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ.
Together we are growing a Faith-Forming, Multi-Cultural, Multi-Racial, Open and Affirming, Accessible to All, Just Peace, Globally-Minded movement of Youth and Young Adults!