By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
ALEXANDRIA – A powerhouse lineup set the stage for a Youth Evangelism Celebration that was life-changing for many of its 6,712 registered participants.[img_assist|nid=7790|title=Invitation|desc=Clayton King, founder of Crossroads Worldwide and campus pastor at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va., prays Nov. 21 during a time of invitation at the 24th annual Louisiana Youth Evangelism Conference at the Rapides Parish Coliseum. More than 6,700 students participated in the two-day event. A record 648 spiritual decisions were recorded. Photo courtesy of Melinda Martinez/Alexandria Town Talk|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=393]
Some said the worship – led by the Brett Younker Band from Atlanta, Ga. – was the best part of the 24th annual event for junior high and high school students. Some said the preaching of Clayton King was. He’s campus pastor at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va., and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C.
Others chose Tenth Avenue North, who performed in concert Monday night, Illusionist Harris III, Comedian Bob Smiley, or the Daves Highway trio. Still others opted for “being with my friends” and “being here with everyone.”
“It’s like a great revival for teenagers – having your faith strengthened and getting closer to God,” explained Garrett Pender, 18 and attending for the fifth year from First Baptist Church in Oakdale. “It’s awesome. The worship is great and they always have great speakers.”
Youth leaders and adult helpers seemed to enjoy – and get as much out of the 24th annual two-day event – as did the teens.
“YEC was begun out of a desire among youth ministers to gather their teenagers with other teenagers from all over the state for an evangelistic emphasis,” said Kevin Boles, youth strategist with the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism and church growth division, which sponsors YEC.
“This year we saw record numbers of students come to know Christ as Savior,” Boles continued. “Never in the history of YEC did we see so many respond to God’s invitation of salvation. I am humbled and amazed that the Lord would allow me to be a part of something that’s been a marker in so many lives.”
Chad Veillon, youth leader at Gillis First Baptist Church near Moss Bluff, brought 34 students who had a car wash in September to raise money for the event. The sixth- through twelfth-grade students also babysat for monthly “church night out” events for parents, and allocated their pay for YEC expenses.
Interest in YEC was high because the students “had a blast” last year, their first, Veillon said. And this year?
“Honestly, Clayton had their attention the whole time,” the youth leader said. “They could relate to him, and he didn’t try to bluff them. And the worship was awesome!”
Four of the youth had made professions of faith since the summer, Veillon said. YEC helped stoked the fire of their hearts for the Lord.
The youth leader confessed to a pre-YEC sense of frustration about his ability to effectively minister to the students. Perhaps he wasn’t the right person for the post?
“Now I know why God put me in this situation,” Veillon said. “I love these kids.”
Billy Carter, a member of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, has been attending YEC as an adult helper “off and on for 15 years,” he said. He was one of five adults and 28 students from First Jonesboro.
“It’s a great worship time,” Carter said. “I get fed as much as the kids. … The speaker was right on point.”
Raven Hill, 18, of New Hope Baptist Church in Albany, Northshore Baptist Association, has participated in YEC for the last six years. She was one of 11 from New Hope Albany.
“For me it’s an in-between experience after camp, a mid-year revival,” Hill said. “It reminds me of the importance of the renewal of your life with God, to be strong in your faith and to be able to share your faith.”
Paige Johnson, 15, one of 42 from New Ebenezer Baptist Church in Castor, was participating for the third year at YEC. “Every year it gets better and better,” Johnson said. “I enjoy it all.”
She was at camp this summer when God called her into vocational ministry, probably with youth, she added.
YEC heightened her sense of anticipation for a future in God’s service.
Five adults were among the 42 from New Ebenezer in Castor, Bienville Baptist Association, to participate this year in YEC.
“I love all the preaching and all of that,” said Alyssa White, 12, one of 13 from Lismore Baptist Church in Monterey, Ouachita Baptist Association. “I seriously recommend for anyone to come to YEC. I felt something inside me last night when I stood up. … I go [to church] but I’m really going to start going to church now. I know it’s good to start going to church and believing God’s Word.”
Laurah Gray is a member of Christway [Southern Baptist] Church in Bentley, where Corey Salter is youth director. He took a group of nine to YEC. Gray went, though, as a guest of Travis Hampton, pastor of Dodson Baptist Church in Winn Baptist Association.
“He had two extra tickets and invited my daughter and myself for the last session,” Gray said. “Going to Christian concerts and events such as this are bonding experiences for my daughter and me. I feel like it is my job as a mother and a Christian to show her that she can have fun in a good wholesome environment and way. We were truly blessed by all the performers and speakers, and we left inspired to make life-long commitments and not just ‘conference decisions.’”
As for those who attended from Christway Bentley, “From the discussions I had with them, they felt convicted to make greater commitments to God and what He wants them to do in their lives,” Gray said a week after YEC. “In fact, they all made public professions of these new commitments on Sunday morning during service.
“This is helping us to help them be accountable for this new commitment,” Gray continued. “This is the whole reason that our group goes, so that we all – youth and adults – build on a closer relationship with our Savior.”
Because the Baptist Message is a newspaper for Southern Baptists in Louisiana, the people quoted in this article are of churches affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
However, teenagers from several other denominations also participated in the event open to all with an interest.
The Baptist Message also talked at YEC with Catholics, Episcopalians and Presbyterians.
“Each YEC is different every year,” Boles said. “I think the significance of the event was that it is tied to the Awaken emphasis for the entire state. There’s never been one before. We developed a prayer strategy for students that involves five areas of their lives in an effort for an awakening to occur in their lives.
“YEC also emphasized the next event in the Awaken emphasis: Pre-Teen Invasion,” Boles continued, about the event Jan. 7 at Louisiana College for students in the fourth through sixth grades. “We had a prayer focus at YEC where teenagers prayed for their younger siblings who might attend Pre-Teen Invasion.”
The Cooperative Program provides for YEC’s administrative costs. Event costs are covered by registration fees.