Nationwide 26 Below: Connecting Youth Groups across North America
By Craig Fritchey
Earlier this year, following the disappointment of canceling our in-person 26 Below Retreats due to the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing challenges, CMML began planning its first Nationwide 26 Below event for April 23, 2022, from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. (EDT). We hoped that this hybrid event would meet a ministry need for youth in North America.
The format was simple: CMML would provide music and messages virtually, and the youth groups would gather in person to engage with the content, play games (including our signature Psycho Dodgeball), and enjoy the fellowship. Scott DeGroff, Micah Tuttle, and Micah Williams (Missionary Prayer Handbook Day 29–30) agreed to speak on the theme “Forward with Christ,” and Cullen Tuttle (Micah’s son) gathered musicians to prerecord the corporate singing. We at CMML planned to send each group that would register a “26 Below Box” filled with activities, instructions, supplies, goodies, and 26 Below T-shirts.
We wondered if an event like this would attract young people. But host sites, or certain locations that volunteered to receive the youth groups in their region, quickly popped up around the US and Canada. Their youth leaders expressed how helpful it was that CMML preplanned the event and sent them the necessary materials. One said, “The poster, links, games, discussion questions, schedule, T-shirts—everything was thought of and well executed.”
On the conference day, about 1,000 youth in 40 locations across North America simultaneously gathered for the event. After the participants watched the first session, we invited them to join us on Zoom for a selfie. More than 30 groups (host sites and individuals) logged on, and we saw faces from Albuquerque to Ontario to South Florida. Some groups, like the North Carolina Youth Rally and Emmaus Bible College, had 50–100 people; others had two or three gathered in a home. We were humbled to see this diversity in the groups and each one’s enthusiasm. “Many were challenged,” said Bert Mast (MPH Day 28), who led a group in Lincoln, Nebraska. “I think this event will make a difference in eternity.”
While we plan to relaunch our in-person 26 Below Retreats in 2023, the value of this nationwide event is evident. Please pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation of workers devoted to moving forward with Christ. Visit CMML.us/26belownation2022 to listen to the messages and watch a recap video.
Craig Fritchey, CMML conference coordinator.
Originally published in Missions magazine, July 2022. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.