I recently spent two weeks at the Montreat Youth Conference in North Carolina. This is a conference for high school students. I have been attending this conference for about fifteen or so years. The youth energize me and I am always personally spiritually enriched as well.
This year I spent the first week as a small group leader, as I have done in the past. The second week I was the Conference Pastor, a new experience for me. As Conference Pastor, I was a spiritual guide for the leadership of the conference, as well as being on call for pastoral care emergencies.
Each conference begins in the mornings with energizers, which are hard to explain if you’ve never experienced them. They are creative ways to get the youth and adults moving, set to popular music. This is followed by a time of singing, led by wonderful professional musicians. The morning concluded with a keynote address, using creative ways to get a message across, including drama, music, and multimedia.
Then the youth are off to a time of small group reflection. This is their time to bond and learn with other youth from all over the country. Then its lunch, followed by another small group session, then recreation and rest, followed by dinner. The evening is capped off with wonderful, creative, meaningful worship, and ends with some sort of recreation event, including a talent show and a concert.
This is often a life changing event for the youth. Sometimes it is the first time they hear about Jesus. And for others they might meet God in a whole new way. It is a mountain top experience in what is known as a “thin place”, a place where heaven and earth meet.
For the adults it is an exhilarating and totally exhausting time, but worth every minute. I highly recommend that everyone pray about serving next summer as a small group leader (all expenses, including travel, are paid for by the conference). Your life may be enriched and deepened in ways you haven’t even thought about.
The Rev. Christine Caton is a long time member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and she currently serves on the PPF Executive Committee. Christine has just finished serving as the pastor at a small UCC church in Old Lyme, CT, where she lives, and has taken an early retirement. She looks forward to what God has in store for her future.