What Happened to National Youth Ministries and Conferences?

"Nothing like this has happened in youth ministry before."

Dare 2 Share
Children attend the Dare 2 Share Live at the broadcast site in Arvada, Colorado on Sept. 23, 2017. |

One national youth organization that has changed its approach is the Colorado-based Dare 2 Share, which for 25 years held youth conferences across the U.S. to train teens to evangelize in their communities and share their faith with their peers and their own sphere of influence.

At its peak, the organization hosted about eight to 10 regional conferences each year. But that all ended in 2017 when the ministry killed off its two-day conferences and replaced them with a one-day simulcast event called Dare 2 Share Live.

Dare 2 Share
An attendee holds out her hands at the Dare 2 Share Live broadcast site in Arvada, Colorado on Sept. 23, 2017. |

Instead of hosting regional events at different venues nationwide, the organization now hosts one Dare 2 Share Live event that incorporates dozens of satellite sites across the U.S.

The event incorporates cellphone apps to enable youth to share with one another in real time each time they share the Gospel in their communities.

"So there is a map that auto populates of Gospel conversations that are happening simultaneously across the country," Dare 2 Share founder Greg Stier, author of several books on youth ministry, said. "Nothing like this has happened in youth ministry and nothing like this has happened in churchwide ministry that is truly a live coast-to-coast event that is tied in with an outreach."

The first Dare 2 Share Live was held last September and saw over 10,000 people participate at over 68 satellite locations.

On Oct. 13, the second Dare 2 Share Live will be held and feature 96 satellite locations.

Stier is hopeful to have over 20,000 attend at a satellite site or the broadcast site. He ideally hopes that Dare 2 Share Live will spread to over 300 cities and will be attended by 100,000 or more in the next five years.

"The same training happening in Fairbanks, Alaska, is happening exactly the same way in Puerto Rico. Every room has a live trainer that we have flown into Denver to train, and a worship band and tech team that has been trained through Facebook Live," Stier explained. "Everything is happening simultaneously. That means through the Dare 2 Share app, a kid in Brooklyn can talk to a kid in San Diego and share what they just heard together. Then when they go out to share the Gospel, they have Gospel conversations with photos and videos they can send out to their friends in their feed. When they go door-to-door to collect canned food and share Christ, they can hit a button that says I just shared."

For the past six years during the summer, Dare 2 Share has also hosted multiday events called Lead THE Cause, which are designed for teens who are more serious about evangelism and want to try learning more advanced concepts of evangelism.

When Lead THE Cause first launched, only one conference attended by about 200 youth was held. In 2018, Stier said, they held six Lead THE Cause events that was attended by about 200 to 300 students each.

"We use the term 'cause' instead of the commission because commission sounds like a bunch of money someone made on a real estate deal," Stier said. "Students are into causes and we are talking to them about what it means to lead the cause."

While Dare 2 Share is still around, its contemporary, Teen Mania, ceases to exist any longer as it shut down in 2015.

acquire the fire, teen mania
Thousands attend Teen Mania's Acquire the Fire event in this undated photo. |

Teen Mania held several "Acquire the Fire" events for youth in cities nationwide every year since 1991. Over 3 million students attended those events that featured stage dramas, worship and live concerts.

Teen Mania's closing came as the organization faced severe financial issues, began to cancel "Acquire the Fire" events and even received legal pushback for not handing out refunds.

According to YS' Herman, what has changed over time is that "the big come-to-this-one-location-type" conferences for students have taken a back seat to more local and regional events.

"You will find a lot more churches who are hosting their own conferences and bringing the speakers and bringing bands than you are going to find organizations putting them on," he said.

One example of this is the multiday Motion Student Conference, hosted by The Church of the Highlands, a multisite megachurch in Alabama, for the last 10 years.

The Motion Conference, held in July, provides middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students with a weekend filled with worship and biblical messages. The conference serves as the "cornerstone" of the church's student ministry and is supposed to serve as a "catalyst" for students to join small groups and take on leadership in terms of the church and their faith.

"We don't just do these big Jesus camps where kids get all jacked up"

Christ in Youth
High school students at a Christ in Youth "Move" conference at Lee University in Tennessee interact with stage actors during a main session. |

One national organization that has been hosting youth events for decades that has continued to thrive has been Christ in Youth.

Founded in 1968, Christ in Youth partners with churches across the nation to hold several youth events each year for pre-teens, middle schoolers and high schoolers.

The organization will have an estimated 80,000 to 85,000 students come with their churches to CIY conferences in 2018, Executive Vice President Jayson French told CP.

The demand for CIY events are so high that in 2016, the organization had to turn away as many as 5,000 students because it didn't have the space in some venues to fit them.

While the organization hosts most of its events at churches, in some locations it has had to move into arenas.

"We are growing every year and we had a lot of our events close out where we couldn't get anyone else in," French explained. "There are lot of groups hurting. We could go through the groups that are shut down and are no longer in business, that are struggling financially but I can't speak to why they struggle. For us, I know that the more we love the Church and respect Church and the more that we call students to use their gifts and talents for the Kingdom, the more we grow."

For fourth, fifth and sixth-graders, CIY hosts events called "SuperStart," which are two-day interactive programs. "Believe" is a hybrid weekend event for middle school students and "Move" is a five-day program for high school students that includes daily devotional times and nightly worship.

The organization also holds four-day summer events for sixth, seventh and eighth-graders called Mix.

"In an eight-week span over the summer, we will run 60 weeklong events coast-to-coast," French said. "At the end of the day, we don't just do these big Jesus camps where kids get all jacked up in goosebumps and go home with nothing to do."

French said that every time students come to a CIY event, they always receive a tangible call to action — a game plan for what to do when they get home.

At the Move events, CIY hands out what they call "kingdom worker cards" — cards that if the students open them, they signal a commitment to follow through with the command given to them on that card when they return home.

One card could tell a student to write a sincere letter to every person who works in his or her school to thank them for contributing to their education. Another card could instruct a student to hold a weekly Bible study in his or her own home. Other cards might ask youths to run marathons or raise money for another charity or ministry.

"It has been crazy how much our kids have raised [for partner ministries]," French said. "When a kid comes to a CIY event, there is going to be traction, it's not just going to be goosebumps."

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