A 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.
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!
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
4. 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!