Today marks the end of an era in my house. My son, Graham returned from his 7th year in a row at BLAST, our Student Community Winter Conference. He is a senior in high school, so this is his final year to participate as a student. This year over 1200 students and leaders converged on the Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells for a weekend of water-park fun, sleepless nights, and a series of experiences that continue to change the lives of countless students. There is nothing that would keep Graham or my daughter, Chloe, from participating in BLAST, and I continue to be incredibly grateful for the Student Community leadership who work so hard to make this happen year after year.

As the conference comes to a close and the students return home, I felt compelled to express, from my perspective, why BLAST is such a significant experience.

1) BLAST lets a students know that he or she is not alone. Four years ago we made a move into the city that took us away from Community’s Yellow Box Campus where hundreds of students are involved in Student Community. One of our concerns in making this move was the impact it would have on our kids. We prayed lots. We talked even more. We described the move as an adventure that God was taking us on, but at the end of the day, I was concerned about how this move would impact them. While it has not always been easy, and we’ve worked hard to build, what is now the beginnings of a strong student ministry in the city, BLAST has been a very important constant that gives them tremendous hope and a great reminder that they are not on their own.

2) BLAST reminds students that they are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of right now. Community pours thousands of dollars and hundreds, if not thousands, of man (and woman) hours into ensuring that BLAST is the most amazing experience anyone could want for a student. There are few events in the life of our church that get this much attention, and I love it because I believe it makes a statement to the kids, parents, and our community about the value we place on our students finding their way back to God.

3) BLAST provides tremendous momentum for our whole church.  There is a ton of anticipation prior to BLAST as goals are set for registration, communication is ramped up, and details are put in place to ensure that the entire experience is unforgettable for every student who participates. During BLAST, videos are posted of the mains sessions, Facebook and Twitter are alive with posts and Tweets of all that is happening, and more than a hundred volunteer leaders also arrive to experience first hand what the students experience. And in the weeks that follow, stories of life change are told in celebration services and students return to their homes and schools empowered to follow Jesus in a deeper way. Sure, BLAST is huge for our students, but it is also benefits our entire church.

4) Simply put, BLAST helps students find their way back to God. When a student walks into a room where there are over a thousand students, who are at the very least interested in finding their way back to God, it empowers them to know they are not crazy. I don’t have to tell you that junior high and high school is not easy. Being a Christ-follower doesn’t always keep you in the cool kid club. BLAST is one huge statement to our kids, “Hang in there with God, it will be worth it!”

One of our moms in the city found this note her son wrote just before he left to go to BLAST for the first time this weekend: “Tomorrow is the day I am going to a thing called BLAST. I am taking a friend so that he can find his way back to God!”

It may be my son, Graham’s, last year for BLAST as a student, but it was this boy’s first year, and I can’t way to see the impact it will have on him and thousands of other students in the coming years!  Yes, BLAST = Students Finding Their Way Back To God!