Northwest Baptist student life roared back during the 2022 student conference, an in-person gathering that drew about 250 students following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sponsored by the Northwest Baptist Convention, teenagers and student ministry leaders from across the Northwest gathered at Pathway Church in Gresham, Oregon, under the banner of “Momentum” for their Christian journey.
“Jesus changes everything,” said keynote speaker Nick Person, who is the teaching pastor at New Vision Baptist Church outside of Nashville, Tennessee. “We have all experienced things we didn’t want to in the last couple of years, but Jesus is for you and he showed his love by his death. He calls you friend, even though right here, right now, there’s going to be bad days.”
Light at end of tunnel
Person encouraged participants that there is “light at the end of the tunnel and we are to take heart because Jesus is sufficient for all our needs.” While he acknowledged he didn’t know their particular struggles, Person exhorted students to follow in the footsteps of Moses and Joshua as they followed God without knowledge of how he would deliver them.
“When God invites me, I give all the reasons I can’t respond,” Person stated. “He said you have a part to play if you are willing. We are secure in him if we are willing to take the leap because He is trustworthy and won’t let us drop. Taking heart is contagious and gives implications in the here and now if we fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Between main sessions at the student conference, participants reconnected through a variety of activities including, basketball, ping pong or foosball, while enjoying the provisions of the snack shack.
Students were also able to choose short courses that interested them which included a variety of topics that related to the “Momentum” theme of the conference. Some of the offerings available to students were building momentum in the following ways — spiritual disciplines, identity in Christ, living out the gospel, missions and more.
“Some things are out of our control and other things never change,” said Debbie Richardson, who led a females-only session on the “identity equation” and understanding the unchangeable truth of who we are created to be.
“We need our identity to be so true that when variables are thrown at us that we always bank on the constant of God’s love. We all have a deep craving to belong to something and we need to sift through all the crazy of the world and come back to our one constant – that is Jesus.”
Rachel Davis implored students to build momentum with faithful friendships.
“To find faithful friends we must go where people are and get involved,” Davis said. “Try to exit the judgement zone or you run the risk of missing out on some great friendships. It is important to pray for good friends and ones that will be an encouragement to you. Be willing to make your feelings open with God about your need for friends.”
Youth leaders were also able to tap into the knowledge of how teenage development impacts spiritual growth and how to avoid shame and encourage growth with today’s youth.
“Puberty lasts about 10 years and repetitive behavior prunes off part of the brain not being used,” said Alisha Phillips a licensed counselor in Portland, Oregon. “We can make mistakes in youth ministry by treating them like they’re not adolescents, but instead either big kids or mini-adults. Be who you are and teenagers are drawn to that.”
‘Play the long game through prayer’
Phillips also encouraged leaders to forego activities focused only on fun, but also encourage time spent in discovering their identity and relational development.
“It’s not what they’ll ask for and it is easier to administer ‘fun,’ but it is relationships that they will remember later,” Phillips noted. “Ask challenging non-leading questions about faith, life, identity and God. Play the long game through prayer and surrender by remembering we are not the ones in control of the outcome.”
A late-night show was provided for participants by illusionist Hart Keen, who has made appearances on America’s Got Talent, Penn and Teller: Fool Us, and more.
Centrifuge 2022 will also return for teenagers seeking a camp experience July 16-21 at Aldersgate Retreat Center in Turner, OR. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Sheila Allen and originally published by the Northwest Baptist Witness, news service of the Northwest Baptist Convention.