Since 1965, Wesleyans have filled busses, vans, cars, and planes during Christmas break to head out across North America to participate in a Wesleyan Youth Convention. Some have literally traveled from the "end of the earth" to attend.
Thousands will make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana, the last week of this month in order to worship, praise, make eternal commitments, gaze at the world's largest Christmas tree, and eat tons of pizza before heading home the last day of 2015.
Why would a denomination invest in a three-day event for the next generation? Why would adult youth leaders and volunteers spend the last week of the year with loud, radical teenagers and act like they enjoy it? Why would anyone want to endure waiting fifteen minutes for an elevator in an overloaded hotel? Trips are long. Meal times are rushed. Sleep is something to be righteously coveted. The staff that plans these things is exhausted. There have to be other reasons why many still sacrificially give themselves to engage in Wesleyan youth conventions. Here are a few of my views having worked with these events for over thirty years.
- The Holy Spirit. God, through his Spirit, always does amazing things at these events. Sin is forgiven. Lives are completely transformed. Marriages of adult volunteers are mended. Hotel employees place their faith in Jesus. Bodies are healed. Minds are changed. Generosity is realized. Ministries get focused. Regardless of the myriad of details that must be worked through to pull off a smooth event for 5,000-10,000 people, the one factor I think is the best feature of a Wesleyan youth convention is that the Holy Spirit always does his work.
- God's call. I was called into vocational ministry at age 12 at a Wesleyan youth convention. Never have a looked back on that commitment. I now have family members who have been called to serve God while at Wesleyan youth conventions. I pray there will 12-year-olds in Indianapolis who makes the same decision before this year is up. It would be interesting to know how many men and women are in vocational ministry today who accepted God's call on their lives at a Wesleyan youth convention. To be sure, God's call to vocational ministry will always be a feature of our youth events as long as I have anything to do with them. And, thankfully, we have figured out that ministry is not only about being a pastor and a missionary. There is a need for many to enter these ministry leadership positions. However, we need good, godly laypersons that will commit to serve the Jesus in whatever wholesome vocation he calls students and adults to in life. The body of Christ has enough room and need for everyone to honor him in word, thought, and deed no matter what the profession or gift mix.
- The Church. There is nothing better in life and ministry than being a part of something that is bigger than self. For some, worshipping with thousands of Christ-honoring students and their adult leaders at Follow 2015 will be one of the best church experiences in life. It still does my soul good. In fact, I'm usually in tears in the back of the auditorium knowing that the crowd I'm worshipping with is a great testimony of the vibrant future of The Wesleyan Church. I love this experience for all who will be there, including the two young adults of my own household. We are truly stronger together than when trying to do things all on our own. Jesus preached this fact. It's time the Church, even The Wesleyan Church, FOLLOWS his instruction.
See you in Indianapolis on December 28, Lord willing. Pray for Follow 2015. If you still need to register, there is still room for you. Visit www.follow2015.com today.
Dr. Jim Dunn is the executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.