“Wow. So … now what?”
Those are the words of a high school Junior as we drove away on the final day of the Life Teen Leadership Conference.
The Life Teen Leadership Conference (LTLC) is a five-day retreat for 500 incoming Juniors and Seniors in high school. It’s focused on personal prayer, leadership, and discipleship. The conference takes place at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS.
I was driving back to St. Louis with five teenagers who had just experienced a conference like they had never experienced before. On the drive they had some time to reflect and process everything.
Here are the main things that they took away from the week:
First of all, it was incredible to be around so many teens that desire the same things we do as we strive to set an example for the underclassmen in our Life Teen programs. The image of teen leadership was so inspiring as we met countless teens with a genuine passion to change the world in their own unique way.
Mark Hart opened up the first night with this thought, “Purity seeks purity. When you have purity and innocence, sainthood is desirable.” We went deeper into what it means to desire sainthood in a way that will not only get ourselves to heaven but bring everyone possible with us. He also said, “There’s a saint for every sin because every saint’s a sinner.” We dove into the ways that we use our bodies to communicate what is in our hearts.
- Boldness and humility Before this week, we would have thought about boldness and humility as being opposites. We learned that you need both in order to be a good leader. Humility in leadership is about recognizing that being humble means thinking less about yourself, not less of yourself. Humility is all about stepping out and giving all glory to God. Our humility shows us how to let go of our crosses and surrender them to God so we can fully give Him the glory He deserves. Boldness comes into play as we face those around us and keep ourselves driven by God’s will.
Leadership isn’t about being in front of people, being flashy, and taking charge. It’s about serving and making sure we put the people who look up to and follow us before ourselves. Sometimes means moving to the back of the room to give someone else the spotlight. A lot of times we think of service as the big things we can do. This week we were reminded that no act of service is too big or too small to make a difference. Someone always receives the fruits of our actions, and we have the power we have to change someone’s life.
Fortitude is a gift from God. It’s the courage and persistence He gives us to do His will every time He asks. There’s a great joy in handing everything over to the Lord. It’s not about whether our friends say yes or no to our invitation to the faith. Instead, it’s about showing Christ’s love for them and showing that you care enough to invite them into the very thing that defines our lives. You can’t assume that everyone will love you back, but we as leaders are called to take the risk of holding others accountable to their dignity.
Our prayer lives were rejuvenated and stretched this weekend as we dove into many different styles of prayer. Some were hard to get used to, and some have completely transformed our relationships with Christ. During silent adoration, we realized that you can’t “sugarcoat” anything. The silence gets down deep into the purpose of prayer because there’s no mask of music to keep you occupied. We are so used to our praise and worship style of adoration that it was difficult at first to get used to silent adoration. We have a newfound respect for the styles of prayer we were exposed to.
We were also challenged to read Scripture more in an effort to gain the tools to defend our faith. During free times throughout the day, we had time to silently reflect on the previous session. For some of us, this was quite a struggle. As teenagers who, let’s be honest, are off the walls most of the time, it was difficult to stay in a meditative state for that period of time. It forced us to grow in a new aspect of prayer, especially journaling, so we can look back on the state of our hearts as we experience life back home.
This week wasn’t the typical “retreat high” that comes from most retreats and conferences. Instead, we focused on our intimate relationships with Christ and what He has called us to as we move forward in the world. It’s not about feeling good. It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about forming a concrete relationship with the Lord who so longs to be with you.
This was a conversation between five teenagers from Incarnate Word Parish in St. Louis, MO. Emily Schwendeman, Kate Schuering, Joseph Beckerjeck, Connor Riley, and Lauren Chapin.