Youth Ministry Lab Draws 1,200, Breaking the Record in Southwestern History

Over 1,200 youth ministers, parents of youth and youth group leaders from 300 churches gathered for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS)’s annual Youth Ministry Lab event April 8-9.

Renowned youth evangelist, Louie Giglio, a Southwestern alumnus, was the keynote speaker for the nation’s only major student ministry training event produced solely by seminary students.

In his message at the opening worship celebration, Giglio encouraged the crowd to step “out of their life stories” and “into God’s story,” said the SWBTS press release.

"Paul could’ve been the guy who had it all if not for his radical meeting with God. He would’ve been the star of his own small story, but would not be known today," said Giglio.

Giglio’s sermon was taken from Philippians 3, based on the story of the Apostle Paul, who was "re-aimed and re-sized by God” and invited into God’s story.

"That invitation is still on the table today for you and me," exhorted the youth evangelist.

Giglio had recently returned from Great Britain where he said an amazing revival is taking place in the lives of men and women.

"God is on the move in the world today. We are a part of the kingdom of God and we are part of something big. God’s going to do something in student ministry in this country and he wants you to be a part of it."

At the event, which was sponsored and hosted by the seminary for 30 years, Giglio noted the problem of today’s young Christians who are too often losing sight of the “simplicity of Jesus’ call to lead.”

"But this generation needs young men and women who actively live out the reality that Jesus is relevant for today," he said. "Young people need those who can lead them to the power that is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Lab participants were urged to leave their stories behind and join God’s story "because there is stuff he is doing in your town that you don’t even know about and it is huge. God is good and he is on the move."

Many conferences were available as part of the event, including the conference for student ministers led by Wes Black, professor of student ministry at Southwestern.

Black shared with more than 250 students attending the conference the latest student ministry research on issues such as what makes an effective youth ministry and how teenagers view religion and spirituality.

"I really enjoyed all of the data shared about youth culture and I think it is going to help me focus my ministry on sharing God’s glory," said a youth minister Lab participant who took a 12-hour, 760-mile trip to Fort Worth.

The event, quoted by another attendant as “very well put together,” also featured sessions for ministers’ wives, students preparing for international mission trip, and parents, youth ministry volunteers, students and those interested in praise bands.

Furtermore, there were booths with information on colleges, camps, publishers and short-term mission organizations available to all participants.

The attendance numbering 1,200 this year, 500 teens and 700 plus adults, breaks the record as the largest conference attendance so far in Southwestern history.

"Perhaps the largest conference attendance in Southwestern’s history is related to what may have been the most expansive conference prayer strategy in the seminary’s history," said Richard Ross, one of the architects of the True Love Waits abstinence campaign and a professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary.

He explained that the Lab committees prayed from 10 p.m. until sunrise the next morning and prayer-walked the campus twice, praying over every room and in many cases every chair.

"For a semester, students have prayed weekly at 7 a.m. for God to come in power during the Lab. Virtually everyone who attended was prayed over by those wearing prayer bracelets," he added.