We’ve been home just for a few hours … the parking lot is empty except for a couple of lonely sleeping bags. The laughter is gone and camp is silent. My heart is full and I wanted to spend just a couple minutes reflecting on the weekend before jumping into the pool with the kids (yes, Southern California winter refers to a time of year, not an actual season) and regular life again. So here’s my reflections as we head down the mountain:

>> Our volunteers are incredible pastors
It was amazing to watch them serve our students this week. They love students so much. They sacrificed so much to be there and I’m blessed to serve alongside them. It was fun to have a great mix of veterans and a few new faces, we had such a great leader turnout we even had to turn a few away. I’ve done youth ministry a long time, that was new for me. LOVE these people.

>> Student-led workshops are so awesome
I loved the student workshops. We had several different students share on different angles around the theme of love. They all were so brave, well-spoken and wonderful. Each were required to have their own handout and meet with an adult during their preparation as well. So so good!
>> Homegrown speakers know your students so well
I love outside speakers – and am one myself from time to time – but absolutely also love when we keep the speakers internal. It gives some great people a chance to own the stage and share a message with a smaller group than our normal youth group meetings. They know the current needs of the ministry and the pace/tone we’re most comfortable in. Good stuff, though I have to admit we may change it up next year!
>> The amount of hurt and confession is staggering
I still can’t get over the openeness of students after just a few hours with their leaders at camp. The kids with the perfect life who have no struggles … absolutely have struggles and don’t have a perfect life at all.
 Thrilled for a venue where we can be real, confess sins, shine God’s light in the darkest corners of our lives.
>> We’re already planning next year!
For a few years Winter Retreat was on the bubble for me. It was a small footnote compared to summer camp and seemed to be a little pesky for impact and cost. But the last couple of years, it just continues to grow on me. We’ve got a debrief planned for later this week and looking to reserve a facility for a prime weekend again in 2016. What a great weekend of life change