What Should a Senior Pastor Say at a Youth Retreat?

Guest Blog By Bob Jones North Pointe Community Church

“Pastor, would you speak at our youth retreat?”

My quick response surprised Jeremy, our youth pastor, not just because I seldom respond quickly but because it was an enthusiastic one. And it was heartfelt. There was no need to pray, think, ponder or mull over this decision.


When I preach on Sundays there are youth in the crowd. But at a retreat there would ONLY be youth in the crowd and at this particular retreat, a record high number of youth.

What an opportunity. I would be one of, if not THE oldest speakers ever at a youth retreat for our church.

So what should a senior pastor say at a youth retreat?

After Googling “seniors speak to youth” I knew that would be of no help. The only hits were about High School Seniors speaking to youth. Seems like there’s not much out there in cyberspace about older generations speaking to younger ones.

Here’s what I said…

  1. “Being at your retreat is a privilege for me. I am proud of you. I am humbled to work with your youth pastors. ”

Scanning the crowd reminded me that we were family. The blessing of 24 years in the same pastorate is to experience the good fruit of ministry. I had dedicated a few of them as babies, officiated some of their parent’s weddings and baptized more than one of them. We had weathered traumatic times together – I was called on to minister to them when a parent or a sibling had passed away.

However, the majority were youth that I knew only from a distance. They were new to our church or even to our youth group as guests at the retreat. Here was a chance to build a bridge to their hearts and help them hear words of faith from someone who had lived longer than any of their parents.

  1. “God loves you no matter what.”

If there’s one thing teens need to know it’s that God’s love for them is unconditional, and unwavering. The teenage years are filled with self-doubt, angst, immaturity and impetuous mistakes. The prodigal son is a revealing illustration of the Father heart of God for wayward kids. Mess-ups get parties, not “I-told-you-so’s” when they return home.

Teens need to know that God and pastors have their backs, if they turn their back. They need to be assured that any setback in their faith can be countered by a comeback of even greater magnitude. The arms will always be open. The acceptance will always be ready.

  1. “Decide to be God’s ‘Yes’ Woman or Man.”

Most campaigns aimed at teens are about just saying, “No.”  Say “No” to drugs or to sex before marriage or to intolerance.

My life’s story can be summed up in saying, “Yes.”

  • “Will you trust me as your Lord and Savior?” “Yes.”
  • “Will you devote all of you to follow Me all your life?” “Yes.”
  • “Will you train for the ministry?” “Yes.”
  • “Will you be a loving husband to Jocelyn?” “Oh, YES!”
  • “Will you accept the responsibility of becoming a dad?” “Yes.”
  • “Will you humbly serve as a pastor, teacher, mentor?” “Yes.”
  • “Will you give me control when everything around you is out of control?” “Yes.”

Teens need to know that taking the risk of saying “yes” to a faith journey is the wisest way to live. A radical life for God is not a reckless one but a dangerous one.

  1. “We’ll do this together.”

“Hang in and don’t quit on your faith or your church.”

We concluded the service together by having our youth pastors and their volunteer leaders create a tunnel. Every teen was invited to walk through the tunnel. As they did leaders placed their hands on their shoulders as a blessing of favour and support.

I was at the end of the tunnel to place my hand on each teen as they came though. It was a way to say, “I’m in this faith journey with you. I love you.”

Being a sixty year old a youth retreat was a gift to me.

I hope to be invited back when I’m 80 and one of the teens is now the senior pastor of our church.

Question: What do you think students need to hear most from the senior leaders of their church?

Also, if you would like to read more from Pastor Bob, he posts interesing blogs a few times a week.  please click here

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com