April 30, 2020
FBCA and Encounter Week Families,
Let me start by saying thank you for your encouragement over these past two weeks since we made the difficult announcement regarding Encounter Week 2020 – you have been a blessing to our team as we continue to navigate the plans for this summer.
Now, let me give you yet another update today – because of some changes in summer calendars for all of our Encounter Week churches that we learned about within hours, literally, of our last update, we began to explore the idea of moving to July rather than having using our original June dates. Today, we want to ask you to mark your calendars for July 30, 31, & August 1 for Encounter Weekend! As we shared previously, we are working toward a conference-style event on the First Baptist Arlington campus and will continue to monitor the reality and will make adjustments as necessary. We are praying that by the end of July we will be able to gather on our campus and that our partner churches will also be able to join us, but if we are unable to all gather together we will do our best to gather in appropriate sized groups on church campuses or in homes, if possible.
We will share more information as we make progress, but want you to have these dates so that you can plan accordingly! Please continue to pray for Encounter Week, for our churches, and for Riverbend Retreat Center.
We’re excited about the days ahead!
To Make Much of Jesus,
Kurt A. Krodle
Minister to Youth & Encounter Week Camp Director
April 15, 2020
First Baptist Arlington and Encounter Week Families,
First, we pray that this letter finds you well. Our staff is continuing to pray for you – we are asking the Lord to protect you, to care for you, to meet your needs, to provide peace in the midst of the uncertainty of these days, and to allow us not to waste the beauty that we are finding in the midst of the challenges. These are certainly unprecedented times, but we rejoice that we serve a God who continues to reign in his rightful place and that he deeply loves us – his image-bearers.
Over the past 4+ weeks, our Youth Ministry Staff has been in continual conversation regarding Encounter Week; these conversations have included our Pastor and Executive Leadership Team, Riverbend Retreat Center, our Children’s and Activities Ministries, and Encounter Week partner churches. As we have walked this journey, we have also set aside time to stop our conversation and set aside days that we would pray for God’s wisdom, direction, and creativity without interjecting our own thoughts, ideas, and opinions – or at least try not to interject. This has been a very difficult journey for our team for many reasons: we value the unique role that Encounter Week plays in the annual life of our ministry and our church family, we believe in camp ministry and the opportunities that being away at camp provides, we have seen God move in life-changing ways each and every year of camp, and, if we’re just being honest, we simply love camp!
Last week we met with our Pastor and Executive Leadership Team, our Children’s Ministry, and our Activities Ministry to determine the direction for camp and made the decision not to host Encounter Week at Riverbend Retreat Center on June 8-12, 2020.
Multiple factors have led us to this decision: 1) the health and safety of our students and adults (many of whom have underlying conditions or will interact with those who do); 2) the reality that we may not be able to legally host large gatherings of people by June 8; 3) the financial implications of hosting Encounter Week with much smaller numbers than anticipated; 4) the financial implications that many of our families may face in choosing to send their students to camp and continue to provide for their families; and 5) there is uncertainty about the church’s cashflow and the ability to “finance” camp during the planning and preparation leading up to camp.
Our team is heartbroken about this decision and it has not been an easy one to make – but we do not believe it means we raise the “white flag” and surrender Encounter Week until 2021. We want to continue on by offering Encounter Week in a different way! Through much conversation with staff and Encounter Week leaders, we are moving forward in planning a conference-style version of Encounter Week on June 8-10 or possibly on a later date if we are able to make a date work that may give greater opportunity for our students to gather in person.
This version of Encounter Week is still in the early planning stage, but we are preparing for two different scenarios – 1) digital and 2) with the ability to gather at First Baptist Arlington. In the digital version we would stream worship and use Zoom meetings for Family Groups and Breakouts. If we have the ability to gather together, we would gather each evening, Monday through Wednesday (again, June 8-10 or possibly a date in late July), on our church campus. In the second scenario, we anticipate hosting Breakouts, sharing a meal together, having Recreation, worshipping in our Sanctuary, and meeting with our Family Groups each evening. It will likely be late May before we know which scenario that we will be able to utilize – but either way, we will “gather” this summer as an Encounter Week Family!
We would ask that you continue to pray for our staff, pray for Encounter Week, and pray for Riverbend Retreat Center. This will be the first summer in 52 years that our church has not been at Riverbend for camp; this is a very special place to us, and their staff are like family. This summer could be financially devastating for the camp – over 90% of their income is generated through summer camps and they still need our support. If you would like to help them financially through this crisis, we can help you connect with them or you can go to their site, www.riverbendretreat.org.
We will continue to update you as quickly as we can after we finalize some of our planning.
Kurt A. Krodle
Minister to Youth & Camp Director