LITTLE ROCK – Energy was high as more than 1,500 students and youth leaders converged on Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Aug. 8-9 for the 2014 Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC).
YEC is an annual youth conference in which Arkansas Baptist churches from across the state come together to worship, hear speakers, fellowship and learn how to share their faith. Youth leaders received training from Michael Wood, lead pastor of First Baptist Church, West Monroe, La., and one of the event’s speakers, on how to equip students to share the gospel in their local communities and beyond.
“Students go back to school in a week. YEC had a goal of students launching their school year with a more missional mindset where they are taking the gospel to their campuses and to their families,” said Warren Gasaway, ABSC evangelism and church health team member.
“YEC allowed us to train them to share their faith in everyday conversations. Since the gospel is shared, not sold, students were taught how to share their faith through their relationships. After this weekend, we know that they are inspired and equipped for that,” he said.
The Digital Age led worship during YEC. Entertainment was
provided by 321 Improv and the band Capital Kings. Speakers for the event included Brian Burgess, an evangelist based in North Carolina, and Wood. Evangelism training for students, youth ministers and youth leaders was led by ABSC team members, Burgess and Wood.
The 1,400 students and 100 youth volunteers in attendance represented more than 100 Arkansas Baptist churches. Overall, 44 students made professions of faith and 18 students rededicated their lives to Christ during the event.
Gasaway told the Arkansas Baptist News that God’s presence was obvious during this year’s YEC. He said he was especially touched by a special time of prayer, which took place during the conference’s Saturday morning session.
“We had Brian Burgess lead a session on inspiring students to share the gospel. At the same time, the student pastors, leaders and youth ministry volunteers had a training on developing an evangelistic youth ministry, which was held in another room,” said Gasaway.
“We felt led to open the student pastor session with a guided prayer time, much like the prayer/awakening times that our pastors and senior adults have had across our state and our entire convention. While they were praying specifically for kids they had brought to YEC and for revival in the state, Brian, who didn’t know the prayer time was even happening, felt led to stop in the beginning of his sermon and have an invitation. He offered one, and six students made decisions during that time,” he said.
“It was a great example of the importance of prayer, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel,” said Gasaway. “We didn’t coordinate that. It happened because God was in control of our ‘schedule.’”
Breck Freeman, interim team leader for the ABSC missions team, represented Kaleo Arkansas at YEC. Kaleo Arkansas is a Cooperative Program ministry in which the state convention, local churches and associations and the North American Mission Board partner to equip young Christians who feel God calling them into the ministry.
“YEC was a great event as we met with students and pastors across the state,” said Freeman. “We shared over 1,400 Kaleo T-shirts with the students at the conference. We connected ABSC churches, leaders and students to Kaleo, block parties, Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trips, Connect and many missional opportunities across Arkansas. God is at work in the lives of these students.”
Max Abbott, who attends the youth group of The Venue at Chapel Hill in Jacksonville, a satellite campus of First Baptist Church, Cabot, said Burgess’s message and the song lyrics during worship time really
stuck out to him.
“When you pay attention not to the music or to the loudness, but really the words and the true meaning of the words, it really speaks to your heart. God really speaks to you,” he said. “Brian (Burgess) really spoke to me … about having a heart of God and living by faith. It really just takes a toll on your heart – how to take it to your school and how to share your faith.”
Allison Wiggins, middle school minister at First Baptist Church, Marion, said she likes that all the age groups are together for the event, rather than being split up. She also likes that the event is held right before students start back to school.
“I really am excited about the evangelism part of it,” Wiggins said, adding that their church does LifeWay Christian Resources’ FAITH Evangelism program. She said she appreciates having others who “encourage them (students) to share faith with other people – especially before school starts – knowing that their missions opportunities don’t just happen during summer, during a one-week or a weekend trip – that it is every day, every part of their lives.”
“We had a blast at YEC 2014. From the time we got there until it ended, it was a great experience. I particularly enjoyed the youth training time with Michael Wood. It was a great time of learning and gaining some new ideas on how to minister to students,” said Tracy Reed, student minister at First Baptist Church, Crossett.
“I needed that time and was really blessed by it,” he said.