By Rachel Scribner
At Twin Rocks Friends Camp in Rockaway Beach, Ore., late January brought a rare weekend of sunshine, a fitting welcome for the bright smiles of around 40 Oregon Pathfinder teens and their adult ministry partners. The group gathered on the coast to welcome a new cohort of young leaders, and to continue the decades-long tradition of mentoring in ministry though the Teen Leadership Training program, or “TLT” for short.
The 2023 Oregon Pathfinder TLT Convention was held January 27-29 with about 75 teens and staff present. A dozen Master TLTs, as the program graduates are called, attended the convention and shared stories and encouragement with the new initiates. TLTs typically gather twice a year, but due to pandemic disruptions, this was the first solo convention since January 2020, and energy was high.
The weekend began with a Friday evening meeting centered on worship and vision, as program coordinator Rachel Scribner shared inspiration for TLTs and staff alike. During the session, the entire group of Master TLTs took to the stage and answered questions from the audience.
The Master TLTs explained that the TLT program focuses on mentoring high-school-age Pathfinders through the transition from club participation to leadership in Pathfinders, and that by the time they graduate from the four-year-program, young people are fully prepared to lead clubs of their own.
Scribner encouraged the TLTs to get to know their conference leadership, especially Oregon Conference Pathfinder Director Daniel Ortega, explaining that one of the program’s main goals is connecting teens with established leaders, and guiding conference leadership toward new talents they can mentor.
The program graduates urged teens to pay close attention to each area of leadership they would experience in the program, and to watch for things they felt passionate about. “The reason I plan these weekends is because TLT helped me,” Scribner said, adding: “The job I have now, I got because I discovered my passion when I was in the TLT program.”
During the remainder of the weekend, TLTs attended workshops on various areas of leadership as the staff members attended special mentor training classes. Then, on Sabbath afternoon, the Master TLTs welcomed the newest leaders to the program with a special induction ceremony. Current TLTs saluted as the inductees marched in to receive their bi-colored shoulder cords. “Red is for the blood of Jesus, and black is for the trials of leadership,” Scribner explained.
After receiving their cords, the young leaders all joined in repeating the TLT pledge “Loving the Lord Jesus, I promise to take an active part in the work of the Teen Leadership Training program, doing what I can to help others and to finish the work of the gospel in all the world.”
Four teens who had completed the TLT program were invested as new Master TLTs during the ceremony. Their mentors shared stories of their journeys together, as the honorees were invited to continue in leadership with the program.
After the ceremony, TLTs took photos outside to commemorate the occasion and made new connections during games of Saturday night basketball, and a moonlit walk on the beach. One Pathfinder club asked for a photo of their small group of five or so people alongside Ortega and other TLT program organizers. “This is our before and after,” a club staff member said. “Next year we will have many more.”
On Sunday morning, before teens sat down with their mentors to make a plan for the next half-year of training, Ortega addressed the group. He shared lessons from Paul’s letter to Timothy, encouraging teens to “let no one despise your youth” and to “stir up the gift that is in you.” He encouraged the TLTs not to neglect their talent stating that “this group is special.”
As the weekend concluded, TLTs and staff alike shared hopes and dreams for the future including more frequent gatherings, mission trips and social events, better online connection between clubs, and expanded opportunities during training weekends. As the TLTs opened the door of the meeting hall to head home, the bright sunlight streamed in, illuminating a generation of young leaders, and their dedicated mentors.
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