What is a Cola War?

whatiscolawarthumbI've been having more and more people asking me lately, "So, what exactly is a Cola War?" If you're reading this article, it's probably because you are somewhat connected to our ministry, whether through a week of meetings we had at your church, Northland Camp, or a relationship with one of the team members. But unless you have actually been a teen in a Cola War, maybe you find yourself wondering, "What exactly goes on during one?" :)

Well, I doubt you'd find the phrase "Cola War" in the dictionary if you looked it up. But, the phrase was coined by my very own brother-in-law (Will Galkin) in the early nineties while he traveled on the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team. He worked with teens each week, and through his experiences, came up with a great way to reach youth during a week of meetings. The name just refers to the simple fact that the teams are Coke and Pepsi. They are made up of both guys and girls, senior high and junior high, so that the teams can be as even as possible. On Sunday night, each youth group member/teen is placed onto one of these teams. We have a "pre-service" that meets 45 minutes before the regular service, and during this time, we play a quick indoor game and hear a challenge from the person in charge of the teens (who happens to be my handsome husband for our team).

The POINT of a Cola War is evangelism. I doubt any youth pastor really wants to spend all the money that goes into a Cola War so that his teens can hang out together and eat pizza. :) Starting on Sunday, we are teaching teens about the Gospel, about how it should affect our life, and how that should play out with our unsaved friends. Many of the teens we meet don't know anyone their own age who hasn't heard the Gospel--that's a problem. We NEED to be a part of our communities so we can share the good news of Jesus with others! And, if the Gospel is really at work in someone's life, this will be happening! So, all week long we are teaching the teens truths from the Bible, and encouraging them to invite their unsaved friends to the BIG Cola War night, which usually takes place on a Thursday.

Fast forward to THE day. Our team prepares all day for the teen event. Sometimes we expect less than 20 teens to show up. I think the biggest Cola War I've ever been a part of was in Concord, NH. Hundreds of teens came out--it was a blast, but a nightmare to keep score in sometimes. :P Around 5 o'clock, our team goes outside, where the guys engage the teens present in some fun, casual games like throwing around a football, and the girls work at the registration table. Registration serves two purposes--it allows us to meet any visitors that come and have them fill out an information card so we can keep in contact with them, and it allows us to make sure the teams are very even. Sometimes this requires us switching church teens to a different team, but they are usually so tied in to the evangelistic purpose by the point that it's not a problem. After registration, Josh starts leading some big, rough, outdoor games. These include Tube Tug and Tackle, Don't Crack the Six-Pack, Soda Challenge, and everyone's all-time favorite, Spoke Tackle. I have no idea where these games came from, but teens love them.

After the outdoor games, we head inside for free, all-you-can-eat pizza. This is one of the things we make sure the teens know is going to be there when we invite them (the other two are rough competition and a Gospel message), and the pizza probably draws in the biggest crowd. We make sure to have the lines all set up, pizza on plates, cans of soda out, so that teens can get their food and get right into the room where we will eat. We have them divided up onto chairs on two sides of the room, and continue the competition with trivia questions and small competitions. Our team can be seen roaming the room, offering more pizza or drinks. This keeps the teens seated, which helps with the chaos. We do this right up until the service is supposed to start, then usher the teens into the main service. We usually all sit together so the teens feel more comfortable. This is the most important part of the night--where the teens hear the Gospel. This is why we spend the money on the pizza, games, drinks, and invitations. After the service, we try and connect with as many visitors as possible. Many times teens may not be ready to make a decision in the service, but they have questions--and we love to answer them. We have found that more teens express a desire to accept Christ as their Savior in a one-on-one conversation after the service than during the invitation. Our team is always overjoyed to be able to show someone from the Bible how to be saved!

So, this is a Cola War. Cola Wars actually have a very special place in my heart. When I was in high school, the Pettit team came to my church and held a Cola War with my youth group. Will happened to be the guy in charge of the teens. All week I remember having lots of fun, but Friday night, I dedicated my life to full-time Christian service. It was a very defining moment in my walk with the Lord as a high schooler, where I chose to actively start pursuing Him, which manifested itself in actually spending time in God's Word every day. I know God could have led me to this decision without the Cola War and week of evangelistic meetings, but I think it's awesome that I now get to be a part of the same ministry that God used so much in my life.

-Caroline Roland


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