Conference records were broken as more than 150 young adults (ages 18–35) from all over the state gathered at Sugar Pine Christian Camps in Oakhurst for a winter retreat, themed, “Start to Finish.” Based on Hebrews 12:1–3, the retreat focused on the end of the year and finishing strong with God each step of the way. From its inception, the retreat had a waiting list burgeoning to capacity—so much so that registration had to close early, and young adults were still trying to register up to the day of the retreat!
This event was largely planned in response to a North American Division (NAD) initiative for members to reach young adults. The Central California Conference (CCC) decided to meet the challenge by investing more resources and time into this age category, beginning an official discipleship process for the CCC’s younger members.
Held just outside the idyllic Yosemite National Park, the venue had providentially just opened due to two other groups cancelling. The weekend featured powerful preaching by Ivor Myers, sought-after speaker and Campbell (Calif.) Church pastor. Young adults also participated in 15 peer-led small groups, multiple praise teams (including some from Loma Linda), early-morning prayer meetings, a Saturday-night game time, hiking, and viewing the movie, The Case for Christ. Additionally, the weekend shone a spotlight on several young adult ministries with outreach to individuals within California. “It was a blessing to spend time in a peaceful atmosphere, with a large group of young adults who are all passionate about learning to know and share Christ,” said Savonna Greer, a young adult and teacher.
Even with a dynamic speaker, beautiful location and high-energy activities, the highlights of weekend reportedly revolved around small-group discussions with young adult leaders who led in pairs. These teams met throughout the weekend, studying passages of Scripture. During these discussions, communities were formed. At the retreat’s end, attendees were encouraged to go home and build communities of young adults by forming small groups in their own areas. This hearkens back to Ellen G. White’s assertion that small-group formats can allow special wisdom from God, because small groups allow for spiritual thought development and cohesiveness with others.
Another widely-praised feature of the retreat was the 7:00 a.m. prayer times, which were packed each day. “I was amazed at how these young people were hungry for God’s presence and came seeking His face early,” said prayer leader, Josie Chavez. Young adults came seeking God’s blessing for job transitions, new relationships, and other major decisions in their lives. Peer leaders also facilitated prayer groups, lifting each other up in seasons of prayer throughout the session.
On Saturday night, an appeal inspired 14 young adults to commit to baptism, including Myers' own daughter and her boyfriend. Pastor Myers made other calls as well, including asking participants to hand their burdens to God and to study their Bibles more passionately. Sermons covered multiple topics, both challenging and inspiring participants to commit more fully to God.
The retreat went beyond planners’ expectations. “The young adults are excited to have more of these retreats,” noted Jon Ferguson, one of the small group leaders. Since that time, a Facebook community has developed for participants to stay in touch and encourage one another. Slated to be an annual event, next year’s retreat will be even larger and begin a day earlier to accommodate the many attendees. It is scheduled for early December.
Want more information? Join the discussion with CCC young adults at: www.facebook.com/Young-Adult-Retreat-Community-
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By Anil Kanda, Central California Conference Senior Youth and Young Adult director, and Cindy R Chamberlin, Central California Conference vice president for communication