Conference set to engage youths

The Calgary Herald
December 31, 2006
Graeme Morton

More than 130 Christian youth leaders and teens from across Western Canada will converge on Calgary next week for what organizers hope will be a ground-breaking conference.

Engage 2007 is being hosted by the Calgary-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, and is geared to helping Christian youth thrive amid the pressures of an increasingly secular society.

Dion Collins, Canadian youth ministries manager for the Graham association, said he hopes Engage develops a successful template for future national conferences.

"We wanted to start fairly small, to get it right before we expanded the numbers too quickly," Collins said of the four-day conference.

"With that in mind, we contacted churches across a broad spectrum of Christian denominational lines and asked them to send us the cream of the crop this time - their kids with a real passion for evangelism."

The conference opens Tuesday and runs for four days, based at the Graham association's headquarters in northeast Calgary.

Participants will take Jan. 4 off for a day of skiing/snowboarding in Banff, capped off by a concert by Canadian gospel music group Starfield.

Thea von Kampen, who attends the Alliance Church in High River, is looking forward to brainstorming with other teens who are active in their churches.

"I'm hoping it will make me a better leader, to see what ideas and programs have worked in other churches," said von Kampen.

Collins said Christian youth are challenged in today's society where their moral values often seem in conflict with the messages bombarding them through both the mass media and their peers.

"Sometimes you can get a little down when you hear how much destructive gossip goes on behind people's backs in school.  That's when your faith has to kick in, to encourage you to reach out and help others," said von Kampen.

Collins said youth ministers often hear comments from teens that they are feeling, "a sense of being lost."

"Part of our job, and the goal of this conference, is to help reinforce in these kids who they are," said Collins.
"Like the larger society they're a part of, I really believe young people today have a spiritual hunger," he said.

"We're convinced we can impact that through the gospel."

Collins said while a number of Christian churches have aging congregations and can't sustain a viable youth ministry, others are stepping up to the plate.

"You are seeing more co-operation between denominations in this area, where they are sending their teens to vibrant, active youth groups run by other churches," Collins said.

"When you talk to a lot of teens, they don't even think of themselves as being part of any particular denominations anymore - they're just Christians."

Collins said conference sessions will include evangelism's changing face in the 21st century, the Gospel message in a school environment and culturally connected messages that touch both traditional Christian faith and modern youth culture.

More information on the conference is available at

BBB Festival of Hope My Hope with Billy Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada

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