by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor to Youth and Young Adults
1One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2and he began to teach them. – Matthew 5:1-2
FROZEN FOR GOD
This month I get the amazing blessing of taking Middle School, High School, and Young Adults to winter camps/retreats. Yes, I get the joy of standing in the freezing cold waiting for mystery meat for dinner, sleeping in a smelly cold cabin (middle school boy cabins should require hazmat suits), and shaking in my boots hoping I don’t get frost bite. Okay it’s not that bad except for the middle school boys’ cabins and the fact that it’s seriously cold. I could go on and on about how cold it is, but the truth is these experiences are fun, filled with truth, build community, and give students opportunities. When Jesus went to the mount with his disciples I’m sure it wasn’t the most pleasant of environment, they are on a mountain, but Jesus utilizes this opportunity away from everything to pour truth into his disciples, help them realize the value of community, and give them an opportunity to respond. Sometimes we need to “Freeze the Faith” by creating spiritual experiences away from life in order to deepen our commitments to Christ aka camps, conferences, retreats.
Camps and retreats provide a chance for youth, young adults, and adults to hear the Gospel truth in a different way than they probably have before. Normally we sit in church with our phones strapped to us like the next greatest natural disaster is about to happen, prepped to respond at a moment’s notice. At camps and retreats we escape the distractions of technology and life to encounter God. Speakers share their personal stories, counselors share with students, questions are encouraged, and, most importantly, the Gospel is presented. The unfamiliar environment, the change of community, and the shift in the Gospel presentation makes us more conscious of the message presented to us. It’s why after hearing the truth presented many times over in church services in a similar fashion, it can become stale and why at camps and retreats people suddenly feel called to respond to the same message they heard at church.
“Don’t tell me you can’t hear from God, when your book (Bible) is closed.”- Bryant Garcia
There is nothing like getting together with some of your closest friends and spending a weekend away. It’s just different than going out to lunch or hanging out for an hour or too. Your spending 36 waking hours at a weekend retreat with individuals whom you can’t escape, at some point those walls, yes you know the ones you have built up over your lifetime, will disintegrate and you will begin to be vulnerable with those you know and those you just met for the first time. It is after the service when questions are asked, and conversations happen. It’s walking from the cabins to the mess hall or standing in line waiting for food or late at night around a campfire. To add on to that, there are camp/retreat leaders investing into you. One of the things I love about camp/retreats is that I’m encountering people who I might not normally associate with. I am sitting across from individuals who have different backgrounds, like different things, have different political views, watch shows I would never watch and do things I have no interest in but for some reason we have been able to connect with.
“I’ve been asking God for a community and what I realized today that this is my community.” – A student at the end of Winter Camp
Camps/retreats provide an opportunity for us to make time for God, to reboot, develop spiritual habits, and make commitments to God. We are not bound by a schedule or to do list. We are free to open ourselves up to what God is saying to us and respond likewise. This last month we had three students give their lives to Christ and over 10 other students recommit their lives to Christ. Praise God! I don’t know whether these students would have responded the same outside of these experiences. What I do know is that each of these students need to put a pause on life (aka Freeze the Faith) and experience God without the distractions. When Jesus took the disciples away to be with him on the mountain it was an experience unlike any other and they were different because of it. Spiritual experiences cultivate commitments for Christ. What are you willing to experience?
Practically Speaking | How might we Invest Well?
- Recognize the need for devoted time with God away from the chaos of life
- Create space in your calendar each year for at least one camp/retreat
- Pray about how you might surrender your calendar and time over to God
- Sign up for a camp/retreat.
Covenant Camps/Retreats- http://pswc.org/
Mission Springs Camps- https://www.missionsprings.com/