After 51 years of successful and fruitful ministry, Youth Encounter is shutting down operations and closing its doors at the end of April. Youth Encounter will finish its current event season on April 3, 2016 and then host two Feed the Need programs before ceasing operations.
Several factors have contributed to this situation, including declining numbers of youth in the church, an increasingly competitive market for the attention of youth, and a challenging fundraising landscape. Youth Encounter has seen participation numbers and overall support decline for the past 10-15 years, creating debt and an unsustainable business model.
The Governing Board of Directors and Youth Encounter staff has made significant efforts to reverse these trends. In 2014, Thomas O’Neill was hired as the new president and was tasked with turning the organization around. Despite making significant headway in monthly giving, creating new programs to engage new markets, and making structural changes to cut overhead, there was not enough time to let these programs take effect and turn the organization around.
Over the past several months, the Governing Board of Directors and O’Neill have looked into every available option, including partnerships with other youth ministry organizations. Although alternative ministry models were explored, the current financial situation and available resources made closing down operations the only viable option.
While we will all mourn the end of Youth Encounter, we also need to rejoice and celebrate all that Youth Encounter has done. Since 1965, Youth Encounter has shared the Gospel with young people in 32 different countries, has worked in and with thousands of churches across the United States, and has engaged over 8,000,000 people. Of greater impact are the 2,500 alumni who have served on traveling ministry teams. Not only did they serve as the “face” of Youth Encounter, but 72% have gone on to work in full or part-time ministry. Whether currently serving in the church or not, all alumni have worked hard to further multiply the number of people who are impacted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Youth Encounter was founded in 1965, with the idea of sending college students in a team format to bring contemporary music to the church at large. These teams traveled the United States and later to many countries around the world. As the ministry grew, large events called Congress’s (later called Quakes and Zones) were added to further impact youth ministry in the United States. Along with these two legacy programs, Youth Encounter has also spawned dozens of other ministries and music groups, including Spoke Folk, Side-by-Side, and Youth Create.
The Governing Board of Directors and the staff at Youth Encounter are incredibly thankful for the many supporters, volunteers, host families and partner churches that have made this ministry so impactful throughout the years. God has wonderful plans for the future, and He will continue to use the Youth Encounter family to His Glory. We have faithfully served and fulfilled His mission!
We will be hosting a celebration of ministry on March 31st, from 7:00-10:00pm at Discover Church – 1400 81st Ave N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55444. Echelon, Lost and Found, Bill Yonker, and many other speakers and bands will be joining us to praise God for all that he has done through Youth Encounter. All donors, alumni, staff, and friends are welcome and invited.
If you have any questions please contact President Thomas O’Neill or Board Chairman Brian Brooks.