Our team went into White Out 2012 (The Rocky Mountain Region’s Annual Youth Retreat) with great expectations. Two weeks prior to the camp signup deadline, we had every spot filled as well as a waiting list. This incredible response from 16 churches, including 4 churches that were bringing students for the first time, showed us that youth pastors were excited and anticipating a regional camp event. With such an overwhelming response, the bar for camp was going to be high. When we arrived, we could tell there was an air of great expectancy.
From the first bell, camp had an epic feel to all who attended. In total, 646 students, youth leaders, and adult volunteers participated. Every aspect of the sessions, dinners, ski trip, break-out sessions and free time had an extraordinary feel that came from the passion of those who lead each area. In the sessions, we employed a wide range of young and seasoned leaders from around the nation, who demonstrated that the Vineyard has many called and talented workers who are passionate about the young generation.
Our speaker, Paul Watson, a former Vineyard youth pastor and now church planter, lead each session with a passionate and direct message. The message centered around Jesus’ call for his disciples to leave all and follow him, found in Luke 12-14. The first night, Paul stated clearly that he had done the kind of youth ministry that made followers of Jesus for a while, until something else was more interesting to follow. Because of this, he wanted the students to come face to face with the life-demanding call of Jesus to radically follow him as a disciple. This had startling effects on the students. I had many students approach me and thank me for what they called “honesty.” One specific young believer thanked us for giving her something to give her life for. Another said that the honesty displayed by the leaders was inspiring and had caused her to re-think her relationship with Jesus completely. We have seen a transition in our regional gatherings from being centered only around the loving and accepting nature of Jesus, to the all consuming call of Jesus for us to be wholly His and radically willing to follow where He leads.
During our sessions, many of the leadership team had a prophetic sense that there were a huge number of future leaders in Vineyard churches. Heroic Leadership Institute attended the conference to share with students their track towards future ministry and they had 73 sign-ups of interested students. We believe there is a hoard of young people in the Vineyard that are looking for ways to use their God given talents for the Kingdom.
White Out continues to be a place where students can bring their sins before the Lord to be forgiven. We don’t have a total number of students who gave their life to the Lord, and only time will really tell, but many had a life changing encounter with God such that they knew their life would never be the same. This is the purpose of White Out, to give students a life changing encounter with their Creator. One student found out she would be attending White Out the day before we left. She was just placed in a foster home where the other 5 teenage students were headed to White Out and a student canceled the night before, giving her the chance to go. Not growing up in a “churched” background, and just meeting her foster sisters, she was very unsure what to expect. After the second night, her new foster sister, in 9th grade, lead her into relationship with Jesus—a decision she could have never imagined making before going to Camp.
The worship team, Kaleo (a Vineyard young adult worship band from Grand Junction, CO), did an amazing job this year leading students in all-consuming worship. One student who was not a follower of Jesus told me that he felt he is now addicted to worship after his experience at Camp. This was some of the most powerful and moving times of our experience this year at White Out. We made a live DVD recording of the sessions that we are excited to share with the Vineyard movement, to give everyone a picture of the next generation worshiping God with songs they have written that express the passion that God has put in our teenagers.
God is so good. This year he was faithful to call, set apart, and send teenagers, with Vineyard DNA, to change the world. We are humbled to get to serve these teens and aware that we have no idea the legacy that God has put before us in these young disciples. The Vineyard is alive and well in teens and our future is bright.