Monday, June 25, 2018

Preparing for Challenge 2018

One week from today our group of 17 teens and adults from Lanse Free Church will be arriving in Kansas, Missouri for the 30th annual Challenge Conference hosted by ReachStudents of the EFCA.

I’ve been preparing for the last six months.


Since January, I’ve been trying to walk 2 to 6 miles per day to try to get my body in shape for Challenge. For a guy like me who is halfway to 90, Challenge is physically demanding. It’s an student ministry aimed at young people, so you are active from early morning to midnight each day moving from meals to large group gatherings for worship and teaching to equipping labs to interactive relational huddles to recreational time to immersive missions experiences and even service projects dotted all around the city. Whew, I get tired (and energized) just thinking about it!

One thing I love about Challenge is that it’s created for the whole person and for all different kinds of students. When I went for the first time in 2014, I assumed it would be a “Rah, Rah, Jesus!” kind of event aimed at worship and teaching and that maybe there would be sports-type recreation. But the folks who plan Challenge are wise youthworker types. They know that students are also artistic, love video games, get intrigued by drama, love to create, and need spaces for just hanging out. Challenge has all of that and more. I picture Shane Stacey and his team scheming together in the advance planning each year saying, “What if you could have a conference for youth that does it all? What would that look like?” and then making it happen. Of course, that also means that if you have a group that “does it all,” the old pastor guy tagging along is going to get worn out. So, I’ve been trying to get in shape. Last time, in 2016, the elevators were perpetually full, and we were staying on the 7th floor. My Pacer app logged a lot of miles just in steps. Pray for me!


I’ve been asked by the leaders at Challenge to facilitate two equipping labs–90 minute workshops where I interact with a roomful of teens on thorny topics, helping them to think about what the Bible says and apply it directly to their lives. One of the topics is near and dear to me–resisting gossip. I’ve spoken about that before a few times. The other topic is more tender and sober but no less important–a biblical theology of suffering.
Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue
“Did you hear what she did on Saturday night?” “I heard they were breaking up!” “Wait till you hear the latest!” Do you “swipe left” when gossip comes your way, or do you help it go viral? What do you do when people text about you behind your back? This lab will help you to cut sinful gossip out of your personal conversations and social media accounts through the promises of God.
Why, God?
If God is good, then why is there still suffering, evil and bad things happening in our world? This lab will equip you to think biblically about the problem of pain and help you to keep trusting the Lord when life really hurts.
I’m still preparing for these (in fact, I’m cramming for them now!), and I appreciate all of the prayer I can get. I’d especially appreciate prayer during the actual times I’m teaching because it’s interactive so a lot depends on what the students bring and how well I respond to their ideas and questions. Please pray on Tuesday and Wednesday at 3pm for the lab on suffering and Friday at 1pm and again at 3pm for the lab on gossip. Thank you!


I love that I get to go to Challenge with our biggest group ever from Lanse Free Church. I’m especially glad to go with all four of my children, Robin (nearly 18), Drew (16), Peter (nearly 15), and Isaac (nearly 14). This may be the only time all four are able to attend at the same time. The rest of the group are most of their friends from around here, so it’s a very tight-knit group, and I expect everybody to grow even closer.

I’m praying for some quality time to relate to each other and help each other to grow in Christ. Another thing that’s fun for me is that even though I am their pastor and an adult leader in the group, I am not the leader of the group. Cody and Holly Crumrine coordinate our youth ministry, and so I’m just along for the ride. Watching this young couple lovingly work together to direct our time together was one of the highlights of the conference for me in 2014–they are a wonderful influence on the teens in our church family. And the other adult leader is a young lady named Mikalah who holds the record at our church for attending the most Challenge Conferences. She has grown through them and now helps lead our group to them!


I’ve been preparing my heart to receive the teaching at Challenge 2018. Amazingly (to me), it’s been the winsome, memorable, practical, deep, rich, biblical theology that is the thing I’ve been the most impressed by at each Challenge Conference I’ve attended. In 2014, the speakers took us through the entire unfolding storyline of the Bible over the course of the week. Four years later, I can still name each of the talks and what was covered. In 2016, they gave us a Trinitarian framework for understanding our missional identity. I can’t wait to find out what “Bold Moves” truly means for us this year.

Would you pray that our hearts would be open to ingest the biblical teaching and make it a living, breathing everyday part of our lives coming home?

One more week to prepare and then we make our Bold Moves!

Challenge 2018 Trailer – Bold Moves from EFCA on Vimeo.