Last April, Student Ministries from churches across the Citylight Family came together for the first Student Retreat held at Camp Rivercrest outside of Omaha. Students, leaders and volunteers from seven churches (Fort Collins, Bennington, South Lincoln, Council Bluffs, West Council Bluffs, Omaha Midtown, Omaha West) gathered for worship, large group sessions, small group discipleship and tons of fun activities and games. Leaders from each ministry met over the course of six months to plan, dream, pray, and share gifts and resources to make this happen. As a Family we celebrate God and His faithfulness as He continues to draw His people to Him and to His Body.
Billy Berglund, Omaha West Student Director, looked back at all the planning and the event itself and shared what he’s celebrating and what God revealed to him through the entire process.
“It’s a huge win when you have a collective group singing, praising and worshiping together,” Billy exclaimed. “The event was a powerful and tangible way for students to see they are not alone, even within their own churches, but also across the city. Students got to see other students from other cities and churches who love Jesus and that was powerful. The teaching sessions were practical and covered topics such as identity and worth, where they put their hope and how they can live when they go back to their home and school. Our entire team’s hope was to have each youth group have a part in it and to share the load. Doing this together for the first time had a few challenges but the fun outweighed it all and to do this with all the different groups was amazing. We realized that no matter how big or small you are, we were all part of the family. One family.”
Billy went on to say that as a leader “you weigh the cost every time. Sure, its seem easier to do your own group and event, and there’s good space and time for that, but it’s also really great for students and volunteers and leaders to see the Body of Christ in different expressions and to see that God is on the move. Any cost there was for this retreat was all worth it. This generation likes to be a part of something so when you provide that space, and to collaborate with others, it can be very effective. You know, some speak poorly of this generation because of their circumstance, but I’ve seen all year and at this event how God is uniquely working in them. These students are articulate and the retreat was a real planting of seeds.”
A retreat can be an opportunity for students and leaders to get away and unplug and for relationships to deepen. Students hear ideas and concepts in a different setting, from a different person, in and around other people, and all this can be powerful. At the retreat, lead pastors from two churches within the Citylight Family gave their time by speaking at the large sessions. Having the support from lead pastors was a huge win.
Vaughan Perez, Bennington Student Director, shared that the whole process and event was fun and he hopes a continuation has begun with an annual Family student retreat.
“This is my first retreat with our students,” Vaughan shared. “All the ministry teams were able to work alongside one another, share resources and being a small youth group with limited resources, this was so helpful. I’m now asking “how can we do this together again?”
Vaughan also shared that he has seen growth and fruit since the retreat. He described one student who came to him during the retreat one morning to pray, “I got to share some verses with one student from our group and challenged him to memorize it and we prayed together. I could tell the Holy Spirit was moving. Since then, I have seen the Lord is shaping his heart and he’s really growing.”
Encouragement for Student Ministry Leaders
Both Billy and Vaughan offered wisdom and encouragement to student leaders. Billy suggested the following to leaders:
“You can’t do everything. Find opportunities to collaborate and work with others in your ministry. That can also look like getting coffee with someone. Anytime you collaborate, you learn. You both learn and grow no matter the age and time in ministry. You can watch and learn and grow from one another. Youth ministry can sometimes feel lonely and discouraging. For us at West Omaha we have a team here, but broadly not every church has a team. Any time you can create a collaboration is a win. Your volunteers will also get life out of it too. There is energy in collaboration.”
“Fall in the love with the process,” Vaughan said with a smile. “You are called to plant seeds. It’s not up to you for students to grow in the Holy Spirit. Trust in the Lord and be faithful in planting seeds. I have to remind myself that it’s a long game. Always be focused and be faithful to the calling. I have appreciated perseverance and that we are not alone. We are part of the same team and we each are pouring into the next generation. The Lord is always with us. Surround yourself with other leaders that will remind you of this truth.”