Dear Friends at the Hadley-Luzerne Wesleyan Church,
In 1988 I was introduced to the Youth Conventions of the Wesleyan Church. Our oldest daughter Jennifer attended her first one at age 12 in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her friends had a great time and is one of the experiences of her life she looks back on as being life changing.
Four years later in 1992, I took over a dozen teens (four being mine) and parents to Toronto 92’ and experienced for the first time a Wesleyan Youth Convention. It was a life changing experience for this father and youth pastor. Every two years we attended the conventions, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Boston, and other major cities where I witnessed God work in the hearts and lives of nearly 100 teens from our youth groups over the years. I have seen several of these teens feel the call to Christian ministry because they listened to the Holy Spirit at one of these conventions. In fact one young man is now one of the lead staff pastors at 12Stone Wesleyan Church in Atlanta Georgia. Many of these young people who are grown adults now, are walking a deeper walk with God because of the commitments they have made during these times of gathering.
Our own youth pastor, Zachary Haas was called to server the Lord during a convention several years ago. He is going to share with you at the end of this letter how you can be involved in helping our teens attend the convention to be held in Indiana this December. But before he shares, I would like to encourage you to read a letter from one of my professors from school and good friend, Dr. Jim Dunn:
Since 1965, Wesleyans have filled buses, vans, cars, and planes during Christmas break to head across North America to participate in Wesleyan Youth Conventions. Some have literally traveled from the “end of the earth” to attend.
This year, thousands will make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana, the last week of December to worship, praise, make commitments to Jesus, and eat tons of pizza before heading home on New Year’s Eve.
Why? Why would a denomination invest in a three-day event for the next generation? Why would adult youth leaders and volunteers spend the last week of the year with loud, radical teenagers and act like they enjoy it? Why would anyone want to endure waiting fifteen minutes for an elevator in an overloaded hotel? Trips to the location are long, meal times are rushed, and sleep is righteously coveted. There must be other reasons why many still sacrificially participate in Wesleyan Youth Conventions. Here is what I’ve learned as to why Wesleyans attend.
- The Holy Spirit. Through his Spirit, God always does amazing things at these events. Sin is forgiven, lives are completely transformed, and marriages of adult volunteers are mended. Hotel employees meet Jesus, bodies are healed, minds are changed, and ministries are re-focused. Regardless of the details involved in conducting an event for 5,000 – 10,000, the one factor I always count on as the best feature of a Wesleyan Youth Convention is that the Holy Spirit always does his work.
- God’s call. I was called into vocational ministry at age twelve at a Wesleyan Youth Convention, and I’ve never looked back on that commitment. I pray there will be a twelve-year-old (or many) who makes the same decision this year. I’d be interested to know how many men and women in vocational ministry today accepted God’s call at a Wesleyan Youth Convention. To be sure, God’s call to vocational ministry will always be a feature of our youth events as long as I help direct them.
Thankfully, we have figured out that ministry is not only about being a pastor or missionary. There is a need for many to enter these ministry positions. However, we need quality, godly laypersons who will commit to serve the Lord in whatever vocation to which he calls students and adults. The body of Christ has enough room and need for everyone to honor him in word, thought, and deed no matter what the profession or gift mix.
- The Church. There is nothing better in life and ministry than being part of something that is bigger than self. For some, worshipping with thousands of Christ-honoring students and their adult leaders at Follow 2015 will be one of the best church experiences in life. It still does my soul good. In fact, I’m usually in tears in the back of the auditorium knowing that the crowd I’m worshipping with is a great testimony of the vibrant future of The Wesleyan Church. I love this experience for all who will be there. We are truly stronger together than when trying to do things all on our own. Jesus preached this fact. It’s high time the Church, even The Wesleyan Church, follows his instruction.
Dr. Jim Dunn, Executive Director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship
Now here is Pastor Haas to explain what his plans are for the trip in December and how you can help:
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Follow 2015 is a Wesleyan youth convention in Indianapolis Indiana from December 28-31. I cannot stress enough the importance that I see in youth conventions like this. As I look back on the years, I remember all of the youth conventions I have been able to attend. It was interesting to read that Dr. Dunn had received his call when he was twelve years old at his first youth convention. My experience was nearly identical. It was at my first convention in Toronto that I felt that God was calling me to be a part of some kind of ministry. Fast forward 14 years and I now have the privilege of serving as the youth pastor of HLWC.
I believe that Pastor did a good job at explaining what a youth convention is and why they are important to both the Church and teenagers. We will be going over more information about Follow 2015 in the coming weeks at church. Instead what I would like to do is provide you with four ways that you can be involved and help with this incredible ministry opportunity. For many students this is an experience of a lifetime. The impact of youth conventions has stuck with me far greater than most other events from my teenage years. Students come to Christ, deepen their faith, and learn that they are not walking through this world on their own when they attend youth conventions. Please consider doing whatever you can to help make this trip a success.
Four Things You Can Do To Help Make Follow 2015 A Success:
Prayer is a foundational component of any successful endeavor. The youth convention staff has put together a week of prayer from October 12 to October 18. Each day of the week is geared towards a different aspect of the convention. The topics of prayer are: Students, Pastors and Leaders, Safe Travels, Worship Bands and Artists, Breakout and Session Speakers, Convention Staff and Volunteers, Church-Wide Prayer. Please add this youth convention to your list of prayers.
Sign your Students up.
It is not too late to sign up for the trip, if you are a parent of a students between the ages of 12-18 prayerfully considering signing them up for this trip. Somehow, between the late nights, bounce houses, and giveaways, students make life changing decisions for Christ. The convention staff suggests looking at the trip as part of a Christmas present. We would love to take your students on this trip. My personal goal is to send at least 10 teenagers on this trip.
Encourage the families that are going on the trip.
The biggest problem with youth conventions is that they are expensive. Most students in our youth group have never been to an event like this. They do not know what they are in for. They see a price tag and they mentally check out. We are doing fundraisers to decrease the financial burden. If you have positive experiences with youth conventions and you know a teen in our church, encourage them with your stories and help them to see that this youth convention is the best thing they can do with their Christmas break.
Support the teens financially.
We are going to be having a big fundraiser on October 18th right after church. You may have begun to see promotional material for the Italian dinner. This is our big push to lower the financial burden of the trip. Registration costs are $195, and then there is the cost of transportation and food. By attending the Italian you will be helping students get to the convention. This is our greatest need. Running alongside the Italian dinner we are going to be launching a travel campaign. We are looking to raise one dollar for every mile of the trip. It is approximately 800 miles one way so we are looking to raise $1600. We will have a nice display that will track how close we are to this goal. Please consider making a donation either through the Italian dinner or through the travel campaign. It would be a shame if money were the only reason a student was unable to attend the trip.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate everything the congregation does in support of the teenagers in our church. Stay tuned throughout October as we announce more information about the youth convention and how you can be involved.