Even though Fall is in the air, we are already thinking about the summer for our High School student ministry here at ECC. During the week of July 15-19, 2024, students from around our denomination will be gathering for a conference called UNITE. This is a renewed version of the extremely popular event in our denomination called “CHIC”, and for those that don’t know what that is, I just want to share a little about it as we prepare for next summer.
In 1956, the Covenant Denomination set out to provide a unique experience for high school students in our churches around the country. The event was called CHIC, which was a loose acronym that stood for “Covenant High Congress” but was renamed “Covenant High in Christ” in 1997. Every three years, Christian students in Covenant Churches would gather for a week of discipleship, worship, and service. Over the years, many changes were made to adapt to the needs of students and local churches, which included bringing in big name Christian bands and top-tier Christian speakers and teachers from around the country.
I, like so many others, can give personal testimony to how life changing of an experience this conference was. In the summer of 2003, I experienced CHIC for the first time at the University of Tennessee. To this day, I can still remember what some of the speakers taught and the different Christian bands that played. I even remember going to a workshop that was all about what to do if you want to go into ministry, where I learned all about seminary and ordination for the first time. It was my first real look into what it would mean to be called as a Pastor. I had no clue at that point that I would be one someday.
In the years that followed, I was also able to serve as a volunteer and to eventually lead groups of students to CHIC as a youth pastor. I can say with confidence that this is one of the best things we do in the Covenant. This is why I am so excited for the return of this incredible conference in the summer of 2024.
In January of 2020, just before the pandemic and about a year and a half after CHIC 2018, the leadership for CHIC decided it was time for a rebrand and they decided to use the theme from CHIC 2018 “UNITE” as it’s new name. Marti Burger, the director of events for the Covenant at the time, said “The new name, Unite, allows us to continue to live out who we are as Covenanters, by joining God in God’s mission to see more disciples among more populations in a more caring and just world.” The concept was that the event’s focus would shift from a standard “Christian Conference” to a unique event driven by the goal of bringing students together to “unite” around God’s mission and purpose in the world.
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic that began a few months later would cancel UNITE 2021. The news was difficult for youth ministries around the country, especially because it felt like we had a real chance of losing the legacy of CHIC that propelled groups of students every 3 years to attend this amazing event.
I am thrilled to say, though, that this was not to be the end. This past year, the decision has been made to officially bring back the conference. UNITE 2024 will be the first time in 6 years that Covenant Churches will be gathering our youth groups together and experiencing this transformative week together again, though it will be with a few key differences. The biggest difference is that it will be split between two locations: UNITE West that will take place at San Diego State University in California and UNITE East (the one we will be attending) at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
At this point in the process, students and families have been informed of our plans and an initial registration is available at ecclife.net/unite-2024. We are hoping to get a majority of students and leaders committed and signed up by our first fundraiser…
…which leads me to Sunday, November 19, when the whole church will be invited to participate in our Soup and Dessert fundraiser. November 19 is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and for the first time, we will be having our Harvest Ingathering service on a Sunday morning! It will be a beautiful service on thankfulness, which will be followed by a “by-donation” soup luncheon over at the Life Center. If you attended this fundraiser in March, it will be much the same. A donation of any amount will get you a delicious lunch where you will have around a dozen different options for soups and chili’s to choose from. The luncheon will be followed by a LIVE auction in the LCA, where homemade, delicious desserts that are donated by the UNITE students/leaders and families will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Samples of these desserts will be available to try during the luncheon. But what this means is that you may be able to take home a delicious dessert just in time for thanksgiving! All winning bids and donations from the lunch will go directly to students and leaders to attend UNITE 2024.
As students are signing up and we are preparing for this transformative experience together next summer, we ask that you (our ECC church and family) will be supporting us along the way. YES, we definitely hope to get your participation and help in raising funds. But more than anything, we really ask that you be praying. Pray for the students that God already knows and is preparing to go on this experience. Whether they’re regular youth group attenders, or friends, or connected to other families and members of our church, we want to be praying for each person that will be at this amazing event. Pray also for the leaders. We do not have all the leaders we will need locked into place, and we ask that you pray that the right leaders will be revealed to us soon. We also ask that you pray for all the planning and logistics of this experience.
With your prayers, we trust that God has an amazing work in store for us next summer, and we can’t wait to share this experience together. If you have any questions, ideas, concerns, OR even if you know of any student that might be interested in attending, please feel free to reach out to me!