2005 RYS National Youth Convention

From the Director

The “Show Me” state was the site of the fifth annual Reformed Youth Services national youth convention held July 25–29 at Evangel University in Springfield. With gratitude to God, the RYS Board is pleased to announce that approximately 485 young people, sponsors, speakers and staff attended the weeklong event, which had as its theme: “Show Me Your Faith.”

About thirty-eight churches were represented at the convention, led by Dutton (MI) URC and the 1st URC of Chino (CA), both of which each sending almost thirty people. Approximately three-quarters of those attending were United Reformed, with a sizable minority also coming from Christian Reformed churches.

The Board and planning committee were particularly encouraged that nine churches were first-time attendees, and also that ten churches sent more participants this summer than to last year’s event, which was located in California.

Rev. Phil Grotenhuis, pastor of Springfield Reformed Fellowship (URC) and Mr. Rip Pratt, pastor of youth and family at Bethel Community Church (PCA) in Dallas, Texas, served as speakers at the five plenary sessions.

“Both were excellent speakers whom I enjoyed listening to and learning from,” said one young participant of Rev. Grotenhuis’ and Mr. Pratt’s presentations. “Awesome messages, so relevant to our lives,” remarked one of the adult sponsors.

Ten related workshops were also offered, covering such topics as grace, service, speech, worship, mental discipline, movies, and life calling. Two special gender-specific workshops were led by Rev. C.J. Den Dulk (of Trinity CRC in Sparta, MI) – “Rise Up, Oh Men of God!” and Ginger Pasma (of Bethany URC in Wyoming, Michigan) – “What Kind of Character (are you looking for, anyway?).”

“Excellent job on picking relevant topics to discuss in workshops and sessions. They (the speakers) were awesome motivators,” said one adult leader. “Excellent! Great encouragement, had recommendations of books to read. Speaker was very passionate about topic,” said one student regarding a workshop. “Great workshop speakers. Very thought provoking,” said another sponsor.

Participants also attended morning devotional sessions authored by the main speakers which reinforced the convention’s theme. “We truly enjoyed all the speakers, and workshops we were able to go to. Our lads had a lot of fun and also learned and grew more spiritually,” commented an adult leader.

The sponsors and speakers also enjoyed a special “Sponsors Dinner” at which they heard more about some of RYS programs, such as STEP (Summer Teen Evangelism Project) and LOGOS (posthigh young adults conference). An inspiring and entertaining talent show closed out the week’s events.

Rev. Grotenhuis’ wife, Joy, and Steve Larson, both of whom are members of the Springfield congregation, led the event’s musical praise via the organ and piano, respectively.

One young conventioneer summed up what convention meant to him in a way that greatly encouraged the committee. “Thank you very much for a fun week. You taught me some good lessons, and now I know that people care about me and my future. That means a lot to me. People here don’t judge you for what you’ve done in the past, just what happens now. I left with some new friends.”

Reformed Youth Services owes a great debt of gratitude to its servant-minded planning committee, who spent numerous hours coordinating and putting on an event of this magnitude. We also thank God for traveling mercies and sparing us from any serious injuries. To God be all the glory!

Next year’s convention will be held, Lord willing, at Covenant College at Lookout Mountain, GA July 31-August 4. Registration brochures will be mailed out to churches in December.

Audiotapes of all of the main sessions and workshops (15 total) are available for purchase for $35.00. For more information about RYS or the convention, please contact RYS Director Ed DeGraaf at (616) 667-0694 or

Ed DeGraaf, Director of Reformed Youth Services

From a Sponsor

Convention week went off with a bang. The week of July 25, 2005 started with a very early morning- 3:30 a.m. for me, to be precise. I was a sponsor with the Bethany United Reformed Church. We started from Grand Rapids, MI and drove to the Chicago area to pick up an additional four churches; in total it took us twelve hours to reach our final destination the Campus of Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

The first thing once we arrived for the three hundred seventy students, eighty-five sponsors, and thirty staff members was to check into our rooms, followed by dinner and then the first main session. In this session, one our outstanding speakers for the week, Reverend Phil Grotenhuis, introduced us to our theme “Show Me Your Faith.” He told us that despite the fact that there may be a generation gap, there is something in common between the gap and that is the Bible. So we can and should talk about that with each other.

Tuesday started, as did each morning, with Son-rise groups. That was followed by our second main session where Mr. Rip Pratt, the second main speaker was introduced. Mr. Pratt spoke about having a warrior family–that the warrior family should get the world’s attention! In addition he described how the snares of the world are choking us to death. In closing, he spoke about the church’s need to stop squabbling over “scrap” and getting back to being the light to the world!

On Wednesday our third session was led by Reverend Grotenhuis who spoke about the blessing of being a part of the Reformed faith; what the youth of the world are looking for; and how we, who belong to the Reformed faith, can fulfill that longing. He finished by telling us how precious our Reformed faith is and how we need to cherish it.

Mr. Pratt led the fourth session held on Thursday. He spoke of Christ striking straight blows with crooked sticks. We sinners are the crooked stick. In addition, he also spoke about how we are called to suffer for Christ. Our other major event of the day was our day away. We headed out to Silver Dollar City, a theme park located in Branson, Missouri. There we could choose to see one of the many shows offered and go on rides.

Friday was our fifth and final day. Reverend Grotenhuis discussed how we are in a spiritual warfare and, though we are young, we are not exempt from fighting in this war. Reverend Grotenhuis posed the question “do we really understand what this war is all about and how important this war is?”

In addition to attending the main sessions and workshops we also had free time. If one so desired one could play in either a soccer, volleyball, or basketball tournament. We could also join in card games, pool games, or in good conversation where we could meet new people.

Before we knew it, it was time to close as a group and head home. The convention was a wonderful week for me and many others. I would encourage any adult to attend a young peoples’ convention as a sponsor. In addition, I encourage everyone to support RYS, their annual conventions, and the covenant youth. I encourage you to talk to the youth of your church to learn additional information on RYS as well as the convention. It is a great way to gap the generations, as Rev. Grotenhuis reminded us at this year’s convention.

Dan Deppe, Sponsor Bethany United Reformed Church Wyoming, Michigan

From One of the Young People

Our RYS Convention experience began at 3:00 a.m. on Monday, July 25. Half awake and yawning, we drove to Bethany URC in Byron Center to meet with other churches from Michigan that were also going to Convention. We shared our bus with Covenant URC (Kalamazoo), Eastmanville URC and Lynwood URC (Chicago-area). Our 14 hour bus trip consisted of sleeping, playing cards, listening to CDs over and over and over again, eating and doing a mini-extreme makeover on one of the young men sleeping on the bus (you would be surprised to know just how much lipstick improves your overall appearance). After a breakfast stop in Illinois and a few rest stops along the way, we arrived in Missouri at around 5:00 p.m.

During the week of Convention, we had a full schedule. Every morning, we would meet with our Son-Rise groups, which consisted of all girls or all guys, and have devotions. At the end of the day, we would meet with our Son-Set group, which was made up of our youth group. Each day everyone would attend a session. These plenary sessions featured two main speakers: Mr. Rip Pratt and Rev. Phil Grotenhuis. These, as well as the workshops, revolved around a central theme; “Show Me Your Faith.”

Before or after the sessions, we would go to various workshops that we had chosen. These workshops gave us a lot of food for thought as well as focusing our attention on what we as Christian teenagers should be doing–showing our faith to others.

We had the opportunity to participate in various sports while in Missouri. The list included soccer, 3 on 3 basketball, and volleyball. We were given varying intervals of free time, much of which was spent playing cards, board games, and free time in the gym. The opportunity to be a part of the Convention choir and Talent Show was offered as well.

On our day away, conventioneers went to Silver Dollar City, a theme park forty-five minutes from Evangel University. After eight hours of riding roller coasters and seeing all that Silver Dollar City had to offer, we returned back to the University to watch the Talent Show.

Friday was our last day at Convention. It was hard to leave after having such a great week learning and fellowshipping with other Reformed churches across the United States and Canada. At 1:30 in the afternoon, we said our goodbyes and loaded the buses.

Our return trip home lasted about twelve hours. There was hardly any sleeping being done for the first few hours, due to the amount of caffeine we had consumed during the past week. We played cards, watched movies and talked to youth groups from the other churches sharing our bus. But as the miles wore on and the caffeine wore off, the majority of people on our bus fell asleep. At around 2:30 a.m., Saturday morning, we arrived somewhat groggy, but safe, at Bethany URC.

The RYS Convention was an awesome experience that challenged us to go out and show our faith, not to compartmentalize it and only take it out of the box on Sunday. It was an opportunity to grow spiritually as we attended workshops and sessions, and also as we were able to meet people from all around North America.

Katie Kooiker Faith United Reformed Church Holland, Michigan

From a High School Senior

The fifth annual RYS Conven tion was held in Springfield Missouri. The adventure began on July 25 as the conventioneers arrived at Evangel University. The ‘Show Me’ state of Missouri provided the perfect setting to take on the theme of “Show Me Your Faith”. The theme was based on 1 Timothy 4:12 which reads, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

At the main sessions conventioneers had the privilege of hearing Rev. Phil Grotenhuis and Mr. Rip Pratt speak. Rev. Grotenhuis is a graduate from Mid-America Seminary and is currently serving at Springfield Reformed Fellowship of Springfield Missouri. Mr. Rip Pratt is a youth and family pastor and counselor at Bethel Community Reformed Church in Dallas Texas.

Rev. Grotenhuis spoke on the criticism of youth today and how we have lent ourselves to it by pointing out four problems of youths today. Those problems are inexperience, lack of discernment, impulsiveness, and the inability to look at long term consequences. In order to conquer this he told us that we need to pursue after self discipline and self control. He talked about the six qualities youths are looking for in a church. Those are as follows: authenticity, tradition rooted in history, songs and hymns ~ substance in worship, young learning from old and vise versa, accountability ~ smaller churches, and mission-minded churches. He showed us that we have a rich heritage and warned us that we should not take it for granted. In his final session he warned us that no matter how young we are we are fighting in a war. He told us that as citizens of Christ we are constantly fighting a war.

Mr. Rip Pratt expounded on who we are showing our faith to and why. He showed us that our family is to be a living testimony to the world. Our families are to be living in such a way that the world should be looking and going ‘huh?’. Mr. Pratt showed us that we need to focus our eyes on God instead of ourselves. He told us that God can use even the most corrupt being. We all have the tendency to be wimps, but we are called to be warriors for Christ. In the second session, Mr. Pratt told us that we are called to suffer and die for Christ. We are called to discipline ourselves and to put others in front of ourselves. He defined love as saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to others. We are called to have sacrificial love and to be warriors for Christ, not wimps.

Aside from the five main sessions, conventioneers had the privilege of attending five out of the following ten workshops: 1) “Rise up, Oh Men of God” (for men only) by Rev. CJ DenDulk; 2) “What’s in Your Heart” by Rev. Zachary Anderson, 3) “Growing in Grace” by Rev. Jacques Roets, 4) “What’s Your Calling?” by Rev Mike Brown, 5) “What Kind of Character (are you looking for anyway)” (women only) by Mrs. Ginger Pasma, 6) “Saved for What?” by Mr. Dave Vandermeer, 7) “Training the Temple” by Mr. Jeremy Veldman, 8) “Excited About Church” by Pastor Jeff Doll, 9) “You’re Always On the Air” by Rev. Harry Zekveld, and 10) “Living in the Shadow of the Silver Screen” by Rev. Kevin Efflandt. I enjoyed the five workshops that I attended and heard many good reports about the other five workshops. At each workshop we were given many challenges. By the end of the week many had a new zeal to go out and be warriors for Christ.

Throughout the week (in between sessions) there were many fun events held. There were guys and girls 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, coed volleyball, and soccer tournaments. Teams were usually thrown together by people who know each other and were athletically inclined to play. For those who did not want to participate in sport, there were indoor games. These usually took place in the Joust (the designated hang out area of the week).

Thanks to Mr. Ed DeGraaf there was a new form of entertainment on Thursday night. It was called Tickle your Taste Buds. Those who got involved were subject to eating a jelly bean, and then had to figuring out what flavor it was. No, these were not your average jelly beans; some of the flavors were ear wax, soap, dirt and earthworms. Knowing this makes me glad that I did not participate.

For our day away we went to Silver Dollar City, a family oriented theme park. They boasted two major roller coasters, Wildfire and Powder Keg; Wildfire has a fifteen story drop and Powder Keg is one of the best in the US. If you are one that did not enjoy roller coasters, there were many other attractions, water rides and more to keep you entertained.

Thursday, after getting back from Silver Dollar City, we had a Talent Show. In which we were blessed by singing, and humored by Jeremy Veldman with his guitar, harmonica, and red-hooded sweatshirt. At the end on the talent show we were all awed by one conventioneer’s amazing gift of art. As a surprise to Mr. DeGraaf she drew his caricature, which looked just like him. This picture was “auctioned” off to raise money for convention. The caricature went for about $1,275. The ironic thing, though, is that a roll of toilet paper was auctioned off as well. The toilet paper went for about $1,350.

For most, Friday came too soon. It was a day of final training before we were sent out to be Warriors for Christ. I have been to four conventions, all of which were times when my faith was strengthened. This year’s convention was a good way to end my convention experience by reminding me to go out and show my faith to all. Thanks to all those who worked so hard to put this convention together, I really appreciated all the work you put into it.

Karen Essenburg Bethel United Reformed Church Jenison, Michigan