165 students attend Christian Challenge’s Surge Retreat

Mar 1, 2021

Missionaries and students from Glendale Community College, Gateway Community College, Grand Canyon University, South Mountain Community College, Arizona Christian University, and ASU West.

By Noah Jaeger

About 165 college students gathered across Arizona to participate in Christian Challenge’s annual Surge discipleship retreat Feb. 19-20. Traditionally, the event is held at Emmanuel Pines Camp in Prescott, however, this year, Christian Challenge took a spread-out approach.

For 2021, Surge was advertised as a virtual retreat that students could attend from either the safety of their homes or in person at multiple locations where campuses gathered. Students were required to adhere to CDC guidelines for the retreat.

“The planning team felt very strongly that we should provide some sort of Surge experience and not cancel completely and I agreed,” said Marc Hill, Christian Challenge Arizona director. “Challenge students have been isolated from each other for so long now that they are chomping at the bit to do something together, even if it’s virtual.”

The event focused on the theme “Jesus Is Better.” Brian Arnold, president of Phoenix Seminary and keynote speaker for Surge, taught from the book of Hebrews to show students how Jesus is truly better than the other choices people devote themselves to, such as school, career and relationships.

Students from campuses all over the West Valley discussing questions from session 2 of Surge.

“The purpose of the event was to give students a weekend where they could focus on what they are really investing their life into, and then challenge whether those things distract them from Jesus,” Trevor Bush, regional Catalyst for Christian Challenge, said. “I think Surge accomplished that.”

The first night of the retreat, Arnold explained how the entire Old Testament points to Jesus. Campuses then discussed what they learned and how the message applies to them. After discussion, Christian Challenge hosted their annual Lip Sync Battle virtually. Students could participate, vote, and cheer for participants across the state.

Various virtual and in-person activities were hosted around the state so students could participate in the Surge community regardless of their location.

Saturday, students participated in two additional sessions of teaching and discussion. Arnold continued to teach through Hebrews and highlight how Jesus is better than the earthly priorities we have in our lives.

During the day, a South African student at Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak campus was baptized. She became a Christian when she was young, but her family was opposed to her being baptized. Seeking Christian community, she met Steve Dokka, Christian Challenge campus missionary at CAC Signal Peak, and started attending their Christian Challenge gatherings.

After talking about baptism, Dokka and Tim Pruit, the partnering church pastor of Pinal County Cowboy Church, decided Surge would be an optimal time to celebrate her baptism. At Surge, in the outside baptistry, Pruit and Dokka baptized the student in the witness of her fellow students and church.

Christian Challenge also hosted a live Q&A session students could participate in. From all over Arizona, college students submitted multiple questions through the Discord community app. Arnold then answered the questions live so students could interact.

“Having a virtual messaging option helped students engage more transparently in the forum,” Bush said. “Students were willing to be more vulnerable because of the anonymous element to virtually asking them.”

As Christian Challenge continues to experiment with hybrid models of ministry, the possibilities of reaching students with the gospel continues to expand.

“We definitely need to provide an online option for our events going forward,” Jeff Mashaw, Christian Challenge regional catalyst, said. “We had really good engagement for our interactive Question and Answer session. Providing a way for people to interact with the livestream content had a really exciting and positive outcome.”

Though Surge 2021 would be a challenge for the COVID season, Christian Challenge rose to the occasion and provided a robust event to engage students with the gospel, develop disciples of Jesus Christ, and mobilize servant leaders for the church.

Learn more about Christian Challenge Arizona at https://challengeaz.com.

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