Enduring Outreach

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A group from this year’s crew of “Men in White Shirts,” including (from left) Alarik Morris, Brandon Bettcher, James Haugen, Joel Werner, and Conner Forbes, bring energy and charisma to their skits..
A group from this year’s crew of “Men in White Shirts,” including (from left) Alarik Morris, Brandon Bettcher, James Haugen, Joel Werner, and Conner Forbes, bring energy and charisma to their skits..
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of Arbor Light, the official magazine of Concordia University Ann Arbor. View a PDF version of the magazine here.

In the spring of 2009, sixth grader Joel Werner was on Concordia Ann Arbor’s campus when he was startled by a nearby commotion. A group of college students, dressed in white T-shirts, arched their arms together to form the shape of a toaster. Another student jumped over them, pretending to be a piece of toast popping out of the human machine. Meanwhile, surrounding middle schoolers excitedly shouted out what they thought the college students were pretending to be. A frog? A runner jumping over a hurdle? A toaster?

The scene in front of Werner almost 10 years ago is still a beloved part of a time-honored CUAA tradition: Tool Time. For nearly two decades, this student-led retreat has biannually attracted some 200 youth to the CUAA campus for a weekend of powerful worship, small group devotions, service projects, and wacky games.

With a large grin on his face, Werner recalls those toaster days.

Tool Time is one of the reasons I decided to come to Concordia. It helped me discover what I wanted to do with my life.

Joel Werner, sophomore

“Tool Time is one of the reasons I decided to come to Concordia,” said Werner, now a sophomore pre-seminary major at CUAA. “It helped me discover what I wanted to do with my life.”

Tool Time is held as a weekend retreat for high schoolers each fall and as an overnight event for junior high students in the spring. CUAA students share their personal testimonies, spend time reflecting with youth, carry out collective service endeavors, engage in worship, and host youth in their dorm rooms overnight. They laugh. They cry. They sing. They feel.

Upwards of 70 student volunteers work together to make these retreats happen, each year passing on to future generations of CUAA student leaders the tradition and honor of hosting Tool Time. Concordia students, many of whom attended Tool Time when they were in high school, pour their energy into planning and executing the retreat with numerous late-night meetings on top of their otherwise packed schedules. Concordia students, like Sarah Roth, would say it’s well worth the effort.

Roth, now a family life education major at CUAA, was a student at her local community college when she was told by a fellow summer camp worker that she had to get involved with “this incredible thing that CUAA does.”

Roth’s favorite part of the retreat is on Saturday night following student testament. With worship music playing in the background, Roth gathers with her small group and one by one speaks with them about their life, their questions, and their struggles. She then prays over each of them.

“You can tell they really appreciate the opportunity to open up and ask tougher faith questions, which is a testimony to Tool Time itself,” she commented. “It has been incredible to see the stories these kids have, and to hear that this was an opportunity for them to get away and reconnect with God and the hope that He brings.”

Come fall, there will again be a buzz on campus, a familiar and tangible energy in the air. Perhaps there will be some students, Werner among them, wearing white shirts and pretending to be toast. The excitement will build as familiar faces meet once again, filling the campus with a deep sense of purpose and belonging. There will be Tool Time.

For more information about Tool Time, contact Director of Campus Ministry Randy Duncan.