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Posts tagged ‘youth encounter’

23
Mar

Finishing Well

YouthEncounterI was shocked, but not surprised, when the news of the closing of Youth Encounter was released a couple of weeks ago.  Youth Encounter is an organization with a rich history in the Lutheran church, and its closing is an event of seismic proportions in the world of ministry with young people.
  • I can only imagine the number of people who discovered their sense of call while serving on a Youth Encounter team.
  • Hundreds of thousands of young people have participated in Youth Encounter Congresses, Quakes, Spoke Folk and other events.
  • YE Teams have traveled the globe for decades, sharing the Gospel and building relationships in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • The musicians who came out of the Youth Encounter world, or who received significant stage time at Youth Encounter events helped shape worship with young people literally for generations.  Think of bands like Sojourn, Echelon, Lost and Found, Peder Eide, Celia Whitler, Tangled Blue and many more.
  • At its peak, Youth Encounter was on the front end of creativity and innovation in doing large events.  And the rest of the church learned from Youth Encounter.  Their fingerprints are all over synod youth gatherings.
  • Youth Encounter was one of the Network’s partner organizations, and we appreciated their ongoing friendship and support.

I was never a part of a Youth Encounter Team, or worked for YE. And while I’d brought young people to their events in the past, really my connection with them has diminished over the last 15 years.   But I had many good friends who did serve with them, and I am very aware of the positive impact on the faith of those who were connected with them.

I was not surprised, however, to hear the news.  Youth Encounter has been going through significant leadership transition recently and the number of programs, ministry teams and events has been decreasing every year.  Even their recent attempts at added new elements to their events, like service elements, were already being done elsewhere.

There has already been speculation as to why Youth Encounter closed.  Some speculate that the root cause goes back to when Youth Encounter dropped “Lutheran” from its name.  (To be clear, they always remained a Lutheran organization, their constitution and bylaws always pointed to the Lutheran confessions as their theological plumb line.) Others point to the general decline in event ministry.  Still others think that the shift Youth Encounter made to the theological right in the last decade was a part of the problem.

While “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” may be instructive as other ministries look to the future, I’m not sure that it’s helpful.  Rather, I think there is still at least one more thing that Youth Encounter can teach us:  How to end well.

The church is great at beginning things.  We are pretty terrible at ending things.  In congregations and other settings, we tend to let programs or ministries continue, long after their effectiveness has faded.  We don’t know how to end things.

Youth Encounter is ending well.  Their leadership was able to look at the facts (facts are our friends!), pray, discern the future, pray more, and make the determination that it was time for an organization with a great history to come to a close.  They are closing on their terms, they are paying their bills and fulfilling their immediate contracts.  And, they are celebrating.  They are bringing together an amazing roster of people who have shared in their ministry for a celebration event on March 31 in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.  (More information here)

There will be worship, celebration, memories and I’d assume, lots of laughter and tears.

Whatever your perspective of Youth Encounter’s ministry, there is no question that God’s Holy Spirit has worked through this organization.  Jesus has been proclaimed and lives have been changed.  The church has learned from Youth Encounter and is stronger today because of it.

Thanks be to God for the ministry of Lutheran Youth Encounter.  (I’m reinserting the word Lutheran, because that is their history, and because I want to be able to ‘claim them’ as one of our own.) and thanks be to God for the integrity and meaning with which they are closing out their ministry.

Peace,
Todd

1
Mar

Youth Encounter Closes its Doors

YouthEncounterFrom the Youth Encounter web site:

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.

Thomas O’Neill
President
651-287-8487
thomas.oneill@youthencounter.org

Brian Brooks
Board Chairman
501-733-3457
bgbrooks1@me.com