More than 200 churches host YEC ‘watch parties’
By David Dawson
FRANKLIN — Tennessee Baptist Mission Board youth specialist Jay Barbier didn’t have to wait long to find out about the effectiveness of this year’s Youth Evangelism Conference.
Barbier’s phone started buzzing with text messages and voicemails just moments after the conclusion of the conference, which was streamed digitally across the state on the night of March 13.
“We had an amazing response,” said Barbier. “I was so humbled to hear from youth leaders shortly after the event about students getting saved! We also saw many adults respond to the need to get their baptism on the right side of their salvation. It was awesome.”
Barbier said the unusual format of this year’s YEC — a one-night, online production instead of the traditional two-day event held at a central location in the Nashville area — was well received by churches and youth leaders. More than 200 churches hosted “watch parties” for the event.
The video of the conference is still available for viewing at yectn.org.
“When all is said and done, it looks like we will have more churches who participated this year than our ‘live’ YECs from years past,” Barbier said. “And that’s really exciting.”
Changing the conference to an online event was a decision that was made primarily as a safety precaution related to COVID-19. Last year, the conference was canceled entirely because of the pandemic.
Beginning next year, YEC — which has been a popular event for more than 50 years — will be held regionally at three sites around the state. Barbier said the 2021 conference was a perfect transition to the new format.
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, was the featured speaker. Gallaty said his hope was that YEC would start a fire of revival among the participants, and he challenged each student to take it upon himself or herself to spark the flame.
“Do you know it only takes one person to be the catalyst who changes the course of a school or a youth group? Let that one person be you,” Gallaty said during his message. “I believe that you want to make a difference. I believe that you want to see a revival in your school and a revival in your family.”
The Nashville-based group Local Sound led the worship. The 90-minute program also featured videoes about the Cooperative Program and YEC summer camp.
The YEC package also included three breakout sessions that were designed to allow students to “dig deeper” into God’s Word for answers to difficult questions. The sessions included:
• Being a Leader, led by Ben Trueblood, Director of Student Ministry for LifeWay;
• Evangelism, led by Shane Pruitt, National Next Gen Evangelism Director for the North American Mission Board;
• Race, Faith and the Gospel, led by Jeff Wallace, from Student Leadership University.
Barbier said he hopes the event will have a far-reaching impact in the weeks and months ahead.
“We are continuing to ask God to use YEC to spark revival across Tennessee,” said Barbier.
Gallaty has seen just such a revival at his own church in recent months, with more than 420 new believers being baptized at Long Hollow in a seven-week stretch.
He said a similar “move of God” can take place among students in Tennessee if they are willing to be filled and fueled by the Holy Spirit. Gallaty challenged the students to evaluate their lives and take an inventory of their priorities.
“(Do you) love Fortnite more than you love church night?” he asked, referring to a popular video game. “(Do you) love sports more than you love our savior? (Do you) love the web more than you love the Word?”
Gallaty told students that they can be inspired by Evan Roberts, who played a prominent role in the Welsh revival in the early 1900s in Wales. Although Roberts was 26 years old when he helped guide the movement — which saw more than 100,000 salvations in six months — he had been praying for the revival since he was 12. Gallaty said Roberts’ story shows that there is no age requirement for a person to be used by God.
Gallaty concluded his message by asking the students to kneel (from wherever they were watching) while Gallaty prayed over them, asking the Lord to give them courage to be difference-makers.
Barbier said Gallaty’s message was a straightforward call to students to live their lives as a reflection of Christ.
“Pastor Robby preached a heartfelt, gospel-centered message that encouraged people to live a life transformed by Jesus,” said Barbier. “He emphasized the need for prayer. Pastor Robby reminded the students that ‘no prayer means no power.’ ”
Barbier said streaming the event this year was a daunting challenge, but said some unforeseen benefits emerged from the unusual format.
“Churches were able to host this event and follow up with their students right then and there — and that was awesome,” he said. “Moving forward, we need to look at having online options along with live events to help reach people with the message of the transforming Gospel of Jesus.”
Barbier said he is excited about the future of YEC, and said he believes next year’s regional format can help the conference become more impactful than ever.
“I believe we have gained a lot of momentum with bringing YEC to East, Middle and West Tennessee through regional events,” he said. “This goes alongside our desire to champion the local church. We have one main goal in the youth ministry at TBMB: Share Jesus unashamedly.”
Although he was pleased with this year’s online production, Barbier said he is looking forward to a time when youth events can again be held in person.
“I cannot wait until we can gather with lots of students,” he said, “and lift high the Name above every name — King Jesus.” B&R