I’ll take that to go!

carry out GEA couple days ago, I had the opportunity to attend the “Carry Out GODencounters” training seminar in Orlando. Not being a native of Florida, but having heard about GODencounters, I was curious to know what the big deal was about.

Here’s a brief report for those of you who may have wanted to be there, but couldn’t make it.

I found out that GODencounters began as the young adult division of the Florida conference campmeeting.

circa 2002

Seven years ago, the young adult attendance had dwindled to a few people meeting in the backroom of a church. Sensing that God wanted to do much more, concerned young adults and their ministry leaders gathered to pray and plan.

As you can see from the recent blog posts, things have changed dramatically since then!

circa 2008

What began in Florida has started to catch on in other places. Since its inception, similar retreats have been held in other regions. This summer, the young adult division of several conferences have organized gatherings styled after the GODencounters in Florida.

So what does it take to plan, organize, and execute a GODencounters event, or similar type ministry to young adults?

Obviously, I can’t recount the whole day, nor will I assume that the same people/resources and potential attendees are available everywhere.

Here, however, are few points that I took home, and that I think could be applied to a variety of ministry settings, especially those seeking to reach/involve young adults.

prayer1. Content/theology drives method. GODencounters involved more than finding a worship band, flying in an effective speaker, and stringing up some lights. The seven year cycle devoted to specific themes was very well thought out and systematically covered some of the major themes of the Bible. The presenters/music/videos etc. were selected with the intent of effectively communicating the specific theme and helping participants experience it.

Familiar themes (or perhaps not so familiar!) like worship, gospel, grace, prayer, Sabbath, sanctification, and celebration formed the theological loci of these gatherings and were combined in fresh ways with other lesser known ones (at least in Adventism)–the present kingdom of God, spiritual disciplines, i.e. some of the ancient practices of the early Christian church, and social justice–forming a relevant and rich spiritual cocktail.

team2. It takes a team. GODencounters took more than one or two people making phone calls. There was a team of people praying, planning, and executing together. We heard presentations from the graphic designer behind the PR, the team in charge of “staging” and the café, and those who organized the prayer room. In other words, GODencounters was not a one person show.

3. Details matter. I was surprised at the level of thought and care that went into things like the look and feel of the advertising, creating an ambiance, and having an up-to-date and relevant literature table. This makes sense though, at least if you’re trying to reach young adults, as that at least that much time and effort has gone behind designing and marketing popular non-spiritual items, events, venues, etc. in the real world.

dee4. Resources are available. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Information/resources are available and those that have gone before are eager and willing to share and help. For example, I found out that the graphic designer for the original GODencounters is willing let others use the graphics he’s designed. I also met the couple that was in charge of staging/decorating (who, by the way, are professional interior designers); they were packing things up and heading up to Georgia-Cumberland to help them organize the first GODencounters there.

Overall, I really appreciated the time and effort of the presenters the time to share their experiences and their consistency over the past seven years.

It’s exciting to see what the God has done in Florida, what’s happening there and in other places today, and the exciting future that lies ahead!

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4 Responses to I’ll take that to go!

  1. Randy says:

    Zane,

    Greetings from SAU & GODencounters. It was nice to meet you in person at the GE Carry Out. As a GE veteran I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to attend and get more information. From your post it looks like you didn’t miss much of what was presented:) After 7 years, we obviously hold the GODencounters experience near to our heart and souls and pray that it is experienced by many others craving that precious encounter. We are enjoying seeing others who have never experienced this personally feel God through the mediums of a prayer room, cafe, music and worship. We feel blessed to have God using us to pursue others for His Kingdom.

  2. Zane says:

    Hey Randy,

    It was good to meet you as well, although I wish I had connected the dots and realized that the Randy there (in Orlando) was the Randy here (on-line)!

    Thanks for your ministry and for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge with us for Carry Out.

    Hope things continue to go well at SAU. Wish I could be there!

  3. Todd says:

    Hey Zane,

    That was a really good summary of everything! Thanks for that! As Randy said, this GODencounters thing wouldn’t get anywhere without prayer. A lesson we’ve learned over the last seven years (and are still learning!) is that the “event” must center around GOD, not us, not what we can do, not what we’ve done before or some place else, but on GOD. If GODencounters is approached with an open heart, GOD will fill it up beyond anything imaginable. And when that happens…there just aren’t words to describe it!

    With that in mind, I just wanted to add a couple of good resources for the more “nuts and bolts” side of GE, and in a way they kind of help Jeff Gang turn a GE event into an every day thing (now called Deeper at Forest Lake Church).

    1) “The Connecting Church” by Randy Frazee.
    In his book, Pastor Frazee (now at Willow Creek) gives a real structured, “how to” on getting people connected with each other, with GOD, and with a church community. The book centers on creating community as seen in Acts 2:42 and the results seen in v. 43-47.

    2) “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard.
    This book is a LOT more heavy lifting. Dr. Willard takes an extremely detailed look at Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and how that should be applied to our personal spiritual walks and our interactions with others. Essentially, it looks at Jesus’ instructions for a good relationship with Him and with our fellow believers. But it is not casual reading.🙂

    Anyway, the list could go on and on and on, but I know those are two books that Jeff Gang went through that helped spark some of the ideas that became GODencounters (and also Deeper at Forest Lake Church).

    As Pastor Dany Hernandez has said, the question “Where do you worship” should be answered “everywhere” because a GOD encounter is not relegated to an hour on Sabbath or a Friday night Bible study/vespers. The weekly Sabbath “service” should be a celebration of things accomplished with GOD during the week and love and support for the things that didn’t go so well.

    Bottom line, GE is about connecting people to God and with each other in community.

    And with that I’ll stop. Thanks for a great post!

  4. Zane says:

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the added perspective (love the bottom line summary “connecting people to God and with each other in community”) and the book recommendations.

    I have not read “The Connecting Church”, although now it is now definately on my wish list.

    On “The Divine Conspiracy”, I thought I detected Willard’s imprint on GodEncounters. I could not agree with you more on the importance of this book; reading it transformed my understanding of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings.

    For those who are daunted by its size, I’d recommend the first two chapters on “the gospel” and “the kingdom of heaven”–pure theological/spiritual gold!

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