We know that God is greater, but how much greater? That’s a question that many people wonder about God, but in the last few days I got a new appreciation for the true greatness of God.
I just got back from Springforth – an evangelistic retreat hosted by the Youth and Family department of the CABC (Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches) in Moncton, New Brunswick. This event is held at 2 locations: the high school students gather at Crandall University and the jr. high students met at Moncton Wesleyan Church. This year each site hosted roughly 700 students from across the Atlantic provinces – plus their leaders.
I had the privilege of being sent there by CBOQ Youth along with two young adults (Chris Caughill and Thomas Burnell) to help in their leadership development, and to serve alongside a group as the intern leader for the middle school (jr. high) site. This past February I served as the Slingshot (our “intern” program) Supervisor for one weekend of Blizzard (our high school retreat) so I was curious to see what the differences would be between the way we did things and the way that they were done in the Maritimes.
We arrived in Moncton around 1:40am Thursday morning and were greeted at the airport by Chris Quek, professor at Crandall University and Intern Coordinator for Springforth. The theme for the retreat this year was “Greater” and Chris had sent out some excellent devotional materials which really challenged the interns to recognize that God is much greater than we often think:
- God is not just Omnipotent (all powerful) – God created all powers – without Him even the very concept of power does not exist.
- God is not just Omnipresent (everywhere at all times) – God created time and space – He is completely beyond their limitations.
- God is not just Omniscient (knows all things) – God is the author of all knowledge and wisdom – there is nothing of which God does not have intimate and complete knowledge of
We had nearly a day of training as interns with two sessions on Thursday and then one on Friday morning to go over the schedule and to help us unpack the significance of the greatness of God and the way that should impact how we live. We learned that God is greater than our:
- sin, fear, insecurities and weaknesses, inabilities and abilities, hurts, failures, and victories, past, present and future, prejudices, likes and dislikes, desires, dreams and aspirations, passions, hobbies and entertainment, toys and gadgets
It was a reminder that Christian leadership is servant leadership that gets its power and ability from reliance on God and that we can be confident in God because He lifts up and empowers us so that we can lift up, build up, delegate and empower others. This fresh perspective on the greatness of God also helped us to see that God is greater than all of our problems so we can feel confident in trusting Him with them. This does not mean that our problems will be solved the way that we want them to be solved, but we can trust that God cares about them so we do not need to worry or be stressed by them. Of all that I expected to learn about serving at Springforth, I was surprised by how much those sessions really moved me and helped me realize that I could go much deeper with the teaching I provide to others.
Friday afternoon we went to our site and got busy getting ready. The layout at the middle school site was pretty cool. The church has a huge atrium where they set up 3 large playsets – a bouncy castle and two huge inflated courses for racing. The team also had a sound system for a “radio show” hosted by a local camp that played music and ran different events between sessions. In the atrium we also set up a “photo booth” – a place with costume items where students could get their picture taken and we also had a table with information about the CBM mission that was being supported – Kamp Tumaini.
We worked all afternoon, setting up the atrium, the room for the leaders conference and the discussion rooms which they called D-Zones. When the doors opened Friday at 7pm, the music was pumping, and the DJ welcomed the huge rush of people that came pouring in. It was fantastic!
The retreat was divided up into times of hanging out in the atrium (often at snack time), D-Zones, and Rally – their times of worship and learning led by speaker Randy Carter and band Sky Terminal. The church groups were divided up into two colour groups – blue and orange – so that half could be in D-Zones while the other half was in the atrium, but both groups came together for the Rally time.
The students were drawn into taking part by giving them ballots for the atrium events that were later be drawn for nice things like exclusive Springforth sweatshirts. I thought it was pretty creative that they dressed up Thomas and used him as a human ballot box; the students had to find him to get their ballots submitted. Chris served alongside the volunteer coordinator helping to keep the atrium clean which was a busy job when the students were given snacks. I helped by running the band “merch” table when the band was not there and also by doing some crowd control when the students were transitioning between snack and discussion times (during D-Zone the leaders had a separate leaders conference).
On Saturday they set some small tents on stage and an offering was taken by having everyone come up and throw their money into the tents. We had a couple of interns at each tent to supervise the offering and to take the tents out after the offering was taken.
The event itself ran Friday night and Saturday but all of the students and leaders did not stay at the site; they were either billeted or stayed in local hotels. We also got a welcome break on Saturday as they sent everyone out of the building for 2 hours to find a place to eat lunch. Unfortunately we had to head out to the airport before the event ended but it was a great opportunity to meet and serve alongside our brothers and sisters from the Maritimes.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to do some leadership development with Chris and Thomas, to meet some of our sisters and brothers in Atlantic Canada and to see Springforth first-hand by serving there. I was honoured to be able to represent CBOQ Youth, to serve God there and to see Him at work in the lives of so many young people and in the hearts of the 9 interns and many volunteers that made this amazing event possible.
I am still processing what parts are unique to the Atlantic provinces and what might be transferable back home. I thought it was interesting that students were broken up and billeted elsewhere and that they were sent out to find their own lunch on Saturday. We are blessed to have Muskoka Woods as our retreat location and I value us staying together for the entire time at Blizzard, but each place does things in a unique way.
It was also interesting that they had a separate leaders conference while the students had their D-Zone time and I wondered if that was something we could incorporate. I also thought that the extra time that they spent training interns was really valuable and meaningful but I also recognize that involves a sacrifice of extra time and that their event has the advantage of taking place when students are finished college. The Springforth team really seemed to tap into the college crowd well for interns and I wonder if we could do a better job of that as well.
One of the other aspects of Springforth is that both levels – jr. and sr. high student groups – traveled at the same time. This means that leaders that cover both levels do not have to take two trips, as is the case for some that attend Avalanche and Blizzard. The time of year also means that they do not have to be concerned about snow ruining their plans – well, not usually, but it IS Atlantic Canada so I suppose it could happen. 🙂 That being said, it’s a LOT of fun to do the snow activities that we get to enjoy at Avalanche and Blizzard!
Thank you to CBOQ Youth for the privilege of serving. I am extremely grateful and would love to one day reconnect with the new friends I made in the Maritimes.
God is greater,
Carl Walters, Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries, First Baptist Church-Tillsonburg