Four-way volleyball, a mix of foursquare and volleyball, got the 39 teenagers at Students Alive! up and moving, kicking off the week of activities at the 2012 GARBC Conference. The sun might have been in their eyes, but that wasn’t going to stop them from scoring on the other teams.

Breaking the ice was a little colder than expected, with chilly winds whipping around the outdoor soccer-turned-volleyball fields. A bonfire, complete with s’mores, was promised to warm the teens up.

Students from all around the country gather for fun and fellowship each year at Students Alive!; for some, this is the highlight of their summer.

“I just love doing this, getting around other teens my age and hanging out . . . I love everything here,” says William Aiken, 15, from Bible Baptist Church, Bedford, Ohio.

“I think it’s fun to meet other Christians who love the Lord as much as I do,” says Heather Nicholson, 13, from First Baptist Church, Great Valley, N.Y. “I’m looking forward to the fellowship this week!”

A short walk through the woods took the teens to a bonfire behind the Kempton Athletic Center at Baptist Bible College. S’mores were promised, but not before Lance Augsburger, director of Students Alive! brought a challenge from God’s Word.

Standing in the smoke of the bonfire may have not been an ideal pulpit, but Lance made due, speaking to the teens sitting on surrounding logs. Bible study took on a rustic feel. Teaching from Jonah 1–3, Lance challenged the teens to “learn God, know God, and run to Him instead of from Him.”

“We have clear instructions from God’s Word. Don’t be like Jonah and experiment,” says Lance, Scriptures in hand. “Be in this book. Know God’s will and follow it. We serve a good God.”

S’mores, a must-have at every bonfire, served as a snack and facilitated fellowship for the group. There will be more time for fun the rest of the week.

Speakers will encourage the teens throughout the week to find a love for the local church, following the Authentic Church theme for the conference.

“I really want them to catch a personal love for the local church,” says Lance. “They’re already serving in their local church, but I want them to grow a desire to worship God there and serve there, to make their faith their own.”

Hopefully—no, prayerfully—more than just marshmallows and chocolate will stick with them this week.