Back Students go north for annual Winter Retreat
December 2nd, 2011
Who doesn't love a good, long, relaxing pre-break break before the real break?
The weekend before students took time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, more than 300 Brentwood Baptist and Station Hill seventh through twelfth graders (including leaders) traveled to Jonathan Creek Camp in Hardin, Kentucky—the Land Between the Lakes—for the Student Winter Retreat.
This annual event stands by its namesake. It's a retreat from life for students struggling to stay afloat in the midst of jam-packed semesters, unruly schedules, and overwhelming exams. And this year's theme steered them back toward the basics—"The Message of the Cross"—based on 1 Corinthians 1:18.
According to Linc Taylor, Brentwood Baptist Student Minister, many students who claim to be Christ-followers are still living as though they're condemned, which is why this year's message was crucial to convey.
"I've had countless conversations expressing this," Linc said. "Students feel weighted, bogged down in their forward progress toward embracing life to the fullest. I believe this is one of the reasons they often only celebrate the things they didn't do instead of living in the unimaginable joy that freedom in Christ brings."
Before the retreat, Linc prepped the leaders attending for what was to come, saying, "Many of us know the foundational truths of the gospel, but we may not truly grasp the full measure of an altered nature. When we come to faith in Christ, we have a new identity and literally pass from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. It's a pretty deep truth for our students—and many of them are more than ready to grasp it."
Surrounding this central theme throughout the weekend, the students participated in activities, games, small group Bible study, and worship. Worship was led by Chris White, former student minister and founder of Mobilizing Students, and Chad Childress, Team Leader for Missionary Mobilization with the North American Missions Board, took the stage as guest speaker.
Chad led the students through principles found in Romans—how to engage sin, respond to grace, and view themselves in light of sin when grace covers it.
He said, "They don't have to be slaves to that any longer. This message is important for students simply because of their stage of life. They have so much potential that's not been called out. Calling them out and raising the standard for them is critical."
Chris White, who's passion is creating authentic worship encounters with God and opportunities for students to take the gospel internationally, led the students in worship all three days—featuring a unique prayer experience on Saturday night.
"My goal was to help students encounter the Lord in a real way—not in a religious way," Chris said. "We've got enough religion in the south. Religion kills. Jesus sets people free. I wanted to take the luster off of what it means to be in the worship moment. It's not about the band. It's not about your favorite song or style. It has everything to do with the presence of God. We have the appearance of an awesome setting, but so many students walk away not having experienced God's presence or power. That only comes when hearts are humbled before Him. I tried to peel all that back and make it as authentic as possible so these students could feel the freedom to let their guards down, be themselves, and really worship."
Small group Bible study broke out all over the camp grounds in scheduled sessions. And leaders didn't just consist of parents and adult volunteers—some former students returned from college to teach and discuss.
Evan Kunz, a freshman at Union University and long-time member of Brentwood Baptist, led a group of seventh graders.
"I came back to lead because I really love what the Brentwood Baptist Student Ministry does every year and I love their passion. I wanted to be able to give back to it, and encourage and uplift students who are here now."
Another former student, David Morris, who's a freshman at Columbia State University, leads a LIFE Group of seventh grade guys during the school year and followed them to camp.
"The LIFE Group has opened my eyes and given me a heart for middle schoolers," he said. "This was a chance for me to experience camp with them—something I always came to as a student."
Clay Huddleston, a freshman at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, graduated in May and didn't get involved in the Student Ministry until the end of his senior year.
"When I finally started going, I realized I'd missed out because it's not every day there's a Student Ministry like this that gears students so much toward worship and God," he said. "I fell in love with the ministry and my friends there. I wanted to come back, not to replay what I'd missed, but to try and help people see what I saw."
Current students like high school senior Derek Cressman came for the community he's developed within the ministry over the last seven years. According to him, God has been teaching him about the importance of biblical community and accountability with his friends at church this year—and camp rounded it out. He said, "You can't live the Christian life by yourself. We're better together."
On Saturday, many of the students formed teams and participated in the traditional boys-versus-boys and girls-versus-girls Brentwood Bowl. The massive event featured junior high and high school teams with names like: Team Lethal, D.O.R.K. (aka Daughters of the Risen King), Sparkly Unicorns, The Flock, and others. In the end, this year's trophies went to The Disciples (the girls) and Team Carol (the guys).
Those who didn't participate in the football mania played sand volleyball and basketball, walked the campgrounds, and huddled inside the Wilderness Cafe for card and board games while enjoying snacks and caffeinated goodness.
The Winter Retreat is like killing two birds with one stone for most students. They get to hang out with their friends and learn about who God is at the same time. For ninth-grader Kirby Bennett, this is her favorite Student Ministry event of the year.
"It's right in the middle of the school year and I can just get away and focus on the important stuff in life," she said. "I can get so caught up in school and friends and stress. This is a weekend for me to bond with my LIFE Group friends and hear from God. This year, He taught me to trust Him with whatever happens. He's Lord of everything in my life anyway, so my future and life is in His hands."
The retreat will remain faithful to do its job for the students year after year—giving them a place to escape, develop new and current friendships, have fun in community, and spend time with God. Linc said, "We take full advantage of this to place the truths of God right in front of their faces—and then challenge them to respond."
Story by Kaylan Christopher, Staff Writer