The Korean church landscape in New England is unique in several ways. English ministries no longer exist within Korean churches. Boston being an academic hub attracts many students and young professionals, including seminarians, but they leave at an incredibly high turnover rate. They are also geographically bound within the small web of Boston's public transportation system. Out in the suburbs, there is an overabundance of churches for the number of church-goers who are spread thin over large areas instead of clustered within tight, ethnic communities. As a result, most Korean churches are very small (the number of youth-age students ranging from 2 to 20), they completely lack English-speaking college students and young adults to serve the youth, and they greatly lacking stability, staff and resources.
The ARISE summer retreat is a gathering place for youth from small churches all over New England with young adults from the wider church community who are trained to serve them and build life-long relationships. No matter how small or big their churches are, whether they have or lack resources or teachers, every kid at the summer retreat has the opportunity to hear and be encouraged in the gospel, the access to relationships with older brothers and sisters in Christ, and a chance to respond to God's grace in Christ.
Through solid biblical teaching, attentive and loving people serving them, honest conversations and listening ears, fun and the power of the Holy Spirit, the students build trust, open up, heal, repent, receive grace and learn to have a relationship with the Lover of their souls. Lives are changed. And as they go back to their homes and churches, they become a part of an established extended Christian family of brothers and sisters who will continue to support and love them in the Lord even beyond youth group and into adulthood.
Attended year after year, the retreat has become a constant and stable place of love and truth ... a place of reconnection, unity, encouragement for generations of youth. It's just one of the things God is using in New England alongside the local churches to help raise up men and women of God.
The ARISE Summer Retreat is built on 3 main pillars:
Pillar 1: The Gospel
Only the good news of what Jesus Christ accomplished to give us unmerited grace in exchange for our sin is the power to transform hearts and lives. The majority of churched Korean-American youth and young adults consistently surveyed are not able to articulate what the gospel is. The central message of the gospel alludes them because of the pervasive culture of works righteousness in both Korean churches and homes. There is a need for clear communication of the gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a sober, heart-mind-will response to the understanding of truth. This response often includes, but is not merely, free and joyful emotional expression. Real, gospel-driven joy and gratitude leads to a lifetime of selfless love and service toward God and neighbors.
Much thought and prayer is invested to keep the gospel of grace central to all aspects of the retreat—in the messages, seminars, small group discussions, and even during fun activities. We want to provide many different ways for the youth to understand who they are as children of God. We believe it is necessary to keep this gospel focus in the midst of secular spirituality and works-based morality.
Pillar 2: Discipleship
Older brothers and sisters intentionally living, loving and investing in youth help them to better understand biblical truth and personally experience God's love. English-speaking college and young adult ministries no longer exist within the Korean churches in the Boston area as they do in other parts of the country. Therefore, the ARISE summer retreat is the only time in the year that many of the youth have an opportunity to be with older Christian brothers and sisters. We take this God-given opportunity for relationship formation and discipleship seriously and go through a selective process of recruiting men and women to serve the youth in this capacity. Once gathered, we go through two weeks of prayer and training to prepare to serve the youth both at the retreat and through on-going relationships. Through ARISE, we reach beyond the four walls of individual local churches and bring together the youth and older brothers and sisters as the Church. The strong community that is built and grows every year among older people who have served with ARISE is one that the youth can look to for encouragement and support even beyond youth group years as they seek to pursue Christ in college and in different cities.
Pillar 3: Christian Community
Connection with and active participation in edifying, encouraging spiritual friendships are powerful and essential for Christian maturity. God has designed it that way. Especially for teens, one's peer group carries great influence and helps define truth. Therefore, youth need to be united and encouraged to build authentic, Christ-centered relationships within which to grow. There is high turnover and great instability in youth ministry leadership in New England. How amazing would it be if, whatever the circumstance, youth themselves knew how to listen, care and pray for one another? What if they were equipped and encouraged to build and spur one another on to serve their families, churches and world? Ministry doesn't always have to be top-down. No matter how young, we are counted among the priesthood of all believers.