By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell*
Lake Junaluska, NC – Looking to rejuvenate, recalibrate and unplug your young people this summer? Then head to Lake Junaluska Surge Youth Events, set for June 13 – July 21 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center at Lake Junaluska, NC.
Steeped in history as the summer place for spiritual renewal, learning and fellowship for youth, Lake Junaluska’s Youth Events has returned to its roots this season with great speakers, new praise bands, and more opportunities for training and mission work than ever before, just in time to celebrate the Lake’s 100th anniversary. Events are for rising 6th through 12 graders.
This year’s theme “Come to the Water” is an invitation to “all who are thirsty . . .” a reference to Isaiah 55, said Jennifer Martin, interim director of program ministries at Lake Junaluska, whose own family connection to the Lake goes back four generations.
“This is holy ground for a lot of people,” Martin said. “They have an opportunity to renew soul and spirit here. It offers that mountain top experience people seek.”
As interim director of program ministries, Martin has returned to the position she once had, committed to keeping the summer youth series a “must go” destination for youth looking for spiritual development. She has opened the series back up to high school students, added additional sessions with speakers and worship leaders, added more mission opportunities, and created worship services that promise to be participatory and multisensory.
There are ten events, running from June 13-July 21. Each event will feature a morning and afternoon assembly led by summer staff and guest speakers, all of whom have ties to the Lake. Each assembly will be followed by workshops on discipleship skills, spiritual growth and leadership opportunities. Mission components are also available, even during downtime, Martin said.
Downtime? Absolutely. Kids can’t come to the mountains without trying some of our great outdoor activities, such as whitewater rafting, ziplining, hiking, canoeing, paddle boats, swimming and tennis. Or, maybe a gentle, scenic walk around the lake is all they want. They may want a quick visit to Historic downtown Waynesville –minutes away – to shop, or just to see small-town living at its best. (Pssst. There is fabulous candy store and chocolate store in town.)
But back to the Lake. So who are the speakers and worship leaders for this summer’s Youth Events? Martin has known many of them from her work and theirs at Lake Junaluska years ago. “A lot of them grew up in the ministry. Many of them are now pastors and youth leaders themselves,” Martin said. “Chris [Hughes] and I worked together for a number of years. He’s responsible for a lot of the model we’re using now.”
In addition to Hughes, other speakers on the agenda include Brandon Taylor, Lisa Yebuah, Celia Whitler, Brad Butler, Andy Lambert, Tiffany Knowlin, Duffy Robbins and Tim Reaves.
To help manage the summer youth events, Martin has hired a team of eight people, mostly college students, who also have connections to the Lake. “Amanda Earnest is a preacher’s kid from Tennessee who now is a missionary in Uganda,” Martin said. “She grew up in the Lake Junaluska ministry, working on summer staff and running the youth program in 2002 as a college student.
“It’s really a team effort,” Martin added. “The college students are doing all of the behind-the-scenes work – planning the small group, doing the workshops, coordinating with the youth leaders. They’re the glue. It’s really a great leadership opportunity for them. A lot of them go into full-time ministry, not because of their Lake Junaluska experience, but because it helped cultivate that which was already in them.”
To find out more about a great summer experience of spiritual renewal at Lake Junaluska, or how to register for Lake Junaluska Summer Youth Events, please visit www.lakejunaluska.com/youth or call at 800.222.4930.
* Melanie Threlkeld McConnell is a freelance writer, former AP newswoman, editor and media consultant based in Waynesville, NC.