BGEA Launches New Effort to Reach Youth

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has announced its plans to reach out to youth along the Mississippi River through a series of day-long music festivals this summer.

Featuring some of America's most popular hard rock and hip-hop Christian artists, "Rock the River" will kick off in Baton Rouge, La., and move along the Mississippi River, going as far as Minneapolis. In addition to groups such as Skillet and Flyleaf, the festivals will also feature a positive message of hope and encouragement from Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the BGEA.

"A lot of drugs travel through here and our youth are caught up in them," says Dr. Roddy Conerley, executive director of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, according to the BGEA.

"The culture has shifted a lot and we think that we can do something culturally relevant for these kids who are looking for something real," adds J. Walker Clarke, director of programs for Crusade Ministries.

Last Thursday, Graham met with local church and community leaders in Baton Rouge to share for the first time details about BGEA's new, high-energy youth outreach, which started off as a vision that Graham shared with his team after an evangelistic festival last September.

Cities that the ministry plans to target include Baton Rouge; St. Louis, Mo.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul; among others. And while the festivals will appeal primarily to 12- to 25-year-olds, those under the age of 18 are the ones the ministry especially hopes to reach.

"Statistics show that kids who don't come to Christ before the age of 18 are a lot less likely to make that decision," says Clarke, according to the BGEA. "We are looking at a way to reach this new generation."

Christian music artists who are teaming up with the BGEA for the upcoming summer outreach range from Skillet and Hawk Nelson to Kirk Franklin and Flyleaf.

The tour is scheduled to hit Baton Rouge on July 18, St. Louis on Aug. 2, and Minneapolis-St. Paul on Aug. 16. More cities will be added in upcoming months.

On the Web:

"Rock the River" website at