By Paige K Slighter
Our Echo ministry for 7th-12th graders recently hosted an epic summer retreat at Woodland Hills. And by epic, we mean human foosball, friendship bracelets and pieing a staff member in the face! Typically the students go to Camp JIM for the retreat, but since that wasn’t possible this year, they jokingly referred to the church building as Camp GREG. Over two days, our energetic teenagers got their goofy on, learned more about God and deepened their relationships with each other.
The theme for the retreat was “New Normal,” which was especially fitting as the students transition out of pandemic life. Danny, one of our Echo leaders, taught about the Israelites in the wilderness and how God called them to a new place. He said, “We talked about how change can be really scary, even if we’re headed toward something really good. After being rescued from oppression and slavery in Egypt, the people of Israel complained multiple times to Moses. They were missing the new, good thing that God was leading them toward. I used this as an invitation for the students to be present so that they wouldn’t miss the new, good thing God wants to do in their lives.”
Katie, Echo’s Creative Arts Leader, guided the students through a reflective activity where she asked them to picture what God was calling them to. She then gave them time to spread out, process, meditate, journal and create. Her follow-up question was, “What might keep you from stepping into God’s calling?” Then she asked them to imagine themselves holding onto that thing tightly while picturing God’s hands helping them release it.
Osheta, one of Woodland’s Teaching Pastors, shared a Saturday night message about our new normal with Jesus. She also gave the students three words to think about this summer.
- Gather: The disciples, even in their fear and not fully understanding their new normal, gathered together. Osheta explained, “There is strength and comfort in leaning into community as you figure out your new normal.”
- Center: Jesus showed up in the middle of it all. She said, “Jesus wants to be in the center of this new normal; he wants to speak peace over your fears. Look for and expect to find Jesus in your new normal.”
- Wonder: Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit, who inspires us to stay curious, be comforted and be brave. Osheta challenged the students: “Seek opportunities for wonder this season—what can you learn more about, who can you spend more time with, how can you experience and reflect the love of Jesus this summer?”
To cap it all off, the students entertained each other with creative skits they performed for Echo’s “Late Night Show.” Groups were instructed to create a commercial featuring silly props like a rubber chicken, a plunger, a boom box and plenty more. Everyone put a lot of effort into making it a blast!
Jamie, another Echo leader, said, “Echo has always been a place built on community, connection and relationships. This past year over Zoom has felt like a shadow of what was, although we were thankful for a chance to have some connection still. This summer retreat felt like coming back home after a long time apart! Many of us cried tears of relief as we were able to be together again in a normal way for the first time in a long time.”
We’re so glad Echo had such an incredible time at Camp GREG. We can’t wait to see what God calls them to and how he steps into their “new normal.” Check out the awesome photos below.