On August 24th-26th our Accelerate Youth Group went on a retreat. This year we stayed at the beautiful Asbury Retreat Center on Silver Lake in Perry, NY.  We had 11 students in attendance and 5 adult leaders. We spent the weekend hanging out, eating, kayaking, swimming, playing games, worshipping, sleeping (very little, to the disappointment of our adult leaders), chatting, learning, and just being alone with God. We arrived at camp on Friday about 6pm and the students had enough time to get their items in their room before we all had dinner together. After dinner we all went outside and were immediately drawn down to the waterfront as we saw the sun beginning to set over the lake. All together we walked down to a large deck overlooking the water and were not only met by a beautiful sunset on the lake, but also saw a hot air balloon in the distance hovering over the lake. As we all stood in awe of God’s creation another hot air balloon came into site directly over our head and it was not nearly as high as the other. It was in that moment that we all knew God had a special weekend in store for us. That evening before bed we did some worship, prayed together, and played some games.

The next morning (Saturday) we had breakfast, worshipped, and then shared a devotional on Jeremiah 29:11. We did this at a beautiful new outdoor sanctuary right on the lake! We then had some small group time. The girls fellowshipped, made bracelets, and colored scripture-infused coloring pages. The boys fellowshipped and fished together. We also gave the students a chance to take their bibles and get alone with God, to not only be in His word but also in His presence with no noise and no distractions. After lunch we went kayaking and then swimming, and were also able to play volleyball (Go Girls team!) and tether ball. After dinner we worshipped and did a teaching on John 8:32 – being set free by the truth – and we did an object lesson on what we fill our hearts with.

We talked about 3 different cups in life we all can drink from: the cup of pleasure, the cup of culture, and the cup of Christ. With the cup of pleasure it’s never enough; you always are left wanting more since this cup has a hole in the bottom of it. With the cup of culture we are always seeking to be like someone else or to be someone else; everyone wants the same “logo”. This is a very complicated cup because we can lose our identity. Finally there is the cup of Christ, the cup of the new covenant, the shed blood of Christ. When we drink of the cup of Christ, we will thirst no more (John 4:14). It is the only cup that can satisfy and fill us. When we drink of the cup of Christ we find our identity in Christ, we then seek to emulate and be more like Christ. We had the students write down some things that they struggle with that “fill their cup”, like fear, doubt, anger, depression, anxiety and family issues, to name a few. We then had them pour out these items (“empty their cups”) at the cross and ask Jesus to take these items. When our cups or our hearts are filled with so much stuff besides Christ it can take away from what God is trying to do in our lives and it also can steal our Joy. God wants all of our cup (heart) and He wants to fill our cups (hearts) to overflowing. This was such a sweet moment and the students and leaders really responded to this teaching and lesson. We then gave the students nearly an hour to go be alone with God, to read their bibles, pray, and take any notes of what the Lord might be speaking to them. Afterwards we spent some time around the campfire eating s’mores, and a few leaders shared their testimonies with the students.

The next morning after breakfast we had 2 students and 2 adults share a mini testimony of their weekend at camp. It was so moving to hear each student share bible verses that the Lord showed them and what it had meant to them. We then all laid hands on and prayed over our 2 students who were leaving the group for college.

I started planning this retreat nearly a year ago and honestly didn’t understand the importance; I just knew it was something youth groups did and I needed to put it together. I now have a better understanding of their importance. This was a wonderful time for our students to disconnect from the world, the noise, and all the distractions. It was a great time for them to get alone with God, to create bonds and knit their hearts together with others. Like Flower City Work Camp in the Spring, youth retreats are very important to our teens, and I fully believe as a church we need to keep investing in our youth in these ways.