Worship was such a high point for teens at this year’s Youth Unlimited Convention, it must have seemed as if the mountains and hills surrounding Flagstaff, Ariz., were bursting into song right along with them.
Mainstage events at the annual July convention featured a flurry of bouncing beach balls, screaming voices, raised hands, stomping feet, jumping bodies, and passionate praises lifted to God from 1,467 conventioneers.
“I’ve never really felt like I’ve been on a ‘high’ for God until this weekend,” said Pam Boelens, 16, from Hillside Community Christian Reformed Church, Cutlerville, Mich. “I can’t forget the most amazing music and songs I have ever sung in my entire life. And the speakers left me feeling like I could really make a difference for God.”
Worship was also a major highlight for Mark Roth, 15, from Brookfield (Wis.) CRC. “The worship really impacted me and my friends—it was so cool,” he said. “My only complaint is that the worship on the last day should have gone longer because nobody wanted to stop.”
Roth’s group from Brookfield took first place in the convention soccer tournament, as well as the number-one spot for group size, with 44 participants.
On the other end of the size spectrum, Brooten (Minn.) CRC sent four teens—including Brett Landwehr, 16. “I made some new friends, including my roommate, who was from Michigan, like most of the people I met,” he said.
Landwehr said the convention has “most definitely” affected him since returning home. “My faith’s grown indescribably,” he said. “I thought I knew a lot about God before going there, but the speakers and the prayers helped me open my eyes to God in a new way. I would recommend this to anyone who’s struggling at all with their faith.”
According to Millie Hoekstra, events manager for Youth Unlimited, this year’s convention stood out for its spiritual depth and the level of the kids’ engagement in worship itself. Hoekstra, who has attended every convention since 1973, said it’s difficult to compare one event with another but that this was a “fantastic year” overall because of the kids’ great attitudes.
Convention attendance dropped by 544 since the 2004 event in Estes Park, Colo., which many churches said was a result of the economy and the high cost of travel. Hoekstra said this decrease also reflects a lower number of teens in the CRC.
However, Youth Unlimited reports that—in addition to the 1,467 conventioneers—another 2,122 people participated in a SERVE or ENCOUNTER mission project, for a total of 3,589 youths and leaders who sought a spiritual and/or service experience this year.
Reflecting the theme of all Youth Unlimited activities this summer, “That All of Them May Be One,” Scott Meekhof, 16, from Lee Street CRC, Wyoming, Mich., said the convention left him changed forever. “Most important, above all the fun, was the whole idea that we are one,” he wrote on his evaluation form.
2006 Convention Facts and Figures
- Attendance: 1,467 conventioneers
- Mainstage speakers: Tom Tufts, Joleen DeHeer, Jason Taylor
- Worship leaders: Dave Lubben & Band, One Time Blind Drama Troupe
- Largest age group: 17-year-olds
- Gender breakdown: 58 percent girls, 42 percent boys
- States and Provinces: 23 states and 3 Canadian provinces represented
- Top attendance from Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin
- Registration fee: $365 US/$460 CDN