What follows is a recap that was shared with parents following the Middle School Retreat titled “Broken: A Faithful Response to Bullying & Suicide” that was held at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center during consecutive November weekends in Slippery Rock, PA. For more on the program, read a story here.
We would like to share with you just a bit of what your child learned and discussed at this past weekend’s retreat, “Broken: A Faithful Response to Bullying and Suicide.” Please continue these conversations with them as they are interested and you are able.
We wanted to be sure to ground our time together with a Biblical base that reminded kids from the beginning that Jesus cares about what’s going on in their lives, that the Bible is relevant to them even today and that no topic is off limits for our God.
Friday night worship set the stage for that as we looked at Genesis 1 where God created all things and called them good. We discussed how, even though sometimes the world seems broken and sometimes they feel broken, it didn’t start out that way. God looked at them when they were formed and looks at them still saying, “You may not be perfect, but you are mine and I call you good.”
On Saturday morning, we allowed the youth to attend workshops of their choice. In the workshop “Knowledge is Power,” the kids took an honest look at the effects of bullying, myths and facts about bullying and how bullying can lead to suicidal ideations. The kids defined their culture, determined that bullying had in fact become a part of their culture and then discussed ways to be a positive culture changer and make a difference to those who are being bullied.
was developed in order that students hear one simple message: You are valuable. Teenage culture expresses several definitions of “valuable,” few of which have anything to do with being loved by our Lord and God. In this workshop students participated in a discussion focusing on how we define value and what everyone’s God-given gifts may mean for their unique role in the body of Christ.
Saturday afternoon, following down time just to play and blow off steam, the kids rotated through various stations called “stepping stones” where they were invited to express and release their emotions through art and activity. Some of those activities involved smashing pumpkins, drawing with sidewalk chalk, writing letters and painting pictures. Some of them created beautiful things, and many of them named that time as a highlight of their weekend.
Saturday evening during worship, we looked at John 10:10 where Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice but the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.” We talked about all the lies that the “thieves” in their lives have told them about themselves. And then we thought through how to develop an ear to hear the “voice of the shepherd” instead of the “voices of all the thieves.” We encouraged them to connect meaningfully with people who speak for their shepherd (like youth leaders and pastors), to read God’s word and to turn off their cell phones and devices long enough to listen.
Finally, Sunday morning for worship, we read John 17:3 — “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” We wrapped up our time together by reiterating that God created them good and reminding them that in Jesus Christ, there is life. That God’s people and God’s word are that connection to life. And that they have a responsibility to be that connection for others. We took the “lies” that they have been told about themselves, burned them in a bonfire, and then shared the Lord’s Supper where all were invited to the table.
It is said that people commit suicide for two basic reasons: loss of hope and loss of social connection. It was our intention, and we believe we succeeded, at offering your children both.
Middle School Retreat Planning Team
Crestfield Camp & Conference Center