August is one of the busiest (if not the busiest) time of the year for anyone working with a college ministry. It's one of those months that everything else throughout the year either builds up to or builds upon. For instance, the past three months have all been prepping for this time of year in one way or another and everything from now until the end of the school year will be built upon our obedience to him in this month. Due to how much has happened, this is going to be a slightly longer update than usual with a plethora of photos.
While leaders retreat was not the first thing I did in the month of August (a trip to North Carolina to visit two amazing friends wins that prize) it was the first major thing for H2O. It may not seem like much or may not seem necessary, but I think it is one of the most valuable things we do all year. Every year at H2O leadership teams for Life Groups change, more people come onto staff, people graduate and move away; all this creates a constantly changing environment. Sometimes it feels like by the time we get situated and comfortable we are getting ready to transition once more. Yet that's part of H2O's mission. Encounter the living God. Equip the Church. And Engage the world. The primary way Engage happens is by students graduating, moving away, and taking the gospel with them--like Jared and Grace in North Carolina who have since found an incredible church to take their God-given talents to. This cycle, while exhausting, is also life giving as it puts everything in perspective for us. One of the ways we attempt to make this transition as seamless as possible is by taking our entire leadership team on a two-day retreat for bonding and planning purposes as well as a time to get away from Cincinnati and spend time with God before the most chaotic week of the year. The Bible speaks heavily about times of retreat. Psalm 23 says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul." Psalm 42, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Even Jesus at the beginning of his ministry went up to the wilderness for forty days to pray and fast. This is why we place so much value on leader's retreat. It is the final time to gather together in prayer and worship as a leadership team before the semester.
This year, I am co-leading a Life Group along with a team seven others (six of them are pictured in the second photo below). The way we structure Life Groups is by dorms and so our team is overseeing Morgen's, Scioto, and Marian Spencer. All three of which are the east-most dorms on campus and are pictured above. Material wise, we are choosing to spend the year going through the Gospel of John, which, if you've spent any time diving into that Gospel may be laughing at us attempting to get through the entire thing in one school year. I'm right there with you. We won't come close to being able to cover everything in it but it's my prayer that our conversations in Life Group would spark more in-depth conversations outside of Life Group and a deeper desire in each member to study scripture on their own.
Up above when I mentioned the most chaotic week of the year, that was in reference to the week dubbed Blitz Week in H2O. Technically called Welcome Week by the university, it's the week where 6,000 freshmen are moving onto campus for the first time searching for friends and clubs to become involved in. Our job is make sure no freshmen goes through that week without hearing the name H2O so many times they give in and check us out on Sunday to see what all the hype is about. To do this we put on a ton of events and also take part in official UC events like the student org fair, where every student organization on campus has the opportunity to put a table and tent up and make themselves known to freshmen. Pictured here are two photos of our tent and table where we had carnival games set up with prizes, a sign-up for a $100 Amazon gift card, and multiple students/staff around to talk with people. Overall, this week was the most successful Blitz Week I've been involved with at H2O. In the following paragraphs is more info about each of the major events we put on.
What college student (or anyone for that matter) could deny free pancakes on a Friday or Saturday night? None. Which is why this is one of our most successful evangelism events of the year. Every Friday and Saturday night from roughly 10pm - 1am we give out free pancakes on frat row to hundreds of students with the goal being to get into spiritual conversations with them. The pancakes are simply an avenue that makes us more approachable to be able to sit down at a table, talk with them, get to know them, and if the Spirit leads us, to share the Gospel with them. Unfortunately, the best photo I have capturing the event as a whole was when the crowd began slowing down. At peak hours the line wrapped along the sidewalk and the grass of The House was completely covered.
H2O's annual dodgeball tournament started eight years ago and has since been recognized as an official UC Welcome Week event that the university promotes. Every year it is packed and is a logistical nightmare. Despite that, however, it has become a staple of ours for Blitz Week due to the outreach opportunities opened up by allowing people to pelt each other in the face. This year was the biggest tournament we've ever had with a total of 45 teams competing for a $90 BW3 gift card ($15 per person on the team).
Everything we put on throughout the week ultimately leads up to our first Sunday Service of the year back on campus. Each year the topic is the same, John 4 (where we draw the name H2O from) and the various exhaustible wells people tend to drift towards hoping for fulfillment, only to find that all those wells eventually dry up. The Gospel is always preached and Grant doesn't hold back any punches. That first sermon sets the tone for the entire year and H2O has never shied away from sharing the one true Gospel and the harsh truth that comes with it. Yet that's what I love about our church. So many churches in America are embracing Christian liberalism, the idea that as times changes the interpretation of scripture must also change. Yet our God doesn't change. He is the same today, tomorrow, and yesterday. And it's only through him that true life can occur.
When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Once again, I want to thank all of you who are supporting me either financially or via prayer through all of this as you are making it possible for me and the rest of H2O Cincinnati's staff team to reach the students at the University of Cincinnati. If you are not a part of my financial support team, I ask that you prayerfully consider joining me and my mission with H2O Cincinnati at a monthly amount by clicking on the "give" button on the top of your screen.