Five hundred-ninety students and sponsors traveled to Glorieta Adventure Camps near Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 3-7 for YouthCon 2019, formerly the USMB National Youth Conference. Glorieta Camps is where the first National Youth Conference was held in 1975.
Agency representatives, program participants and other volunteers brought the total attendance to just over 670. The students and sponsors represented 38 congregations from four out of the five districts in USMB.
A variety of new features were planned for YouthCon 2019, including a return to a camp setting designed specifically for large groups of students. In recent history, YouthCon had taken place in urban centers with the intent of providing opportunities to serve the urban poor as part of the event. After reflecting on past events, the planning team determined one of the weaknesses of an urban setting convention was the space for natural community. The team wanted to bring youth groups together during meals and to provide open gathering spaces to enhance one of the core values of USMB Youth—bringing churches together. So, with a stronger desire for community a camp setting was chosen for the 2019 convention.
Along with a change in the setting, the event name was also changed to YouthCon from the former title of National Youth Convention. Changing the event name gives it a permanent title, will help with continuity and better connects with the youth.
In keeping with the times, participants were encouraged to download the new USMBYouth app to their phones to refer to during the convention. The app offered dozens of resources and also functioned as the YouthCon program book.
Rather than have one main speaker, the team decided on a variety of speakers including, Ryan McCullough, leader of OneTimeBlind, a ministry that creates art to help people think deeply and openly about God; Kat Smith, also with OneTimeBlind; Bill Hogg, then national missiologist for Multiply; Tam Hodge, author and speaker, and Randy Friesen, president of Multiply. Messages progressed from an invitation to be a part of God’s story, to the life and joy Jesus brings, to engaging the story by trusting Jesus, to confession that leads to freedom, to our identity in Christ, to next steps and an invitation to say yes to following Jesus. After the six general sessions, students processed the content with sponsors during youth group breakouts.
The eight-member Presence Worship Band out of Wichita, Kansas, led by Ryan and Brie Wallace and Jake Stemo, led students in worship throughout the convention. The house band led by James Isaac of First MB Church in Wichita, Kansas, played as people entered and left the chapel and provided music during the overview of each day.
Seven hundred-eighty students and youth workers representing 38 congregations and all five USMB district conferences traveled to the “Mile High City” for Named 2015, the National Youth Conference (NYC) held April 9-12 at the Colorado Convention Center and Hyatt Regency Downtown Denver. Agency representatives, program participants and other volunteers brought the total attendance to just over 870.
The Named 2015 planning team had been praying and working for three years to create an event uniquely designed with U.S. Mennonite Brethren teens in mind. They selected Matthew 16:13-18 as the Scripture theme. In this passage the disciple Peter is given a new name when he declares Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. The planning team’s goal was that Named 2015 would cause students to think carefully about who Jesus is and who Jesus says they are, both individually and as part of the USMB family of congregations.
The speaker for the 2015 National Youth Conference was John Richardson, the campus pastor for Mountain View Community Church Sunnyside, Fresno, Calif. (Richardson has since become the lead pastor for the Prodigal Church plant, also in Fresno, Calif.) Richardson addressed a series of questions in his four sermons: What mistaken identities do young people struggle with? Who does the world say Jesus is? Who do I say Jesus is? Who does God say I am? What is my true identity? What do I do now that I know my true identity? He incorporated a variety of Scripture passages and personal and other stories as well as photos, a movie clip and a dramatic sketch to illustrate and expand on his points.
For All Seasons, a band based out of Southern California, lead worship at Named 2015. In choosing the band, the NYC planning team prioritized quality worship over big names. “Their hearts are all about helping people connect with God through music,” says NYC team member Russ Claassen.
San Antonio 2011
San Antonio 2011drew more than 800 high schoolers and 100 leaders representing all five USMB districts. Participants lived for four days along the historic San Antonio River Walk, a network of walkways one story beneath approximately five miles of the downtown district. The setting reinforced the theme of “Flood” taken from Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-ending stream.”
Key elements of the weekend were designed to move the students’ faith from head, to heart and to hands. Organizers intended the general sessions —featuring worship led by Stories in Braille and guest speakers Shane Claiborne and Paula Simpson-Parry — to provide a biblical foundation for compassion, love and justice. The students packed out dozens of seminar rooms Sunday morning, and their hearts were inspired for ministry.
San Antonio was strategically chosen by the planning team as it offered various ministry opportunities throughout the city. These opportunities, offered Monday, provided practical opportunities to serve, the third component of San Antonio 2011. Groups spread throughout the metro area to show God’s love to the community through service. Projects included working with Habitat for Humanity to lay new flooring and install a new roof on a housing project, cleaning up graffiti in a local neighborhood, sponsoring a carnival for children at a developmental service organization and doing repairs and general maintenance at a community center.
The National Youth Conference moved to the city in 2007 and organizers experimented with a new format and organizers agree that both changes were successful. Anaheim ’07 was held March 31-April 3 at the Anaheim (Calif.) Hilton Hotel and brought together just less than 1,100 high school students and sponsors from 53 USMB congregations. The theme of the weekend was “Everywhere.”
Previous NYC were held in mountain settings and at full-service conference settings but the 2007 co-chairs were committed to a convention with a strong ministry emphasis. That meant shifting the venue to a large urban center with sufficient numbers of faith-based ministries to offer every convention attendee the potential to serve in some way. This change made it possible for Anaheim ’07 to have a unique hands-on format that included ministry tracks designed to encourage students to use their gifts and skills in God’s Kingdom. The weekend also included an ambitious all-day ministry experience that involved bussing 1,075 participants in 18 school buses, vans and chartered buses to ministry sites, churches and and agencies in the greater Los Angeles area for a combination tour and spiritual formation experience that organizers called Tourformation.
General sessions reinforced the theme of “Everywhere.” Students were reminded that God is everywhere, we’re from everywhere, the need is everywhere, and we’re going everywhere. Roy Crowne, national director for Youth for Christ in Great Britain, was the keynote speaker. Worship was led by student groups from Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College. Award-winning Canadian musician Amanda Falk sang several times during the weekend and the drama troupe One Time Blind also performed during the general sessions.
The 2007 event was also unique in that for the first time in NYC’s 32-year history, the three U.S. Mennonite Brethren educational institutions directly supported the event. it was hosted by: Tabor College represented by Wendell Loewen, Fresno Pacific Univeristy represented by Tim Neufeld and MB Biblical Seminary, now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, represented by Rick Bartlett. The co-chairs represented each of the institutions and Ministry Quest, the seminary’s high school leadership program, gave a $20,000 grant to underwrite the event.
Estes Park 2003
The 2003 NYC almost didn’t happen thanks to a monster blizzard that buried the YMCA of the Rockies conference center near Estes Park, Colo., under five feet of heavy, wet snow the week of the conference. Even though the aftereffects of the blizzard created a storm of last-minute challenges for planning team members, many veterans described Estes 2003 as one of—if not the—most successful NYC events to date. A total of 1,420 students and sponsors from 67 congregations were challenged March 22-25 to heed “The Call.”
Hundreds of students responded to the messages of speakers Lori Salierno and Tom Tufts. A worship band of USMB muscians led music and seminars were offered on a variety of topics. Escalating tensions in Iraq came to a head just days prior to the start of the convention and planning team members altered their plans for a guided prayer time in the closing general session to focus on praying for the world and Iraq in particular. Also, Estes 2003 was the first time that a service component was added as an afternoon free time option. Students offered “random acts of senseless kindness” in various locations in Boulder, Colo.
NYC Prior to 2003
Estes 1999: “Power Up” was the theme when 1,796 students and sponsors gathered to hear DeForest “Buster” Soaries and Lori Salierno.
Estes 1995: “Hearts Couragous” speakers Ridge Burns and Carolyn Koons spoke at this NYC event that had a record-breaking attendance of 1,500 students and sponsors.
Estes 1991: “Rock Solid” was the theme and Duffy Robbins spoke to the more than 1,000 students and sponsors that gathered in 1991. Highlights included a $6,000 offering and a Seniors Breakfast at the Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park hosted by Tabor College and Fresno Pacific Univeristy.
Glorieta 1987: NCY returned to the Glorieta Baptist Conference Center to “Experience the Difference.” The speaker was Ridge Burns and he challenged the 1075 youth and sponsors to “go anywhere, anytime.”
Estes 1983: Speaker Tony Campolo addressed the 1,037 teens and sponsors. The event also included a talent show.
Estes 1979: Mark Lee spoke to the 1,350 students and sponsors.
Glorieta 1975: The very first NYC was held in New Mexico at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center with Josh McDowell as the speaker. A total of 1,395 youth, sponsors and staff attended.