“I’ve never felt so welcomed so quickly in a new environment”, “YLTP was so much fun”, “my favourite part was the creative evening worships”, “Sarah’s bedtime stories were ridiculous and hilarious”, “thank you to all the leaders who fully listened to what I had to say and my life experiences”. Participants of the 2023 Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) were asked to evaluate the program on the last day of the event. Those were a few of the positive and thankful remarks they shared.
The YLTP gathering took place on March 12-15 at the beautiful Canterbury Hills Camp in Dundas. This year was extra special as we regathered for the first time in three years during the program’s natural season over the March Break. Due to the pandemic the program had been offered virtually and then in person for a shortened weekend to maintain recommended safety measures. This year, you could feel the heightened excitement in the air as cars pulled into the parking lot for participant drop-off, knowing that the program was back in full swing.
YLTP is a leadership training opportunity to equip young people to take an active leadership role within their parishes and communities as group leaders, committee members, etc. The mission of YLTP is to help young people grow in six areas:
- Call: to articulate a sense of personal identity, awareness, and mission.
- Stewardship: to understand and practice service to others.
- Living Community: to work with others in an intentional, safe community.
- Spiritual Enrichment: through Christian worship and study.
- Fostering Self: to enhance leadership and related skills.
- The Heart: to have fun with good friends.
Each cohort is mentored by two volunteer leaders. These dedicated and passionate volunteers help guide and mentor the youth during and outside of the program. We give thanks to the 2023 leadership team that included Dr. Emily Hill, and Rev. Canon Dr. David Anderson, Gregory Millar, Rev. Cheryl Barker, Rebecca Vendetti, and Nesta Cooper. The success and overall outcome of the program relies entirely on these enthusiastic volunteers, as well as the support from our diocesan family! We are grateful for all the prayers and words of encouragement leading up to and during the event.
Our time spent together during the three nights and four days was eye-opening to all participants and leaders. As a leadership team, we were prepared to welcome young people with added patience, understanding, and into a safe space to be themselves. We acknowledged as a team that the pandemic has been detrimental to the younger generation during vital stages of their lives. We were ready to listen and accommodate various needs or concerns. After a day and a half of building community, we were delighted to see the youth foster new friendships, become more relaxed, and comfortable with each other and the space. The youth shared that they felt more welcomed in the space of YLTP than they had in other social settings. The youth were not happy to find out that Wi-Fi and data are practically non-existent at Canterbury Hills Camp. When technology is taken away, something magical can happen. We can disconnect (from technology) to (authentically) connect (to one another). Eventually the youth forgot about cellphones and cell service and began to engage deeper into conversations or competitive games of Uno.
Throughout our time at YLTP each year group was responsible for leading worship, prayers over meals, and a social event for all to attend. Four highlights from YLTP expressed by the youth were the visit from Bishop Susan, the worship that included a cardboard chariot set afire in the fireplace, the lip sync battle social, and winter Olympics social. The youth also experienced the Stations of the Cross, led by Rev. Cheryl Barker, perfectly planned as we had just entered the Lenten season. The year three cohort finished their time at YLTP by presenting their third-year projects and leading the final eucharistic service. This is always a celebratory moment for the community!
Each year we are delighted to have Bishop Susan join us for “Comfy Corner with the Bishop”, a time dedicated to real-life conversations and questions. To her surprise the year groups prepared three chart papers filled with questions. She graciously answered each one and intently listened to their personal stories and experiences. She concluded the Comfy Corner with this question for the youth to seriously ponder: “If the youth could shape the church today, what would it look like”?
We added this question to the event evaluation and received these reflections:
- A place to have fun.
- A place where adults ask for our opinions and truly listen.
- A place where I get asked to lead in some way. I don’t know what or how to ask to take on leadership within my church.
- Doing church outside the old building.
- Working towards Truth and Reconciliation.
The YLTP gathering has concluded for the year but will continue to live on through the leadership roles that the participants are encouraged to embark upon within their parishes, schools, and lives. We thank you for your continual support and prayers for youth ministry in our diocese. For any information regarding Children, Youth & Family Ministry please contact Sarah Bird: [email protected] To find out more on youth ministry visit us at: https:// niagaraanglican.ca/youth