youth worker conference, refuel retreat

I Got Refueled

By Andy Lawrenson September 3, 2014

I’m a 22-year youth ministry vet. I have been to many youth ministry conference, conventions, and training seminars. I have seen the big and the small ones—the local, statewide, regional, and national events. Every time I attended one, I gained some bit of insight, some nugget of wisdom for ministering to students. Only a few were duds.

Same old, same old

Yet after awhile, the breakout sessions started repeating themselves: small groups, teaching students, budgeting, scheduling and planning, recruiting, your relationship with the senior pastor, winning the deacons over to your side. I found myself at a national convention enjoying the corporate worship times but struggling to find breakout sessions that weren’t repeats. I wanted to learn something new and fresh, but all I could find were the same, stale topics.

One day while watching the DYM Podcast, the hosts mentioned Refuel Retreats. I was captivated by the name. After 22 years of youth ministry, I needed to refuel. After years and years of planning retreats for students, I had never actually taken a retreat, myself! I longed to be refreshed, to focus on my personal walk with God.

Something different; something fresh

I researched the Refuel Retreat site and discovered the Pawley’s Island retreat—just a six-hour drive from home. I registered right away.

Once I arrived, I quickly discovered that Refuel was different from those other conferences and seminars. Instead of focusing on ministering to students, the content and time were focused on me, the youth minister. In each session, I couldn’t stop taking notes—the content was new, fresh, and valuable.


I discovered my core values and evaluated them against the values of my church. I began to see why I excelled in some areas and why others were a struggle. This was remarkably beneficial. No one wants to be frustrated in their ministry and not know why. Now I can pinpoint the sources of my frustrations because I know my core values.


The final part of the Retreat focused on where I was going and what I would face over the next year. We all go though tough times and struggles. I was able to think through those tough times—the things I don’t enjoy about ministry, the changes I would face—and imagine how God would use them. I also spent time thinking about the disciplines I need and the changes I need to make in myself to confront those issues.


I also enjoyed sitting at a round table with three other youth workers and working through the exercises together. I learned from those guys, they encouraged me, and they helped put things in perspective—a couple times I was reminded of how good I have it at my church.


My wife and I have three young children who we hadn’t been away from in five years, and we needed a break. Refuel was the perfect solution. My wife relaxed and shopped and napped. We got to sleep in. The schedule gave us times to relax and enjoy the area. And after the retreat was over, we scheduled an extra day at Pawley’s Island just to hang out together. Refuel wasn’t just one extra stress on my schedule. It actually gave my wife and me time away together to de-stress and recoup.

Part of my life

I’m sold on Refuel Retreats because it helped make me a better pastor to students. I can’t lead or minister if I’m not where I need to be in my relationship with God, if I’m not where I need to be as a leader. I can’t lead others in ministry if I’m not leading as I should be in my home. I hope to make Refuel Retreats a regular part of my life. I’m already looking at future retreats (Keystone, Colorado is looking pretty good). Having attended at least one conference or seminar every year of my 22 years in ministry, I can safely say that Refuel Retreat is at the top. From the big events to the small, Refuel has meant the most in my life and ministry.

About the Author

Andy Lawrenson

Andy Lawrenson has been in student ministry for 26 years both as a volunteer and paid staff member.  Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about…  Read More