• Living as a Leader,  SpringHill Experiences

    Amazing Records – 28 Years and 1200+ Students

    107As I’ve said before, one of my favorite groups of people in the world are the adults who bring students to our Winter Teen and Juniors Retreats. I love them because they give up an entire weekend, many as volunteers, to spend 40 hours hanging out with students, doing crazy activities, and getting very little sleep.

    Why do they do it? Because these adults know they’ll be a part of helping students hear, see and experience Jesus Christ in a life transforming way.

    And this weekend I spent time with one of my favorite of these favorites, Scott Hazel. Scott is a teacher at Cedar Springs High School, just north of Grand Rapids. Every year he brings busloads of students from his public high school to one of our Winter Retreats.

    Here’s the list of some unofficial, but amazing, SpringHill Winter Retreat records Scott has set.

    1. 28 straight years of bringing students to SpringHill Winter Retreats
    2. Over 30 Winter Retreats – In many of these 28 years Scott has attended 2 weekends, one with his high school students, and one with his church’s youth group.
    3. Over 1200 students – Scott brings 1 to 2 bus loads of students (between 40 to 95 students) every year.

    I have no doubt these records, like Cal Ripkin Jr’s consecutive baseball games played record, will stand forever.

    But more importantly than the records is the accumulative effect of what Scott has done over these 28 years. 1200+ students from a public high school have been given the opportunity to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and have their lives changed forever.


    Only in eternity will we see the depth of Scott’s impact.

    So now you know why Scott is one of my favorites of my favorites.

    If you’d like to know more about Scott click here, he’s published a book telling his story.

  • SpringHill Experiences

    Calling the Audible

    What do you do when you’re hosting over 900 students and their leaders for a “winter” retreat and winter melts away?  In light of it being Super Bowl weekend, you call an audible. 

    That’s exactly what our Michigan Retreats Team did this weekend after days of warm weather melted much of our snow (except, of course, on our tubing hill) including an anticipated Saturday with temperatures in the mid 40’s.  So the team decided to open up activities we normally offer during the non winter seasons such as riflery and, of course, the zipline.

    As a result, for the first time in SpringHill Winter Retreat history, we have students racing down the New Frontiers zipline.  It was an incredible scene watching 100’s of students speeding down both the tubing hill and zipline at the same time.

    Sarah Gillespie and her team making it happen

    But what made me proud was how our team looked at conditions outside their control (the weather) and instead of bemoaning them, searched for a way to take advantage of them, to create an experience that exceeded our guests’ expectations.  It meant a lot of extra work – opening up activity areas closed for the season and having staff trained and ready to safely operate them.

    Yet the team still called the audible, because the conditions “on the field” warranted it.   And the result was a memorable and life transforming weekend for over 900 students and their leaders.

    What made an audible even possible?  Simple, our team already had a well thought out and fine tuned plan.  I’ve often heard people ask “why plan if we’re just going to change it?”  Well, you can’t change what you don’t have, if you don’t have a game plan you can’t call an audible.

    Former staffer and long time volunteer Nick Deck working the zipline

    And, as our team demonstrated this weekend, when you have a great game plan then you’re in a position to call an audible, and the right audible can change the outcome of the game.

  • SpringHill Experiences

    Winter Retreats – A Little Like Heaven

    Photo by SpringHill staff

    Where, other than life on the new earth, can you find 9000 people from more than 250 different churches and denominations playing, praying and worshipping together? At SpringHill’s Winter Teen Retreats! That’s right, attending a Winter Retreat is a little like Heaven. Because at SpringHill, like eternity, there’s no divisions between God’s people.

    Instead the only competition between churches at SpringHill is the annual broomball tournament. The battle on the ice isn’t about doctrinal and governance issues, but instead about winning the coveted Winter Teen Retreat banner.

    I have to admit, even after being a part of Winter Retreats for 14 seasons, I’m still amazed every time I walk around camp during a winter weekend, to see and talk to students and leaders from so many churches and traditions. It does make me think about and anticipate the coming of Christ’s Kingdom on the new earth.

    What makes such an experience possible? First, every church understands the purpose of the weekend is to help students to know and grow in their relationships with Christ, to assist leaders in developing relationships with their students and to build stronger youth groups. Second, because of this purpose, SpringHill programs around what all Christian churches agree on – Jesus Christ. Finally, we stay away from issues that cause division and encourage the group leaders to do the same, which they’re only too happy to do.

    So, this winter, if you think about SpringHill, say a prayer for the 1000’s of students and their leaders who’ll be attending one of eleven retreats, that their Christ centered focus will continue well beyond the weekend, becoming the focus of their lives and the lives of their churches.




  • Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    False Hero Worship

    Our Michigan Facilities Manager, Joe Yahner, calls the celebration of work and projects done at the last-minute, false hero-worship. He mentioned it in an impromptu conversation he, our Retreats Manager Eric Woods and I were having about Winter Teen Retreats preparation.

    It’s a great description of an all too often occurrence in organizations large and small, including, in times past, at SpringHill.

    False hero-worship happens when organizations confuse procrastination, the lack of planning and the accompanying last-minute scramble to get work done, with good planning and execution. When organizations and leaders make this mistake they reinforce the wrong behaviors in their teams. Instead of encouraging great planning and execution, leaders send a message that they value being behind with two minutes to go, and the lack of planning and procrastination which causes it.

    It’s like making heroes of fire fighters who start their own fires, and then celebrating their great fire fighting. We become so addicted to the adrenaline rush of fire fighting (or watching fire fighting) that we inadvertently encourage fire starting (lack of planning and preparation).

    And if adrenaline highs is your goal then good, thoughtful and intentional planning followed by calm and professional execution of the plan, offers very little excitement. It only offers great, sustainable results at lower organizational and personal costs.

    Great planning and execution also offers the deep satisfaction of knowing a job, the entire job, from beginning to the end, has been well done – so well done that the work looked easy (even if we know it wasn’t).

    So Eric, Joe and I had our own brief “celebration” in the Trading Post of the good planning and great work done by our team. And based on the first two retreats, we’ll also be celebrating another winter of great ministry.

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