More than 250 Free Will Baptist students, parents, and youth workers from 18 churches and five states gathered in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, November 6-8, for the 2015 Tennessee State Youth Retreat. The annual conference for students in grades seven through college explored the theme, “Go fish!”
Students were challenged not to wait until they are older to begin sharing the gospel but to start now, at home, school, and to their friends. Keynote speaker Dwayne James (pictured below), pastor of Oakwood FWB Church near Clarksville challenged students not to be ashamed of the gospel but to to be open with their faith.
“Dwayne really connected,” said Ken Akers, Tennessee Christian Education Board chairman. “His simple down-to-earth approach to sharing the gospel was exactly what the students needed.”
Ryan Lewis, music director at Cofer’s Chapel FWB Church in Nashville, led students in worship throughout the weekend, with the help of Amy McDonald, Jacob Houske, and Brandon Roysden. The group combined age-old hymns with new praise songs coordinating with the conference theme.
Between sessions, students and youth workers enjoyed crazy game times, great food, and nearby attractions from hiking in the nearby Smoky Mountains to go-kart rides and shopping in local outlets. The hungry teens ended the memorable afternoon by devouring 75 extra-large pizzas in 15 minutes.
“I wish every Free Will Baptist in Tennessee could hear these 250 young people singing together at the top of their lungs. What a blessing!” said TNCE board member Eric Thomsen. “It was a privilege to work with such a great group of students. They were attentive, excited, and encouraging to all of us who planned the meeting. They reminded me that Free Will Baptists have a bright future.”
Christian Education Board Chairman Ken Akers encourages youth workers across the state to begin planning now to attend the 2016 retreat.