One church's experience with the recent GenOn Youth Summit:
Heading home from the GenOn Youth Summit on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, I asked the youth what they liked about the week:
"Meeting new people from different churches"
"Spending time with other teenagers"
"Music, singing, the dance"
"3 hour worship Friday night"
"The talent show"
"Activities each day (soccer especially)"
"Great to see old friends from last year and to meet new friends"
"It was fun"
"It was good"
Not one said "I don't know" or "nothing." It was a week to escape from busyness, boredom, and pressures of the world. And lest you think kids don't have pressures of the world, drop in sometime to "Say So Time" of the summit's Friday evening worship when hearts are poured out in thanks for how God worked in their lives over the week ("Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.")
It was a week to engage in daily Bible study, daily worship, and Christ-centered relationships. Understanding the need to treat one another as a child of God floated throughout the dining hall, on the playing field, in the dorm, and well...everywhere.
For high schoolers it was a week of "Jesus Camp" (what many of them call the summit) to think, pray, play, worship, sing, listen, and serve with other youth and lots of awesome adults of all ages--living out LOGOS. For college age youth it was the opportunity to provide leadership and deepen relationships with peers and mentors. For adults it was a way to use God-given gifts and interests and detach from the norm. Our church's adults led activities and Bible study. And it was fun. And good.
The GenOn Summit is like "one big youth group" as multiple churches of multiple denominations grow in Christ and connect with one another. Look at the all-group picture and you won't see big clumps of those from the same church--certainly here and there but mostly all mixed up. A beacon of hope for the wider church.
On Wednesday's mission afternoon we traveled in Bible study groups to serve all over the city of Wheeling. We made deviled eggs at the soup kitchen, sorted clothing and other donations at a distribution center, played with children at their summer program, cleaned apartments in a retirement home, weeded and mulched in a park. Lots of stories and pictures were shared around the dinner tables and at "Talk-It-Over Time" back on campus that night!
Some youth needed to be convinced to sign up, others couldn't wait having heard about it for years from older siblings and friends. Many returned for their second, third, or sixth time. All confirmed they were glad they had attended. The GenOn Summit is a week set apart, a mountaintop experience, a retreat, an opportunity to serve, and summer camp. I know that it changes lives for the better. It's well worth the vacation time that it costs most adults and it's well worth the risk the youth take to attend for the first time. Most return again and again and again. It's obvious from the on-line chatter that the countdown has already begun for next summer!