We just finished up a “retreat” weekend with many of our youth in partnership with another local church.  In total, we had 62 youth and adults.  Instead of just “getting away”, we spent our Saturday completing eight different mission projects around our city.  We had the fun retreat time at a local camp along with worship in the evenings, but we also did something with what we believe, instead of just talking about it.

The theme of our time together was Kingdom Vision:  What is God’s kingdom?  What is hindering you from seeing more of God’s Kingdom?  Do you know you are being called to join God’s Kingdom?

I’ve done this for three years now, and you know what?  Its bigger and better than ever.  They absolutely loved it.  Teenagers have a deep desire to see justice played out in the real world.  They want to be part of the solution.  They really do.  I believe this is far more effective model for discipleship than always “getting away.”  They get to see real social and spiritual change in their neighborhoods and immediate communities.

They aren’t just verbally challenged to see God’s Kingdom: they are encouraged to go out and SEE it.

Why can’t we “get away” while also serving others? Fight the urge to choose between the two.

I put “retreat” in quotes at the top of this post, because I have a problem with exclusively doing youth getaway weekends.  Only doing a youth retreat is ineffective to this postmodern generation, because: They are insular Many options, like ski trips, are expensive, dangerous, and moreover, youth groups are a marketing target with which to turn a profit.  I have a problem with that.  It has always made me feel like it is a “Temple/money changer” situation. Its not effective discipleship:  I’m not sure God wants us to teach teenagers that Christians are always supposed to “get away”.  I see Jesus getting away often on his own, as we should as well in order to maintain intimacy with God, but when the sun was up, Jesus was with the people A LOT.   Sometimes we have to push people out of the nest and make them DO STUFF for God.   If we really believe that God is with the poor, and we say we want more of God, than why aren’t we spending more time with the poor?  If we say we follow Jesus, why do we want to run the other way, away from the poor, in order to “get away”?

Have I done exclusive youth getaway weekends in the past?  Definitely.  Can God use a getaway weekend, like a ski trip?  Of course.  But is it the BEST way to disciple this generation?  Does it possibly teach the ulterior message that we are raising a generation of Christian consumers?  Maybe.  Why risk it?  What do you think?

Clark Chilton is a Student Ministries Pastor in Clemmons, NC.