Youth Conferences: Why the Sacrifice is Worth It

About three years ago, our family made the decision to send our girls to the Richmond Diocesan Youth Conference (DYC). That summer, we also made a huge sacrifice and sent both girls to Steubenville Atlanta for the three-day summer conference. It meant sacrificing some things we wanted (a new computer, updating some things in the house, more dinner-and-movie dates), but we felt that the investment in our daughters’ faith was more important. Once they went, I was upset that we hadn’t done this sooner with our older daughter.

All kids go through a phase of questioning their faith. It’s a part of growing up: while they try to figure out who they are, they also try to figure out how God fits into their lives. Our culture increasingly says God doesn’t fit in, and it affects our kids more than we probably want to admit. And homeschooling or having a life based around your faith doesn’t guarantee that your kids won’t face this kind of crisis in faith, though it might mitigate the effects a bit. The world is around us, and we aren’t called to hide from it, but to engage with it. And when we engage, the influences of modern society will be at work on our families.

So we sacrifice and save and do fundraisers so our girls can go to DYC and Steubenville. Both girls love the retreats! Our younger daughter has asked for one thing for her Confirmation and birthday this year: money to go towards her Steubenville Atlanta tickets.

For religious education, I have been using the Didache series. This year, my younger daughter is working through Understanding the Scriptures, by Dr. Scott Hahn. It’s my third time going through the course, and it remains one of my favorite textbooks. For her third quarter test, I asked her to write an essay that is a letter to people her own age about her experiences of Jesus in her life. What follows is her answer.

I’ve been lucky enough to have more opportunities for intimate encounters with Christ in the last three years. Starting in about sixth grade, I started struggling in my faith as any middle schooler does. I doubted God’s presence in my own life as I struggled to find who I was and what I could possible be purposes towards. I felt worthless and alone. 

My youth group went to the Diocesan Youth Conference in our diocese, and it changed my life. The theme that year was chosen, centered on how God chose us to life out His plans, and how no one was put on this earth without a purpose. A perfect remedy for what I had been going through.

Again, I started despairing, this time feeling unloved. Steubenville Atlanta was our next conference, themed Limitless. It taught me that God’s love is always present, and full beyond comprehension.

Finally, the most impactful week of my life was when the youth group went to Life Teen Camp in Georgia last summer. Every day I felt myself grow closer to God through His scriptures, prayer, and the people around me.

Though I still go through periods of despair, loneliness, and confusion, God always brings me back to Him under new, more radiant light.

And that’s why it’s worth the sacrifice.

What do you do to help your teens grow in faith? How do you try to help them not lose faith in a world that pulls them away from the Church?

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