Retreat Blogs


NCCS Upper School Retreat
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
written by Megan Strange | Upper School Principal

For more photos, visit the gallery on Facebook.

It's finally here!  All the praying, planning, and prep have led to the day when 9 charter buses rolled into the NCCS Upper School Parking lot to take almost 500 Upper School faculty, staff, and students to the Upper School Fall Retreat.  We've come a long way from those first retreats in the fall of 2006 when whole high school rode to retreat on a few NCCS school buses.  How exciting to celebrate God's faithfulness through our annual retreats.

The students were excited as they rolled into school this morning carrying suitcases and getting checked in.  We quickly loaded up and departed to make our way west on I-20 to Talladega, Alabama, the home of Shocco Springs Conference Center.  We went to Shocco last year and our students were pumped to go back.  It was awesome to hear them telling the new students about all the fun things there were to do at camp!

Unloading all those students and luggage went super fast thanks to several staff who had driven on ahead and had things well organized.  Service with a smile for sure!  The golf cart army has been deployed and they started shuttling groups all over campus.  The students met up for lunch where they quickly discovered the variety of options!  Today we had hamburgers and you could also choose from the sandwich, salad, or taco bars.  The kids made quick work of the food.  Lots of conversation and laughter in the room as new friendships are being made and others were catching up after the summer.

Mr. Smith led us in a great orientation to make sure everyone knew the schedule, plans for our time, and how to have the most fun!  He also read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 over the group as that is the passage we will be studying at camp.  Thanks for praying for these days as we learn more about what it means to be "RECONCILED", first in our relationship with Christ and then in our relationship with others and the world around us.

We dismissed from orientation to meet in our small groups for a little bit to make sure our new students were connected and our freshmen were off to a great start as well.  What a joy to see so many Upper School students, faculty, and staff gathered around the chapel and outside just "doing life" together.  


My group of 11th grade girls has been together since freshman year, but we were so excited to welcome two new girls into our group.  The girls all shared their name, how long they have been at NCCS, and what they think their favorite class will be this year...all based on how the first day went.  Lots of fun choices for favorite class and I loved hearing them highlight "this teacher seems so nice!" on several occasions.  That's the NCCS difference ... what a gift!

After small groups, everyone was released into free time where they could choose from a variety of fun options: the waterpark at the lake, the pool, the coffeeshop/snack bar, bazooka ball, high ropes, pickleball, putt putt, basketball, climbing wall, and much more!  Some kids spent their time playing cards and a few even built a sand castle in the sand volleyball pit!  There certainly was plenty to choose from and it was awesome to see high school students put down their phones and just play outside and enjoy each other's company for a few hours.


Free time wrapped around 5pm and everyone headed back to their rooms for showers and to get dressed up for theme night.  Each grade level had a theme and some people went all out.  This crew LOVES to dress up!  Here were the themes...
Freshmen: Neon
Sophomores: Jersey
Juniors: Hawaiian
Seniors: Western

The students arrived at dinner and devoured chicken tenders.  They looked great all dressed up and we ended up with a fun surprise at dinner...a pop up thunderstorm.  Instead of heading out into our first round of evening activities, we hung out in the building where we eat and the kids were great!  

We started our evening session after a quick break in the downpour to rush over to the chapel.  Coach Bitner and Mrs. Dignon helped us warm up the crowd with a fun game involving toilet paper and then another one with oreos dipped in some mystery sauces. The kids were great sports and the staff even got in on the competition!  

Seth, Kaitlin (Howell) Mullins (NCCS Class of 2007), Paul, and Jesse from NorthStar joined us this evening to lead worship.  That is a special time geared to help us focus our heart on the Lord.  As we sing Scripture, we are proclaiming what we know to be true about God.  It helps us set a foundation for the message to come.  Mr. Gnann (NCCS Class of 2015 and current physics teacher) was our speaker this evening.  

We continued our study of 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 by going back to Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians to talk about what Paul was trying to point out to the church at Corinth.  The main idea was that he was trying to tell them that living for Christ means that you will look different than the world.  It will seem like you are "out of your mind" if you are following Christ.  Our sin separated us from God, but his grace towards us through Jesus' death on the cross, burial, and resurrection RECONCILED us to Christ.  A proper understanding of that reconciliation leads us to be reconciled to others as well.  If we understand that God evaluates us on new standards, we can stop evaluating other people on the things they have done in the past. A welcome message for us all.

The storms continued throughout the message and there was even a time the power went out briefly and took out the sound system.  Mr. Gnann simply raised his voice and said "we are going to keep going...this is too important to stop."  The group leaned in and we continued to study God's word to learn how to live like Christ.  Mr. Gnann shared his own story of becoming a Christ follower during the retreat on his junior year of high school.  He challenged the students to consider their own heart and where they stand in their relationship to Christ.  We prayed together and closed our time in worship.

The crew was so flexible this evening. It's not easy to have 500 people change plans on a dime...but this group did it graciously!  After worship, the kids were surprised with a cereal bar and a chance to just hang out for a little bit while we waited for a gap in the storm.

God provided a break in the storm and we all made a run for our rooms.  The girls grabbed snacks, braided hair, played games, and made our dorm like a giant slumber party.  Clearly I have no idea what the guys did, but I'm sure they made it fun!  We just wrapped up room checks and are about to call it a night.

As we wrap up an AWESOME first day at camp, would you please join us in praying that hearts would be tender and open to the things of the Lord?  For the kids in our midst that know Christ, we pray that they would be strengthened to be bold and walk out their faith in their interactions with others. For those who don't know Christ or who have questions, we pray they would be open to learning more about what it means to follow Christ..

We've got an action packed day lined up for we are calling it a night from Talladega!  Let's Go Eagles!