It’s been four years since I was able to bring our Youth Group to the EFCA’s national youth conference, Challenge. This year, nineteen of us flew from New Jersey to Kansas City a few days early to have an experience like no other. We heard amazing preaching, sung along with 3,000 other teenagers in worship, served the city, and had countless conversations and times together. Here are some reflections on the trip.
1. It was good for my own soul
I’m a bit of a conference curmudgeon in that I don’t always like attending them, especially when the Bible teaching is lacking. But Challenge 2022 had by far the best preaching I’ve ever heard at a conference. The speakers worked through the book of 1 Peter showing there is more life in Christ no matter what we’re facing. Challenge featured the most diverse lineup of speakers yet, but each speaker tied their message into the theme so well that all the messages felt very cohesive.
Besides amazing preaching, I can also say that I have not sung in worship like that in a long time. While I’m not always a fan of contemporary worship music, I thought there was a really nice blend of gospel, contemporary, and traditional elements in the worship.
The conference also reaffirmed to me why I do what I do. It easy in ministry to get caught up in the “stuff”—the emails, the planning, the logistics, the problems. But Challenge was a concentrated time to just be with my students, my church family. It reawakened in me a love for personal discipleship as I was able to have so many awesome conversations about the Lord with students and leaders.
2. God works through difficulty most of the time
Getting to the conference was kind of a train wreck. The car rental place messed up our reservation. The hotel couldn’t find our rooms initially. Everything worked out, but it was very stressful. We also had issues imposed on us from outside the group as well as issues arise within our group. But through it all, God proved himself faithful and grew me as well as our group the most through the difficulties.
3. Pray Changes Things
Because of the difficulties on the trip, I prayed more often and with more fervor than I have in a long time. I also God directly and quickly answer my prayers more often than I have in a long time. The conference reiterated to me the power of prayer. I also came to recognize that I cannot solve most of my student’s problems. The problems are too deep and there too many for one person to handle. But God can. A key verse of the week was James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you might be healed.” Prayer is powerful.
I was also moved by the prayer ministry of an EFCA church-plant in Odessa, Texas. One thing that really jumped out to me was when the pastor said that they used their prayer ministry as an evangelism ministry. I found that insight to be so enlightening. What easier way to evangelize than to pray for others and use that opportunity to present Jesus? You’re already talking about spiritual things, why not include the gospel? I am pondering what that will mean for LBC’s prayer ministry.
4. The Future is Bright
I know that many people—even Christians—are down on the church in America right now. To be honest, much of the pessimism is warranted. And yet, when I spend concentrated time with the next generations, I am very hopeful. They are hungry to know God. They want to love their neighbors. And they want the world to experience the life-giving news of the gospel. What’s not to like and be optimistic about?