Over a thousand students gather for Freedom to focus on their relationship with God and others.


photo by Emily Chastain

I Am They moves students during worship on Freedom Weekend.

5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Students rushed to their seats as the doors to the Worship Center flew open for Freedom weekend. Confetti fell, and music spread through the air.

Hosted by Prestonwood Baptist Church, the youth outreach weekend drew over a thousand students to worship, be spiritually inspired, build relationships and, for some, find a new life in Christ. Each student is part of a small group that attends worship, breakout sessions and recreation with each other and spends Friday and Saturday night together at a host home.

Freedom kicked off on Thursday night with a performance by the Christian rapper Tedashii while the crowd lit up with glow sticks.

Pastor Kelly Knouse, minister to students at Idlewild Church in Tampa, FL., delivered a message titled “Calling.” Pastor Kelly spoke of God’s love and how Christ will pursue His children even when they run from Him.

He said, “God is not just looking for you, He is excited about seeing you.” He stressed the importance of believers pursuing God the same way God pursues them. Not only does He love, but He gives second chances even when followers run from Him. Pastor Kelly said, “God is not mad at you. He is mad about you.”

The message illustrated how Christians and non-Christians often make false assumptions about who God is or why He does what He does. These assumptions can blind believers from seeing God for who He truly is.

Pastor Kelly preached from the book of Johsua. He emphasized the need to reach out to God and ask Him for influence to reach others. “My favorite part was learning more about God with some of my closest friends. It really impacted me when he talked about how God was faithful to Joshua and never abandoned him,” said Sophomore Cole Trammel.

Hands raised and hearts opened as the band I Am They led worship in their unique, folk style similar to that of The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men.

New for Freedom weekend, Saturday morning offered breakout sessions to choose from which spanned from learning how to do Bible journaling to studying how to have a Godly relationship, led by alumni newlyweds Brett Young and his wife Camryn Clark Young.

Saturday night was the high point of the weekend. The room was electric as many made life-changing decisions. Freshman Ashley Kniffen rededicated her life to Christ on Saturday night. “I really feel like seeing all my friends take worship seriously, the music and the pastor all played into my decision to rededicate my life and be baptized,” said Ashley.

Students at Freedom weekend appreciate the bonds they develop with both their group and their leaders. Junior Kaci Carter attended Freedom for the first time this year. She said, “Freedom was great. I got a lot closer to the girls in my house. Our leader helped us realize the importance of being in God’s Word as much as we can.”

Senior Caleb Smith said, “I like the opportunity to get in the Word with a leader who has a spiritual perspective that is easy to relate to.”

Not only did students leave Freedom feeling revitalized and more purposeful in their relationships with God, but they also felt bolder in their faith so they can share it with others.