Written by: Adam Borsay, Youth Director
For many years, the youth at Gateway Church have participated in a retreat we call the Journey. This retreat is a wonderful opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge and relationship with God and connect with one another each year. Started by David Rath over 20 years ago, the Journey has taken many different forms, shaped by various formats, dates, and locations. For the past 10 years, it has settled into its most recent form taking place during Christmas break at Camp Michindoh in Hillsdale, Michigan. Each year, youth staff and volunteers invest in months of planning and executing the theme, teaching topics, small group lessons, games, and activities all designed to point students to Jesus and take their faith seriously. This year we had an exceptional Journey and even saw our largest attendance in over 7 years with more than 100 people in attendance!
While there were many things that made the Journey exceptional this year, part of what made it so special was due to our amazing worship and tech volunteers who went to Michindoh a day early so they would be able to provide the best possible experiences for our students during worship and teaching times. The worship team for the Journey was full of Gateway Youth alumni and parents who are deeply committed to seeing our students grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s always special to have students who graduated from our youth ministry come back to serve our current youth! The Journey would not be possible without the investment of the many volunteers who are committed to discipling and investing in the next generation of Christ followers. It would be impossible to fully express our gratitude for the families and volunteers who help make trips like the Journey possible for our students.
The theme for this year's retreat was, “Upended”. Students were challenged to view life through God’s perspective, not the world’s, which always radically “upends” how we live our lives, view ourselves, and see the world. Students learned that when we’re weak is when we are truly strong, following God’s rules brings about real freedom, living a quiet life is more impactful than a loud one, and other paradoxical teachings of Jesus. In addition to these large group teaching times, special breakout teaching sessions were provided from a variety of volunteers like our very own Pastor Josh Hanson. Students could choose from a variety of topics such as spiritual gifts, evangelism, understanding denominations, mental health, and others to provide biblical wisdom on practical topics they encounter in their daily lives.
Aside from spiritual growth, one of our most important outcomes from the Journey is for students and leaders to grow relationally as they are given significantly more time to invest in their relationships with one another than they would on a Sunday night. Since relational growth and investment is one of our goals, students are not allowed to have technology with them during the retreat to remove as many distractions as possible that might hinder this growth. A weekend away with no phones and deep spiritual conversations being facilitated is a powerful tool to help students open up and wrestle with the issues they face in life as they are seeking to grow closer to God. While we want all of our students to have fun on the Journey, and we certainly do a lot of that also, what excites us the most is hearing of the lasting impact the Journey had on the lives of our students from leaders, parents, and students themselves once we get back home. We can’t wait to go back next year!