Memories Ignited by Return to YLTP

 on May 9, 2024
Donna Ellis

The Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) is one of the flagship offerings for diocesan children, youth, and family ministry (CYFM). This year, I had the privilege of joining the leader- ship team as a coordinator.

It has been many years since I walked alongside a group of young people through the 3-year program, and this past March break brought back so many wonderful memories at the beautiful property of Canterbury Hills. My many years spent as the CYFM coordinator for St. John’s Ancaster, and previous experience leading a YLTP cohort, equipped me to lead the volunteers through the planning process and delivery of the program. The five-day event welcomed 25 individuals into a community of prayer, leader- ship development and spiritual exploration, and self-discovery.

The role of coordinator is a very different role from what I had experienced in the past. The program runs from Sunday of March break to Wednesday, however, my role started long before to help create the experiences and activities the youth would take part in. Our goal is to help the young people develop their leadership skills, find their gifts, recognize the gifts in others and work together as a team.

As Christian leaders we do our best to emulate the leadership of Jesus. We use biblical stories of Jesus to discuss and identify the leadership traits Jesus embodied and how He helped mentor and guide the disciples to be followers and listen to where God is calling them to lead. At YLTP, we looked at how God sometimes seems to call the least likely to leadership.

The 1st year group had fun looking at and discussing the “anointing of David” in 1st Samuel. They also began to learn about their own personality traits and the traits of others and how that applies to leadership. The 2nd year group focused more on working together as a team and the importance of being in community. They discuss how Jesus didn’t travel alone but travelled within community of least likely disciples whom He taught and sent out together to share the Good News. The 3rd year group focused on practical communication skills and identified the leadership styles they bring into community, and areas for personal growth.

This year we invited several guests to share their gifts and skills and engage the youth. Adventure Works, who specialize in training and professional development lead team building activities through low ropes courses and partner challenges. Canterbury Hills Camp Director Sharon Miller along with a member of the resource team lead campfire songs and activities during the evening schedule. We were delighted to welcome Bishop Susan Bell, who spent a great deal of time discussing her faith story and vision for missional leadership across the diocese. She encouraged the youth to identify their passions and to watch and listen to where the Spirit is at work within their parishes, communities, and schools. She also joined us for a build your own sub lunch! Deidre Pike, the diocesan program consultant for justice and outreach, and placement student, Raul Guerrero came to engage the youth in the work of Communion Forrest. They engaged the youth by traveling around the property of Canterbury Hills in groups to identify trees, measure the circumference of the trunks, judge the health of the tree, and assess the condition of it.

The youth shared with us through their evaluations that their favorite highlights included the candle lit worship, community wide game of volleyball, the pasta dinner, campfires, spider dogs, and late-night snacks. They also shared that they were most surprised at the fact they were able to make new friends in such a short period of time. Their feedback is a reminder to us just how important these youth ministry events truly are, as they provide a space for young people to gather, connect with others, explore faith, and just be.

I feel blessed to have been among such a dedicated leader- ship team that helped to make this event a success. I give thanks to Matt Gillard, Steph Doan, Nesta Cooper, Emily Hill, David Anderson, and Sarah Bird for their faithful service, passion for youth ministry, care, and energy that helped to make YLTP 2024 a huge success!

To learn more about CYFM ministry visit:


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