The Holden Center was filled with students as Sabbath began on Friday night, January 13th. After several years without a collaborative area youth event outside of camp meeting, 2023 began with a Youth Night of Worship organized and led by new associate youth director, Jason Calvert. High school students from all over the Oregon Conference, including small groups and at least five high schools, began the evening with a Chipotle dinner and welcomed in the Sabbath with worship music, trivia, and a message from Crosswalk PDX pastor, Paddy McCoy.
Following Bible Camp last fall, Jason Calvert shared that he wants to create logical next steps between conference-wide events and local experiences. “It’s exciting, especially for a high school kid, to see that this faith movement is bigger than their immediate circumstances,” said Jason, “And we can provide space for that to happen. Ultimately the point of putting on larger conference-wide events is to intentionally create space for those experiences - and that each person there will be inspired to lean into their personal walk with Jesus. My plan is to regularly, consistently, and intentionally create those spaces.” Jason shared that he wants to begin holding area youth events like Night of Worship at least quarterly.
Academies were strongly represented, but Jason made it clear that he’s thinking about all our Oregon Conference students – including those being homeschooled or attending public schools. “I’m one of those odd people who went to academy but also went to public school and was homeschooled for a while,” said Jason, “Academies are blessed to have so many different experiences, but homeschooled and public school students don’t always have the same opportunities for things like this. Ultimately the vision is that any youth event that the conference does – whether it’s Bible Camp or nights of worship or anything else – is really for all high school-age kids, wherever they go to school and whether they’re baptized Adventists or not. No matter where they’re at in life or in their faith journey, these are for them.”
Introducing students to each other is another important aspect of area events that isn’t usually possible through those that are more localized. “We had students from multiple academies show up that oftentimes don’t even see or connect with each other unless they’re competing in a sport, so it was good for that,” said Jason, “But then there were also a number of smaller youth groups that came with their leaders – some as small as five and other groups who brought 20! Some of those smaller groups don’t normally have an experience where they get to see other students from their faith community – and here they got to worship and connect outside of their immediate context.”
Jason has been serving in youth leadership for many years, and he shared this short reflection on the importance of building healthy relationships between students and their church long before they graduate from high school: “I’ve been doing this for so long now that I’m officiating weddings for old students! Some of them are now working in administration at their local churches or running lights and sound or serving in their communities, and they’ll often say that the reason they’re doing those things is because they got started in high school and had just a small taste of what it means to serve and receive the blessing of God in their lives. You get to see them take that blessing and become a blessing to others––and I’ve seen that if you can experience that in high school it can absolutely be a lifelong journey.”
In addition to quarterly area events, Jason Calvert plans to host youth training and more over the course of the coming year. Keep an eye on our Oregon Conference pages and sign up for our newsletter for information as it becomes available!