The Youth Retreat (Nov. 2004)

A few weeks ago, I was the designated youth director on Bridgeport’s first youth retreat. It was held on the coast at beautiful Camp WeLeslie, Praying at Camp Westwindstwind, and the weather was mostly cooperative. Of course, when I say this, what I really mean is that many other people handled the logistics. Leslie at Tribal CouncilI was just in charge of the God stuff. And by God stuff, what I really mean is that I had to come up with ways to get teenagers to talk about their faith, and to relate to one another. In fact, for many of the kids, this was the first time they could truly say that they were reaching out to God on their own terms, without filtering their opinions through their pastor or their parents.

In the weeks before, I was so nervous. Though I’d been teaching Sunday School for over a year, I’d never done “real youth director stuff.” I was worried that I didn’t have enough authority in my kids’ lives to be able to take them on this sort of journey, and moreover, worried that if I did start talking about this higher-level esoteric spiritual stuff that the kids would take one look at the beach and make a run for it.

In the parking lot, after we loaded the van, I got the kids to circle up, just as we had done in my youth group when I was their age. “Circling up” means standing in a circle holding hands, but your left arm is crossed over your right. I took a deep breath, and I began to pray:

Awesome God, we thank you for the word retreat. We thank you that this weekend, we’ll get a chance to get away from the distractions of our everyday lives. We ask that you bless us as we strengthen our bond to each other, and feel your love around us as we draw closer to you. All this we ask in your name. Amen.

It was in that moment, when I was praying that prayer, that I knew I had crossed over from wanting to be a youth pastor someday to knowing that I was these kids’ youth pastor right now.

I stepped onto the van, ready to do the work that I knew God was calling me to do.


Friend: OH MY …GOD
Friend: you look so twenties God lesbian
Friend: it’s hysterical. I love it
Friend: hot.
Leslie: Thank you???
Friend: it’s so wholesome! Awesome!
Friend: you look happy
Leslie: Can you tell my hair is almost shoulder length?
Friend: it is great
Leslie: I know. I’m so happy.

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