Anyone who works with high school students can attest to how difficult it is to be a senior facing the road to graduation and beyond. Especially ominous can be the weight of knowing they must decide what to do for the rest of their lives. What 17 or 18 year old can make this kind of “one-time” decision? These young hearts must move into a season of transition that may include getting kicked out of the safe high school youth room, leaving a pastor who has gained their trust, and potentially losing some or all of their closest friends to colleges far away. Then there are those who are leaving all behind by moving to distant universities.
The retreat has been unapologetically billed as a very intense weekend. The first night the seniors are given journals and pens. After worship, the first session starts with a “pop-quiz” that has them rate from 1-5 how significant, capable, accepted, loved, and valued they feel. This is followed by a go-around where each person (leaders included) shares a one word adjective describing himself/herself.
Choosing to Believe the Truths About How the Lord Sees You
On this Friday opening-night session, they are asked to select a verse, or group of verses, that stand(s) out to them from this handout that paraphrases several Scriptures about how much he values, loves, etc. those who are in Christ.
After most sessions at this retreat, 1-5 seniors are sent to corners of rooms, each with a scribe and that senior’s journal. Students and leaders move around prayerfully giving these seniors prophetic words, pictures, and impressions. This has been practiced during midweek throughout the year. These are written down for two main reasons. First, there are too many words and pictures given for the recipient to remember. Second, this weekend is designed to give the seniors tangible resources that can be referenced in the future when needed. The seniors are instructed that these prophetic words are the potential of what God wants to bring about in their lives when they continue developing their intimacy with him and making the choices to follow his promptings.
How to Walk Out Who You Are in Christ
The next morning session, we dive into their relation to Christ. Behavior is a result of the level (or lack) of intimacy with the Lord and the person’s belief about his/her identity. The emphasis is not on the behavior, but on the mind (what they believe about who they are and who the Lord is) and the heart (their intimacy with the Lord). The choice is always between trying to get their needs met by the Lord (to walk in the Spirit) and trying to meet them on their own (to walk in the flesh). Another handout helps them identify and renounce lies that they have believed, which is followed by acknowledging and announcing the truths.
Moving Forward in the Kingdom as a Young Adult
This session is taught by the young adult pastor in the afternoon on Saturday. This concentrates on why and how to stay connected to a local church, how to choose a church, and how to identify and avoid campus cults.
Prior to the retreat, parents have been contacted and asked to write and collect letters of encouragement for their seniors. Each student is surprised with a packet of at least two letters. They are then sent off to read their letters privately. Seniors voluntarily share about their letters at the beginning of the evening session before the worship set.
How to Know the Will of God
This last night session is led by the high school pastor. Prophetic words are given for the next set of seniors. A group game closes out the night.
Worship and an opportunity to share about the weekend begin Sunday morning’s wrap-up. Any remaining seniors would receive prophetic words here, and/or leaders can be put in the chairs so the seniors can give prophetic words and bless these leaders.
Seniors return home with resources to stand on the foundation of knowing who they are in Christ, to fight lies, and to walk out their identities. They are challenged to nurture intimacy with the Lord, follow His directions, and stay involved in church communities. Having given words, pictures, and impressions to others, they have increased faith in their abilities to hear from the Lord and bless others accordingly. They have letters of love and encouragement and journals of words and pictures that can build them up in the years to come. They have the assurance that God will not abandon them and has purposes for them. Throughout the instability of this transition, there is a greater sense of stability because of God and people in their lives that care about them.