Approximately 370 young people and leaders attended the first-ever Reformed Youth Services National Convention held July 30-August 3 at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. A total of 37 RYS-member churches were present, representing thirteen states and provinces. About 290 students and sixty adult sponsors, plus speakers and staff, attended the weeklong event.
As you can also read from the accompanying articles, the convention’s theme of “Taking Every Thought Captive,” taken from II Corinthians 10:5, was ably ministered by Dr. William Dennison and Mr. Rip Pratt. Dr. Dennison opened his talks by examining the convention theme and urging the group to seek the “mind of Christ.” He asked the conventioneers to examine the condition of their spiritual mind.
“We need to be mentally and spiritually active to be open to the things of the Lord,” said Dr. Dennison. “A mind not captive to Christ practices deceit.” Dr. Dennison also said that the mind of Christ is one of “humiliation, sacrifice and denial of self, laying down your life in order to gain your life. We call this servanthood.”
Mr. Pratt also pointedly challenged the audience of teens and youth leaders. “Are you conformed to this world or are you being transformed by the Word?” he asked. “There’s a warfare going on and it’s for your soul and mind. Are you taking your thoughts captive? Stand firm with the Word of God and the Word will make you strong and deliver you.” Both speakers emphasized the importance of daily Scripture reading and cited numerous Bible passages to support their messages.
Nine related workshops were offered to the students and adult sponsors, covering such themes as amusement, work, service, respect, relationships, sports and talents. Each student attended four workshops of their choice.
In all, conventioneers participated in six main sessions, four workshops, four morning devotional times and four evening talk downs with their own church youth groups.
Two RYS programs, STEP (Summer Teen Evangelism Project) and LOGOS (its post-high ministry) were also promoted during the week, with the adult leaders enjoying a special Tuesday evening dinner sponsored by Reformed Youth Services.
Despite the convention’s packed schedule, recreation and fellowship were not neglected. There were plenty of opportunities to participate in sports, relax, or take part in non-sports activities in the Skye Lounge, a favorite evening hangout for students and leaders alike. One well-received activity was “Who Wants to Be a Biblionaire?,” which tested the students Scripture knowledge. Both the winner and runnerup received new student Bibles for their accomplishment.
On behalf of the RYS board, we praise God for blessing this event with inspiring, biblical speakers, teens with great attitudes and a wonderful volunteer committee that exemplified servanthood. Lord willing, next year’s national convention will be held July 15–19 at Colorado University in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 2002 theme will be “Faith to Move Mountains.” For more information, please contact RYS Director Ed DeGraaf at (616) 667-0694.
Ed DeGraaf is the Director of Reformed Youth Fellowship.
A Youth Sponsor Reports on Her View of the RYS Convention
I had the wonderful privilege and opportunity to go as a sponsor with the young people of my church to the first national RYS high school convention held at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Being a school teacher with my summer off, I was the perfect candidate to go. I teach junior high students, so being with 250+ high schoolers for a week was not exactly something I was accustomed to. I had gone to last year’s Kyrie convention, but had not felt spiritually fed. I wrote it off as being a convention for high school kids with the sessions and workshops geared to their needs. It was with this same expectation that I departed Highland, Indiana for the weeklong convention in Pennsylvania. Boy, was I wrong!
The theme for this year’s convention was “Take Every Thought Captive.” This theme was reverberated in each large group session and in the individual workshops. It was a theme presented in a way that was applicable for any age group, from the high school students the convention was put together for, to the sponsors who came with them. I was very impressed to see that both the sessions and workshops were Biblically founded. We were always encouraged to have our Bibles with us and to follow along. Speakers made it a point to reference their presentations with Bible passages.
One thing that really struck me was how Rip Pratt, one of the main session speakers, encouraged us to write things down. We cannot remember everything we hear, and we may miss something good if we do not note it. Even as I look over my notes to write this, I have come across important points I have forgotten already. This was a great challenge and reminder.
The small group sessions were offshoots on topics related to the main theme and helped to put it into perspective for daily living. Not only should our minds be held captive by Christ in church and our devotions, but also in our work and play. We cannot live on neutral ground. As Christians, we must dedicate all we do to Christ. This presents quite a challenge to our daily living. I am constantly reminded now by this simple theme to live every aspect of my life under the Lordship of Christ.
The music was incredible also. Two guitarists, a high school graduate and a college graduate, led the session singing. They helped the young people appreciate the familiar hymns and psalms of the church with their “Go blue hymnal!” slogan and singing from its pages. These gentlemen were wonderful role models to those at the convention, especially to aspiring musicians.
All good conventions are not without their fun. All kinds of sporting tournaments were set up. My personal favorite was the volleyball, even though my team lost right away. Sorry guys! The week was quite warm so when it was announced that a fire hydrant would be opened for a couple hours one afternoon, many found refreshment that way. Not only were food and drink plentiful during meals, but there were also free snacks and drinks available every night. Ed De Graaf read my mind when he scheduled a gentleman to come in and make cappuccinos two nights of the convention. Thank you, Ed! You certainly know how to keep your sponsors happy.
Our day away was a trip to Kennywood Amusement Park. My fearless cohort of sponsors hit the big rides, not to be outdone by any of the young people. I must confess, I could not be convinced to go on the Kennywood’s rendition of the “Giant Drop.”
I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience this year. Not only did the young people make new friends, but so did we as sponsors, especially on our late night rounds. The speakers reminded us of truths that we need to put into practice more consciously. I hope that it was as much of a spiritually nurturing event for the young people and other sponsors as it was for me. The Spirit of the Lord was there and filled my heart. I pray that all there were just as touched and will carry it with them, putting these truths into practice for a long time to come.
Wendy Gorter is junior high school science teacher who attends Community Reformed Bible Church in Highland, Indiana.