At USG, we have been leading Impact Weekends since the spring of 2021. These weekend events are the culmination of the USG Training Academy through encapsulating and building off of how God worked in the hearts of our Training Academy participants during those eight weeks of the Academy. No two Impact Weekends have looked the same, but something that I am continually in awe about with these weekends is how God continually weaves our participants together in how He builds strong fellowship and community within our network of participants.
Our group of Team 33 participants arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday, January 6th. After checking in at the hotel and initiating introductions, we moved towards a “Strengths Activity” rooted in the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment. Each Academy participant has gone through and been coached by one of our staff members in this assessment, and at each Impact Weekend, we try to build off of that coaching so that our participants can see how they have been gifted, how others have been gifted and in how they can use those giftings for God’s glory! These activities really helped our group grow in unity through prioritizing relationship-building with each other. Later that night, building off of the “Strengths Activity,” our group spent some time at “Throw Inc.” an axe-throwing company. This event was planned so that our group could continue to get to know one another and have some fellowship together. Whether it was throwing axes, playing darts, or enjoying Jenga, the Lord really helped connect our team in an authentic and deeper way that night. After our time at “Throw Inc.”, we headed back to our hotel in downtown Atlanta and rested up in preparation for a busy Saturday.
After having some breakfast, our group of participants dove deep into Acts 2:42-47, which each student walked through during the Training Academy with their coach. This passage of Scripture really prioritizes “being” the Church as opposed to “going” to Church, and it really encapsulates what Christ designed His bride, the Church, to be! The people of the early Church movement in Acts also knew God, in knowing Him, subsequently enjoyed Him, and through knowing and enjoying Him, subsequently glorified Him! After some great discussion on this section of scripture with our groups, we headed to State Farm Arena to experience a tour of the facility and hear from three Atlanta Hawks staffers on their experiences in life, both professionally and spiritually. The tour was very eye-opening as State Farm Arena has set the standard on arena experience that several teams are now following. After the tour of the facility, Chelsea, Olivia, and Rachael, who all are in full-time roles with the Atlanta Hawks, did an incredible job of sharing their life journeys and answering any questions that our group had. They also shared their faith journeys and how they kept Christ as their firm foundation and operated as staffers on integrity.
Soon after lunch at CNN World Headquarters, a panel of present USG members shared their experiences with the ministry and encouraged our group of Team 33 participants to make the most of the opportunities that they have within the ministry as a whole. After the panel, Justin Gibbons, an FSU graduate who presently serves as the Coordinator for Entertainment & Live Events for Mercedes Benz Stadium, swung by our hotel and connected with our group about his path and story of how he got to where is today, being a present leader in the sports industry. He also answered questions that our group had about his background and day-to-day responsibilities. After Justin left, our group participated in three different breakout rotations that were each led by someone on our USG staff. The three breakout sessions of corporate prayer, outreach training, and a handwritten notes exercise were meant to build off areas emphasized during the Training Academy. After those breakouts, our team of 20 was broken up into five groups to serve those in need in downtown Atlanta. Our group packed “blessing bags” with items often requested by homeless shelters, and our group was able to distribute those bags, pray for, and encourage those in need with the hope of Christ. After returning from outreach, our group was able to have some pizza together, celebrate how the Lord worked during outreach, hear a message from our Executive Director Drew Boe on the Parable of the Sower, and close the night with some fellowship, exploring downtown Atlanta, which for some included a Ferris Wheel excursion.
On Sunday, our group had intentional time to reflect on what the Lord did in their hearts during the Training Academy, and we as a staff had time to celebrate them, presenting them with certificates of completion for the Academy, and we also touched on what being a USG member will look like for them in the future. After this session, our group attended Passion City Church together, building off of one of our Academy pillars of being rooted with your local body of Christ, and after that with some airport drop-offs, the individuals of our group were heading back home, all over the country, to be lights for Christ, wherever He has planted them! Another Impact Weekend in the books and another reminder of the Lord’s continued provision and faithfulness every step of the way and especially in regard to building depth within the community and relationships of our network!