Archives For student ministry

By Andrew Woodrow

YE 2018 Marion

Hundreds of students and leaders gathered across Illinois in October for Youth Encounter, IBSA’s annual evangelism conference for students. In Marion (above), Decatur, and two sites in Chicagoland, almost 1,400 attenders heard from speakers and worship leaders who encouraged them to keep going in their faith, even as they face unprecedented challenges from the culture around them

For young Christians, following Jesus can be a lonely pursuit. Especially in today’s pressure cooker culture. It’s overwhelming, said student pastor Mark Davis, when young people have constant, instant access to information—and much of it beyond their years.

In that environment, discovering and developing your faith can be difficult. It’s easy to feel alone. At Youth Encounter, IBSA’s annual evangelism-focused conference for students, young believers have an opportunity to escape societal pressures for a while, and fully engage in worship with hundreds of other students like them.

They leave the conference—held this year in five locations around the state—better equipped to live out their faith and share it with the people around them.

Encouraged, emboldened
At Youth Encounter, middle school and high school students are led in worship by up-and-coming Christian artists, and inspired and challenged by some of the top student ministry speakers in the country.

But perhaps the greatest encouragement students receive from the conference is knowing they’re not alone.

“Oftentimes, the students feel that if they talk about their faith or visibly live it out, they’re going to be abandoned,” said Davis, pastor to students at Murdale Baptist Church in Carbondale. “Youth Encounter gives them a chance to see they’re not alone. And seeing there are other students in their area, not just a handful but hundreds of them, helps encourage and embolden their faith.”

For the first time this year, Youth Encounter events were scheduled in five locations across Illinois. Nearly 1,400 students and leaders attended the first four conferences, including sites in Decatur, Marion, and two in Chicagoland, and 62 people have given their lives to Christ. The final Youth Encounter conference for 2018 will be held Nov. 11 at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon.

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To students like Jade Nappier, Youth Encounter is a break “from the stress during the school year that can be hard to find at church.” Nappier, a student from First Baptist Church in Marion, also said Youth Encounter has helped her discover she’s not alone in exploring her faith, motivating her to “be the Christian I want to be.”

Selena Petrowich from Third Baptist Church in Marion has been coming to Youth Encounter ever since she can remember. Now a senior in high school, she describes how Youth Encounter helped her not feel alone in discovering her faith.

“A lot of people trying to come to Christ feel alone. I know I did. So, having more people around you that you know are exploring their own faith [makes it] definitely easier to share mine.”

Petrowich expressed how moving it is to see school acquaintances at Youth Encounter who wouldn’t otherwise show their faith. “What caught my eye was seeing so many teenagers actually open in wanting to learn about God,” she said. “That’s when you realize, ‘Okay, I can do this too.’ And for me, that was my biggest thing: realizing that not just older people can be interested in worship and in God.”

Changing world, unchanging Word
“One of the great things Youth Encounter presents to the kids is that while the culture is constantly changing, the Word is unchanging,” said Madison Presswood, minister of youth at FBC Marion. Presswood encourages his students to be less concerned with the media and warns them where their attention is kept the most is where their sphere of influence is the strongest.

There is also a need, though, to engage the culture without fear, Andrew Nippert encourages his students. “If a church wants to help their young people survive their culture they’re living in and help them prepare to engage with their culture and be gospel-relevant in their communities, you can’t be scared of the culture or of change,” said Nippert, youth and children’s minister at Third Baptist Church in Marion. “Because the one thing that should never change is God’s Word.”

Amid pressures from the world they live in, students are going to mess up, Nippert said. “But that’s why we work with them. That’s why we minister to them. Because they’re who need the Lord. We all need the Lord in our own way, and we just have to be willing to go to those that are, sometimes, the troublemakers. And give them the One who can lead them out of their troubles.”

Equipped to go out
Youth Encounter helps prepare students to take their faith into the community by exposing them to bands and speakers they can look up to, and by equipping them to live out their faith, despite cultural pressures.

“IBSA does a really good job getting solid speakers that unpack the gospel and the reality of Christ in a way that makes sense to the students’ worlds,” Nippert said. “So then, it’s a lot easier to walk back into their world with Christ at the center of what they’re doing.”
High school junior Seth Lindhorst has already been to the youth conference multiple times. He said Youth Encounter teaches students his age realistic ways to live out their faith “and still be normal.”

One of Lindhorst’s frustrations with societal pressures is the bombardment Christians receive for living a ‘boring’ life, despite attempts to be more involved and have appropriate fun outside the church. “It’s extremely difficult for a Christian my age,” said the student from Third Baptist in Marion. “So, the Christian youth in today’s culture feels pressured into doing things that really aren’t appropriate for kids our age.”

Coming to Youth Encounter, however, encourages him not to back down to the peer pressure.

“When I go back to school after Youth Encounter, I always walk with a jump in my step. It gets me pumped up,” Lindhorst said. “Youth Encounter equips you for the long run and gives guidelines you can use in your daily life. And as I’m singing songs, as I’m listening to the speaker, I’m thinking to myself, ‘How can I change my life to make Jesus’ name look better?’”

For more information about resources and opportunities for students, go to IBSA.org/students.

Ministering to Students

ib2newseditor —  September 12, 2016

Mission Illinois Offering Week of Prayer Devotion Day 2

MIO-box-smallTeens and college students today are seeking an authentic faith that leads to real life change. Through discipling events and campus ministry, IBSA missionaries and churches are doing their part to help kids understand that they are loved by God.

The biggest IBSA evangelism effort each year is Youth Encounter, held simultaneously at three locations on Columbus Day weekend. Junior high and high school students listen to well known bands, hear the gospel presented by dynamic speakers, and have the opportunity to respond to Christ. At YE 2015, more than 1,500 students attended, with 109 salvation decisions at the Decatur location alone. “My hope is that next year we would be able to have even more people,” said Erin Willis at the Chicago location.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering

Pray for Mark Emerson and the Church Resources team who lead this work. Pray for the salvation of young people in your church and statewide.

Youth Encounter 2016 is Sunday, October 9, 2016 from  3 – 9 p.m. in Chicago, Decatur and Marion. Find out more at www.IBSA.org/ye2016.

Watch the slideshow below to see photos from YE 2015.

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YE_blog92 profess faith at Youth Encounter

NEWS | Rick Gage stood in front of nearly 1,000 students and leaders meeting at the Prairie Capital Convention Center for the Youth Encounter evangelism conference. The room was much quieter than it had been just a few minutes earlier, when the Dec. 29-30 event kicked off with high-energy music, improv comedy from Team WordPlay, and a performance by illusionist Bryan Drake.

When Gage took the stage, he spoke first to leaders who brought students to the annual event, thanking them for investing in young people’s lives.

“We’re here to meet with God. We’re here to do business with God. And it’s our prayer—it’s your prayer—that God would use these next 24 hours to impact not just the teenagers’ lives, but all of our lives.”

A few minutes later, after preaching a message on what it means to have an authentic relationship with God, Gage called students to the front who felt led to make a decision for Christ. They streamed down the aisles. Almost 300 people crowded near the stage (above) as the evangelist prayed over them and instructed them to head backstage to meet with counselors.

All told, 92 people made decisions to trust Christ at Youth Encounter, and 205 recommitted their faith. During the two-day conference, 20 students also answered the call to ministry, and 33 committed to pray for lost friends or family members.

“God has his hand on some guys and when they preach the gospel…I can’t explain it. I just watch it happen and shake my head, but when they preach, people respond to the gospel,” said IBSA’s Tim Sadler. “There’s an anointing that’s on their lives, and it’s just a powerful thing.”

Students met with counselors after each session to talk about spiritual decisions they felt led to make.

Students met with counselors after each session
to talk about spiritual decisions they felt led to make. Photo by Brooke Kicklighter

Gage knows how to “draw the net,” said state evangelism director Sadler, who also directs YE. The decision to invite Gage was strategic because of his experience as a youth evangelist, Sadler told the Illinois Baptist.

“And I’d also add into that, I’ve heard several of our youth leaders, our local church youth leaders, talk about how they intentionally sought to bring unsaved kids to Youth Encounter this year,” said Chad Ozee, pastor of Journey Church in Bourbonnais and YE’s backstage manager.

“And that’s the key. If they just bring their core kids, then there aren’t people here that don’t know Christ, to hear that message, to have that net drawn.”

‘I’m changed now’
Jay Huddleston brought 19 students to Springfield, and all 19 made some kind of spiritual decision at Youth Encounter. The pastor of Herrick Baptist Church said the group’s Bible study after the Monday evening session got so intense, the students didn’t even finish the pizza they’d ordered.

Huddleston knows personally how Youth Encounter can change lives. He answered God’s call to preach shortly after attending the event as a leader in 1996. He’d actually realized God was calling him years earlier, but still hadn’t responded. But when some young women from his group came back from YE ready to surrender their lives to God’s purposes, he knew he had to make a decision of his own.

“The girls were standing up there talking about how they were going to make a commitment and give their life to Christ, and I’m running.” He pastored two churches before coming to Herrick Baptist, where he has been for nine years.

One of the students he brought this year was 15-year-old Michael Mey, who made a decision to trust Christ during that Monday evening session. Mey went to YE last year, so he was more used to the event this year, he said. What drew him to respond was what Gage said about only having so much time to respond to God.

When asked if there are things he’ll do differently after his decision, Mey said, “I feel like I’m changed now.”

Arrested my soul
During his message in the first session, Gage told the story of how his own life changed when he was a football coach in his 20’s. In the same vein as the Apostle Paul, Gage listed his religious qualifications:

“I was raised up in a Christian home. I was raised up in Bible-believing churches. My father, Freddie Gage, who preached the gospel for more than 50 years around the world, saw more than a million people come to know Christ. I had a very godly mother. I’ve been surrounded by great men of God all my life.

“I mean, if anybody should have been a champion for God, it should have been me.”

But he wasn’t. Gage told students how he had walked the aisle as a child, but repentance hadn’t taken root in his heart. “For nearly 18 years of my life, I professed to be a Christian because of what I did when I was eight years of age. And on top of that, my father’s Freddie Gage. And I did OK for a while, until I learned how to do bad.”

The only thing that set him apart from his classmates and teammates, Gage said, was his presence at church on Sunday—until he went away to college. Drifting farther from God, he finally found himself at a church service where a family friend preached on repentance.

“And God used that service and that message that night to reveal to my heart and my mind that I had never truly repented of my sin,” Gage told students. “And when the invitation time was given there that night…the Holy Spirit of God that night arrested my soul.”

At Youth Encounter 2014, hundreds heard a similar message—and responded. Standing near the stage on the conference’s last day, one young man asked if the group going backstage after the invitation was going for the same reason he had the day before, to repent.

With confidence, he said, “I did that yesterday.”

In 2015, Youth Encounter moves to three regional events, each held on Columbus Day Weekend, October 11-12. For more information, watch http://www.IBSA.org/students.