Churches invited to host watch parties for YEC this year
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — For more than two years, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board youth specialist Jay Barbier has been thinking about the possibility of restructuring the annual Youth Evangelism Conference.
The COVID-19 pandemic opened the door for those changes to be made.
The conference, which has been a popular event for more than 50 years, will have a much different look and feel this year. Instead of being hosted at a central location, the conference will be streamed to churches all across Tennessee on the night of March 13.
Churches are invited to hold “YEC watch parties” on their church campus. Churches can register for the event at yectn.org, and can view the stream, for free, through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Churches can also hold breakout sessions on campus.
Last year’s YEC, scheduled for early March, had to be canceled because of the pandemic. But now, the event is back — and, Barbier hopes, better than ever.
“I am just so excited about what God is doing with YEC; it’s just incredible,” said Barbier. “When you step back and look at how the Lord is providing an opportunity for us to think differently, and for us to engage any church, and every church, with the gospel of Jesus, it’s just awesome. … I feel like it just has so much potential to help our churches.”
This year’s event will serve as a transition year for YEC, which will become a regional event — held at multiple sites spread out across the state — in the years ahead.
Barbier, who joined the TBMB in his current role in 2018, said he felt that YEC’s previous format — a two-day event held at one location — created a financial strain for many churches that could not afford to send their youth to Nashville for a weekend.
This year, though, churches can participate at no cost.
“I am so fired up about this fresh chance to reach our churches,” said Barbier, “and just knowing that we’re doing this for free from the TBMB. … I mean, the truth is, this year, there’s no excuse for a church not to be able to do it.”
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, will be the featured speaker.
“Having Robby Gallaty is just making me all the more excited about this,” said Barbier. “The movement of God that is happening (at Long Hollow) right now is unreal. They are baptizing people like crazy. And my hope is that the revival fire that’s going on at Long Hollow can spark churches all across Tennessee to catch on fire for God.”
Gallaty said he believes YEC is going to be a life-changing event for students across the state.
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HOW TO BE INVOLVED: Churches who are interested in hosting a watch party for YEC can register, for free, at yectn.org.
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“I believe God is going to fan into flame a passion for Jesus in the hearts of students like never before,” said Gallaty. “The flame of revival spreads the fame of revival. You don’t have to advertise a fire; it advertises itself. My prayer is that God would set us on fire for Him.”
The Nashville-based praise band, Local Sound, will lead the worship music at YEC. The breakout session leaders include Ben Trueblood, from LifeWay, who will host a session on leadership, and Jeff Wallace, from Student Leadership University, hosting a session on racial tension.
The event will also include a “Who’s Your One” evangelism video created by the North American Mission Board, and Matt Tullos, special assistant to the executive director at TBMB, will present a package on the Cooperative Program.
The package will focus on the importance of CP from a youth perspective.
“The whole event is about Jesus; that’s who we’re pointing to,” said Barbier. “ We’re going from despair to hope.”
In addition to the conference itself, the host churches will also have three opportunities to dive deeper into worship and praise through the breakout sessions, which can be held the night of the event or during the days and weeks that follow.
“We are offering three downloadable breakout sessions that churches can choose from to help them grow in the Lord and follow up with what they’ve experienced,” Barbier said.
Barbier said he has sensed for some time that there were numerous changes that could be made to boost the appeal and the impact of YEC. Barbier was concerned, however, that his ideas might be met with some resistance, given that most people, including church leaders, are often reluctant to change, especially in regard to formulas that have worked in the past.
Then along came COVID-19.
Suddenly, like it or not, changes were taking place — to almost everything. And Barbier knew the time was right for some “out-of-the-box” thinking about YEC. He said he quickly realized that this year could be a transition year for the event.
“It was a praise-God moment in that sense,” said Barbier. “As soon as I found out that we were going to do a virtual event, I was so excited. I thought to myself, ‘now we can bless these churches without any financial burden — they don’t have to even pay a penny to do it.’ Are you kidding me? This is an incredible opportunity.”
Barbier and others on the YEC leadership team have been planning the conference for months, ironing out the details. Barbier said some of the meetings ended up being marathon sessions.
“I went to dinner with some other youth leaders one night,” he said, “and we’re in the restaurant, and we look at our watches and it’s 12:30 at night. As soon as I leave the restaurant, my wife calls me, wondering where I am. And I told her, ‘Natalee, I just had one of the most God-led conversations I’ve ever had. And it lasted for hours — because God is moving.’ ”
Barbier said something was said during the meeting that really struck a chord with him, and has become a point of emphasis as he has prayed about the conference.
“That night, someone at the table said, ‘When you look at revival, one of the problems is that people want to get close to the fire because it’s warm and it feels good. But they’re unwilling to get into the fire because of fear.’ They are worried about change, worried about what’s it going to do. But, see, God wants us in the middle of that fire. But too many of us, we’re sitting back just close enough to get a little bit of warmth and comfort.”
Barbier said the cancelation of last year’s YEC was disheartening, but he said he whole-heartedly agreed with the decision.
“The safety of all our attendees is paramount,” he said. “I (was) disappointed because we’d been praying and preparing for it. I believe we would have had an amazing event. However, God is in control. He wasn’t surprised by this.”
The previous year, in Barbier’s first year as YEC director, the event drew an estimated crowd of 6,000 youth and youth leaders to Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. More than 750 youth made professions of faith during the weekend, and more than 60 youth surrendered to a call to the ministry. Many more decisions were made in the weeks that followed.
“This conference is all about introducing people to the love of Christ,” said Barbier. “And from the opening moments to the grand finale, it was all about Jesus.”
Barbier said he is excited about the future of YEC. He said he believes that changing the format to a regional event is going to open the doors for more churches to be able to participate.
“If we go to Memphis, Middle Tennessee and Knoxville (as host sites) it’s going to provide a situation, we hope, where most any church can be a part of YEC,” he said. “We are also looking to maybe do some fall YEC rallies, one-night rallies in different areas — like Clarksville, Chattanooga, Johnson City and other places. In time, this could also help us rethink the way we do our summer camps, to where they have a YEC tie-in, too.
“Our ultimate goal is to have this thing moving in a big, circular motion,” he said. “We want YEC to be like a big ball that is rolling all year. We keep it going with rallies, with YEC summer camp and other things.”
Barbier said it won’t be hard to judge the success of YEC.
“We believe we can make it better than ever,” he said, “and we can measure that by looking to see if the new ways of doing things are helping reach even more kids for Jesus. That’s what we want to do. That’s the goal. That’s the point.”