This weekend, Ben will be attending a Chrysalis youth retreat with about 50 other local teens. If you are not familiar with Chrysalis, you might recognize the term, “Walk to Emmaus.” Chrysalis is the teen and young adult version of this Christian retreat experience. The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers.
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and walked with them. – Luke 24:15
With Chrysalis, the teen “caterpillars” are sponsored by an adult who invites them to experience these 3 days of “flight” — growing close to Jesus, forming new relationships that will hopefully continue on as they become a part of this community of believers, and begin to train them to be leaders among their piers. Ben is the only teen attending as a new “caterpillar” from his youth group, though several of his youth leaders and peers who have been through the retreat are there to serve all of the teens.
Not really knowing what to expect, Ben was a little nervous. He makes friends easily, so that was not the issue. He was more concerned about what was going to happen during this intense weekend of worship, Bible study, small group discussion, prayer, and even a period of complete silence. Knowing him as I do, I knew there were a few things I should do as him mom to prepare him for the weekend.
Perhaps your teen will soon be embarking upon a similar journey. Even if it not a Chrysalis weekend, perhaps it’s another youth retreat or even youth camp. I think these 5 things I did to prepare Ben could be used to prepare your teen for a youth retreat.
Pray for Your Teen
Please don’t even sign your teen up for a retreat without praying first. And then in the days or weeks before he leaves, begin covering him daily. Ask close friends and family to do the same. On the day you are to drop your teen off, spend some time alone and quiet, praying together. Pray for an open mind and heart. Pray for God to reveal himself to your teen in mighty and unexpected ways. Pray for the health and safety of all of the teens and staff. Pray that all of the words spoken will honor Jesus. Pray for the retreat to be life-changing for your teen.
Prepare Your Teen
Your know your teen better than anyone, so be sure to discuss any situation you think may be challenging for your teen. Knowing there would be several hours of complete silence the first night was something Ben needed to be prepared for. He is rarely ever quite, especially when in the company of other teens. We also discussed the basics of what would happen during the weekend, and what our expectations for him behaviorally were.
The youth retreat or camp is likely to give you a list of what your teen needs to bring, but there may be a few helpful thing you’ll want to pack that are unique to your teens. Remember to pack any medicines, his own pillow and blanket (even your teens will want a reminder of home), and perhaps a book or drawing pad and pencils. When Ben found out about the period of silence, he immediately grabbed his drawing pad and pencil set, knowing that being able to draw would help him through that period of time. I also gave him my own pillow sprinkled with some essential oils to help him sleep better.
With Chrysalis, the teen’s sponsor gathers agape letters from close friends and family that will be given to the caterpillar on the last day of flight. In our case, because Ben was signed up late, I took care of this task. It was a scramble getting the number of letters they wanted him to have, so being able to plan ahead would have been nice. If there are any preparatory tasks that need to be done for your teen’s retreat, don’t wait until the last minute. Have your teen begin packing ahead of time, so he’ll know if there’s anything you need to buy for him. Make sure any needed medications have current refills.
By the way, I absolutely love this agape letter idea. I would suggest doing this for your teen even if it’s not a part of the program. I can’t wait to pick up Ben on Monday and find out how impactful it was to read letters from us, his close peers, and adults who have been instrumental in his spiritual growth.
If your teen is attending a particularly important retreat, perhaps buying a gift to give him when he returns will be meaningful. We will be giving Ben a lovely wooden box meant to store the letters he will be receiving. I also bought him this Joshua 1:9 pendant. This Scripture is a meaningful one for teen boys, and is the one I focused on in the letter I wrote for him myself. A new Bible if he needs one would be a great gift idea as well.
Post Youth Retreat Support
If you’ve ever been on a spiritual retreat yourself, you know about the high that sometimes occurs. Your teen will hopefully come home on fire for Jesus, with renewed fervor for serving him. It can be challenging getting through those first few days when they are eager to reach the world with the Gospel, but are no longer surrounded by the constant companionship of teachers, pastors, and other teens also experiencing the same high. These mountain-top experiences are amazing, but we are not meant to stay on top of the mountain. Your teen will need help coming back down, and not feeling discouraged about that.
My plan for Ben is to immediately look at Luke 8, where Jesus tells the parable of “The Sower.” We will take time to read the parable together, and discuss how Jesus gave us three examples of how people respond to the Word of God:
- Seed that fell on rock- “Those on the rock are the ones who received the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they will fall away (vs.13)
- Seed that fell among the thorns- “The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature (vs. 14)
- Seed that fell on good soil- “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (vs. 15)
I am hopeful Ben will be able to identify which seed he is. And then we will operate according to his answer. Hopefully he will come home the seed that fell on good soil. But be warned, those are the teens that will struggle the most post retreat unless you actively support his continued spiritual growth and desire to serve.
Children, even teens, live on emotions, and they can be very strong (on both ends of every spectrum). This will be an amazing opportunity for you to help your teen grow even more, by learning to live by faith, not feelings. Worship with him, pray with him, study the Word with him, help him find ways to serve. Keep him connected with his Christian peer group. Help him work through the low that may come in a healthy, God-honoring way. Watch for signs that real change occurred in his heart, and nurture that as often as you can.
I am grateful Ben was given the opportunity to attend Chrysalis, and I am hopeful it will be a very meaningful experience for him — life-changing even. This is why I have taken the time to do these things for and with him. I hope you also find my suggestions helpful. I came to know Christ as Savior on a youth retreat; I know how these experiences can matter to teens. And we never know in what situations God will use our kids mightily. Be sure you take each of these opportunities as blessed events in the life of your child.
If you liked this article, I believe you will enjoy 10 Bible Verses for the Man You Are Raising.