By Rev. Alvin Lau, Youth Ministries Associate, CBOQ
Once again, Avalanche (CBOQ Youth’s Jr. High Retreat) and Blizzard (High School Retreat) morphed into something different than originally intended. While we hoped to host a hybrid retreat at Muskoka Woods with other groups joining via satellite, we became a fully-streamed experience (due to changes in provincial mandates). Some groups were able to gather in-person; others gathered solely online. Many of our own retreat team gathered at Compass Community Church to stream our sessions and team activities.
Three potentially transferable lessons I learned in this that perhaps may be suitable for your ministry context:
- We need to be adaptable. Although our original plans may not succeed, God continues before us. James 4:15 reminds us to hold those plans before God and his will. If/when they do change, we need to go before God to see what (out-of-the-box) changes he’s inviting us towards.
- Recorded content can be repurposed. Our Avalanche and Blizzard 2021 and 2022 retreats are repackaged into a DIY retreat kit. Youth groups can use the materials (speaker messages, worship videos, recreation activities, etc.) at their own weekend retreat or within their youth ministry program. You can also repurpose your current content for others to access more easily. (Check out Pro Church Tool’s podcast on this: https://prochurchtools.com/pcp173/.)
- We can use other ministry content to extend our theme. Our theme challenged youth to consider their story in God’s story, and to invite others into his story. Alpha’s newly released series “Life on Purpose” (https://alphacanada.org/lifeonpurpose/) furthers this challenge beyond our retreats.
As we were preparing and streaming our retreats, I did wonder what impact these retreats would have. Many groups shared it was hard to run an online retreat. Would we make a difference? I was deeply encouraged by an email just after Blizzard ended from a youth leader whose group participated. Here’s an excerpt: “I am so glad you looked for other ways for us to encourage our teens when they have been feeling disempowered. Know that God is using all of you and that you have blessed us. Many Thanks!”
All glory ultimately goes to God and his transformative work. I am grateful for moments when I can see these opportunities do make a difference. So let us press forward in whatever ways we can in extending our Saviour’s love and grace to those around us.
Watch Highlights from this year’s Avalanche and Blizzard: