The annual fall youth conference in Classis Eastern Canada of the Christian Reformed Church brought together 131 guests this year – the largest number of teens since the retreat was started more than 20 years ago. Classis youth ministry team member Ron Hosmar sees the record attendance as evidence that “youth want to engage more and more, especially after living through the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic years.”
The congregations within Classis Eastern Canada are scattered through five Canadian provinces. Although the youth ministry team meets together, event planning is divided geographically into eastern and western sections. The five congregations sending students to this conference at the Circle Square Ranch in Arden, Ont., are all located within a 2-hour drive of the campgrounds. Two congregations situated in neighboring Classis Quinte also sent young people to the past two annual retreats.
Hosmar, who serves as youth pastor at Calvin CRC in Ottawa, Ont., reported that the conference format, developed through the years, serves organizers and teens well. “We invite a speaker; we invite one of the local churches to send a worship team; we fill the weekend with the many activities provided within the camp facilities, and we have the Christian improv group The Fidgets, who have been an integral part of our youth conference retreats for the past 13 years,” Hosmar said. “They not only entertain us with laughter through comedy, but they also spend Saturday afternoon teaching our youth how to do improv well.” Ryan Farrell, from the Ottawa Campus Chaplaincy, was this year’s speaker.
As a veteran youth pastor with more than 20 years of experience, Hosmar is passionate about the importance of youth retreats and conferences, as well as mission trips. “They give our kids a chance to get away to build relationships with each other, and to have fun together within a Christian context. They can be anchor points as our younger members are building their personal faith walk,” he said.
Hosmar said he’s noticed that the current generation of young people seem more inclined to choose their role on a sports team or at a part-time job over a church event when the two conflict in their schedules. That's why the increase in numbers from 80 at the 2022 youth fall conference (the first after a 2-year COVID hiatus) to 131 this year was extra encouraging. Sixty percent were repeat registrants and 40 percent newcomers.
Hosmar said the classis is praying that the higher level of engagement will continue. One instance of that is remounting rotating youth services, which haven’t been hosted in this part of Classis Eastern Canada since before the pandemic. After this well-attended retreat, Hosmar said they have been put back on the calendar, scheduled every other month.
About the Author
Ron Rupke is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He is a member of the Fellowship CRC in Brighton, Ontario.