who we are
The Oaks is a 3 day summer retreat for incoming freshmen at Auburn University and Southern Union State Community College. The weekend primarily consists of worship and teaching at our large group sessions, small group time with your counselor and fellow freshmen, and time for personal growth in the Lord. Expect to grow deeply in your love for and knowledge of the Lord, in community and relationships with other believers, and in your view of your time spent at Auburn. You will get the opportunity to hear from different campus pastors during our main sessions as well as our topic-based breakout sessions. You will also have the chance to personally meet the faces associated with various churches and campus ministries in the Auburn/Opelika area at our Ministry Fair. Prepare to learn, to grow, to have fun, and to be prepared to enter campus as a laborer into the harvest.
The mission of The Oaks Retreat is to equip freshmen to be rooted in Christ, to branch out in ministry and to bear fruit on Auburn’s campus through His power and for His glory.
Our mission comes directly from Scripture, and is applied specifically from Isaiah 61 and Jeremiah 17
“that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he may be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:3
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in a year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8
3 pillars of our mission
“…to be rooted in Christ”
The Oaks will first and foremost clearly articulate the Gospel to freshmen and that it is the firm foundation of all the ministry we do. Our hope is that it would be their foundation as well. The Oaks will emphasize inward growth, in order to encourage our brothers and sisters to become true disciples of Christ. We pray that The Oaks will be instrumental in helping these freshman be firmly rooted in the Word of God and unwavering in their biblical convictions. Their counselors will come alongside them and spur them toward greater love, worship, prayer, and spiritual discipline as they draw nearer to the Lord. The role of the counselors is extended in this aspect throughout the entire freshman year for the purposes of accountability and a type of mentorship.
“…to branch out in ministry”
By partnering with Christ-centered, Bible-teaching churches and campus ministries, The Oaks will give freshmen their first taste of all that’s out there, so that when they move in for the fall semester, they can quickly “plug in” to a church and get involved in the ministries that suit them. They will have the opportunity to build relationships with people from different churches and organizations, giving them a personal way to seek a community that matches their beliefs, passions and convictions as churches unify to get every student connected in a meaningful way somewhere. In addition to showing the freshmen the communities of churches and campus ministries, The Oaks will provide an environment for students to form lasting friendships with other Christ-seeking freshmen and upperclassmen. The Oaks aims to connect brothers and sisters in Christ of all classes as they strive for God’s glory together on the mission field of Auburn University.
“…to bear fruit on Auburn’s campus”
One key part of this is instilling in them the mindset of seeing their campus as their mission field, and to see God’s individual calling for their ministry during their time at Auburn. They will be equipped to serve, to love, and to share the gospel boldly with their friends and classmates. Together with the body of Christ, they can pray and seek for the name of Jesus to be magnified on our campus. Our prayer is that not only would freshmen be able to view Auburn as their mission field, but that they would be actively seeking to bear fruit in whichever ministry the Lord calls them to.
Fifteen years ago, the Lord sparked an idea in the mind of an Auburn student. He had come to Auburn as a follower of Jesus but squandered his freshman year at Auburn bouncing from church to church, needing a mature Christian to disciple him, and missing out on God’s purpose for Him at Auburn. Though he eventually found those things, he wanted to make it easier for others to get connected to what the Lord was doing in Auburn.
Working at a camp one summer, he met students from Texas A&M and heard about their Impact Retreat for incoming freshmen. He knew this is what he needed as a freshman and felt like others needed it as well. He prayed about whether God would have him start something like that at Auburn, but didn’t feel like the Lord was leading him to that yet. He moved away for a couple years before the Lord called him back to Auburn to serve as a college pastor at a local church. Suddenly, this hope glimmered a little brighter. But for some reason, he kept hearing “not yet” from God. Six years passed, with the concept of a retreat for incoming freshmen that was hosted by all the local churches always in the back of his mind.
In 2012, a sophomore named Chris Gluckman stepped onto the scene. Chris had come to Auburn from Austin, TX, and had also heard of Texas A&M’s retreat. He went to this college pastor with the idea to start one at Auburn. Suddenly, the Lord had opened the door for both men’s dreams to be realized and for believers for years to come to be impacted by this retreat.
It was already the spring semester, but before they planned anything, they spent a month solely praying over the retreat. They had thought surely the retreat would have to wait until the following summer to get started, but the Lord led them to consider the upcoming summer. He opened doors for the retreat to be hosted at Shocco Springs Conference Center, which usually books up 1-2 years in advance. A leadership team of people who believed in this vision was assembled from various churches in town. That first ragtag leadership team, after a brief stint of jokingly calling the retreat Camp War Jesus, decided on the name the Oaks Retreat, from the imagery derived from the verses Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Isaiah 61:3, which summarize our goal for the freshmen who come. That first summer, over 130 freshmen came to a brand-new event that they knew almost nothing about. It has grown by nearly 100 people each year, and this year we’re praying for 613 freshmen to come to the Oaks Retreat.
Within the past three years, we’ve opened the retreat up to Southern Union students and transfer students. We also expanded to two retreats in order to be able to accommodate more freshmen. We continue to grow in the number of churches and ministries from the Auburn/Opelika area that are represented at the Oaks Retreat. Each year, The Oaks Retreat enables freshmen that attend to meet upperclassmen that can pass on their experiences, connect freshmen to other freshmen who also want to use their time in college for the Lord, help the freshmen quickly and deeply plug in to a church home in Auburn, and build unity among the body of Christ in Auburn. The Lord is working mightily in Auburn, and the Oaks Retreat would love to help you get connected to what He is doing here!