By Daniel Potter
As I left the beautiful village of Montreat, NC, I passed through their familiar stone gateway. This year, specifically, it occurred to me that each time I have passed through that portal, I’ve done so as a different person. Life, certainly, has dictated that change. The first time I crossed as a seminarian on the brink of following my first call. Then, I entered as a minister serving a new congregation, saddled with the joys and challenges of that chapter of my life. This February, I returned as a seasoned youth minister, supported and loved through the challenges of pandemic and personal life by a network of friends turned family. Yes, certainly, each time I have entered into Montreat, I was a different person. One must also cross that archway on their way home. The difference between entering that space and leaving, having been changed, a few days later is a hidden gem of the CBF known as “Oasis.”
Oasis is a special time for those serving the Church as vocational ministers. Part retreat, part conference, part networking, part fellowship, Oasis is a place of reconnection and renewal. Each time I’ve crossed the stone barrier on my way homeward, I’ve been more deeply connected to and more assured of my calling. As a seminarian, I left that first retreat ready to embrace my future calling head on. As a recently called minister, I left feeling connected and supported by a family of fellow youth ministers who would, borrowing from The Servant Song, “walk the mile and bear the load.” As an established youth minister who’d just survived COVID and made it through especially difficult familial challenges, I left rejoicing in just how God and God’s people had carried me each step of the way.
Oasis 2022 was special for many reasons. Having served the CBF Youth Ministry Network as Treasurer and then President, I’ve had a first hand look at what made it so spectacular. It has been incredible to watch Oasis grow: From a niche event catering to youth ministers and carried by grant funding all the way to the event blossoming into its most recent form, growing to welcome children’s, youth, and college ministers. From a sabbath week centered on grades 6-12, it has grown into one celebrated by all who minister to and with young disciples, cradle roll through college graduation. From an event welcoming 60-70 members, it has grown to one that hosted over 140 participants from across CBF life. Oasis has changed to meet the needs of CBF ministers in a similar trajectory to the way I’ve left that respite every other year. Simply put, the event and I have become more robust, more impactful, and more whole because of the growth realized leading up to, through, and following that unique gathering.
Between tears and guffaws, tender mercies and joyous celebration, Oasis has been, and continues to be, a safe place for ministers to reflect on what Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver dub our “odd and wondrous calling.” Together, following this year’s special new installment, children’s, youth, and collegiate ministers have filled our individual and collective cups to continue the life-changing and life-giving work of our ministries. We’ve recommitted, reconnected, and revitalized the work we each do in our own communities and across the Fellowship at large.
If you’d like to know more about Oasis or how it’s impacted so many, the best way is to ask an attendee. Check in with your church’s children’s, youth, or college minister. If they attended, hear their stories. And if they didn’t, encourage them to bookmark February 6-9, 2024 for the next biennial Oasis. Much like the end of a week at summer camp for our adolescents, there are too many tales, memories, and God-moments to surmise in this simple format. Stories abound from Oasis, and it is those stories that make the difference in my vocational and personal life each day.
If you’d like to ensure that you or your church are connected to future gatherings, reach out to the CBF Children’s Ministry Network, the CBF Youth Ministry Network, or the newly forming CBF Collegiate Ministry Network. We ministers need community to fully live into our calling to serve God’s church as the hands and feet of Christ. These networks are easy, surefire ways to find a family to support, encourage, and challenge each member.
Oasis has meant so much to me throughout my pursuit of vocational ministry. And, given the impact of such an incredible moment, I find I can only close in gratitude, as follows:
Thanks be to God for the gift that is Oasis. Thanks be to God for generous sponsors and partners that kept this special event affordable and attainable for so many. Thanks be to God for quiet reflections and boisterous laughs. Thanks be to God for a community of folks living out a shared calling.
And, in response, all God’s children say, AMEN!
Daniel Potter serves First Baptist Church of Columbus, GA as Minister of Youth. He recently completed his tenure as President of the CBF Youth Ministry Network (March 2021 – February 2022), and now acts as the network’s Past-President. Daniel was a Vestal Leadership Scholar and a member of the third cohort of CBF Fellows. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys spending time with his wife, Rachel, caring for their infant son, playing with their sweet dog, and cheering loudly for the North Carolina Tar Heels.