I recently returned from an opportunity to serve with our brothers and sisters in the CBAC (Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada). Along with my fellow CBOQ team, Chantelle Garvin and Gordon Nichols, we served at their annual Youth Conference, Springforth in Moncton, NB.

This conference brings students from across Atlantic Canada to two sites. High School students meet at Crandall University, while Middle School students meet at Moncton Wesleyan Church. The conference begins on Friday evening and wraps up Saturday late afternoon. This years theme was UN1TE – “Jesus is calling us to UN1TE with Him in the neighbourhoods in which we work, live and play.”

Interns serving at Springforth begin meeting Thursday at 1:00 pm. Significant time is spent on leadership development. Prior to attending the interns utilize Youth Unlimited’s “Launch Program” – a leadership development tool. It requires the interns to do a self assessment on leadership and spiritual giftedness. Then they invite three others to complete the assessment for them after which a report is generated. Unfortunately some of the interns had a difficult time finding 3 people who knew them well enough to complete the assessment. This highlighted to me the need for churches to embrace a mentoring model, and to provide intergenerational opportunities to serve together, as we pour into the lives of young leaders.

During this leadership development time, Dan Pyke, the Intern co-ordinator, led a series of devotions looking at various biblical leaders, specifically considering when and where they succeeded and failed. Interns were then divided into which of the 2 sites they would be serving at. It was great to see the willingness of these young leaders to serve where best needed and their flexibility when a situation arose.

Friday morning was spent on running through the schedule, test running wide games, assigning specific tasks at each venue and other AGR (administrative and guest relations) type prep, followed by a time of prayer. By the afternoon the Jr. High team left to set up their site.

On Friday night the action begins as students start pouring in. I was at the Sr. High site, where Crosspoint lead with worship. Then the speaker, Dave Sylvain, challenged the students on the need to understand the heart of God, as we UN1TE with Him in our communities. This was followed with a time for students to come up and pray with a member of the prayer team. I had the privilege of serving on this team; it was so encouraging to see so many youth desiring to seek out God’s heart for themselves and others.

Friday evening continues with students having snacks then choosing either to go to an area equipped with several board games, or to go to the gym and participate in a “Showcase Showdown” (a modern twist on old TV Game shows). Interns are assisted in crowd control, giving directions and ensuring all supplies are available, from a team of volunteers. They arrive from the various churches on Friday night to lend a hand and were provided with bright orange t-shirts to distinguish them in the crowd.

While students are at their snack and game time, leaders attend their own session called “Leaders Track”. It begins with information on CBAC plans and activities, but they also have their own guest speaker to pour into the lives of the leaders. CBOQ’s Tim McCoy was one of these speakers. On Friday evening Erin Jackman, spoke on the need to set a spiritual rhythm- one you can actually do! She then lead us in some spiritual disciplines as she encouraged leaders to pour into themselves as they pour into the lives of the youth. Every leader was given a “gift” pack that included books and info on upcoming events. There were also prizes; t-shirts given to a few who told an exciting story about their Youth ministry.

Unlike CBOQ’s Avalanche and Blizzard retreats, the students do not stay onsite for meals or sleeping, allowing the interns a chance to prepare for what is coming up next and to have a bit of a break before the next day.

Saturday I was at the Jr. High site. There was a carnival atmosphere as you enter the Atrium. It is filled with inflatable jumping castle and runs, a photo both, a snack area, and music pumping throughout the atrium, all awesome for a Jr. High site.

Worship was led by Kings music. Matt Deprez lead the 2 rallies on Saturday. He discussed the difference between accepting God’s grace and trying to do stuff to please God. He concluded with the example of Nehemiah, and how the people were afraid to move back into Jerusalem with the walls down, how they could not get over their past mistakes or hurts. He then challenged the students to consider what they cannot get over and used a very effective visual. He had 1600 blocks of wood, students were asked to write on these blocks the things in their past that need to be healed, things that have them feeling broken. They were then assembled into a wall. What an image at the end. Seeing all the hurt and brokenness, at such young ages. But now the students had a visual image of how God can heal and rebuild us.

After each rally the students would go to either time in the atrium or D-Zone, where students unpacked in smaller groups what they heard in the rally. After 40 mins, teams would switch.

One amazing feature of both sites was the willingness of students to help others who are serving. CBAC have partnered with CBM and are sending a team to Kamp Tumaini in Kenya. They took up an offering and raised over $4000 for this team.

Throughout the event there were several items that caught my attention and I thought that perhaps we could consider for Avalanche and Blizzard. The first thing was in how they spilt into smaller groups. Each wrist band had another colour dot added to signify a group within a team. Second, both sites had a bookstore featuring Bibles, devotionals, t-shirts, posters, CDs and other items. Third was their t-shirt launchers! They were fun to use! Springforth also has a prize draw with ballots being issued. Students had to participate in an activity, answer a question, or help someone out to receive a ballot. It was also fun that an intern became the ballot box, with students trying to find them to deposit their ballots. For Avalanche & Blizzard perhaps Team Captains and Slingshots could have ballots and hand out to students doing something special – for example at meal those who clean their tables well get a ballot. And speaking of prizes, we may need to rethink our candy trunk – aside from the usual hoodie Springforth students had a chance to win Bluetooth headphones, earbuds and a DRONE!

Serving along side fellow believers is always a great thing. It can also bring about great change. While we were serving at Springforth we learned that after almost 40 years, this was the last year Springforth would be held. Next year CBAC is partnering with the Wesleyan denomination to host the “One Conference” – where 4000 students will gather for an interdenominational youth conference at the Moncton Coliseum. They are very excited about serving together, and it is my hope that CBOQ can again serve within this wider partnership.

Thank you CBOQ for the opportunity to serve.

Rev. Jim Alford, Pastor of Youth & Community, Whitby Baptist Church

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10