The first biennial Youth Unlimited Live It! was held in Marion, Ind., in July.
The new event replaces YU’s annual youth convention, a tradition among Christian Reformed teens since the 1920s. It is designed to be more hands-on and interactive for teens.
About 500 teens and 200 leaders from throughout North America attended, comparable to attendance at the most recent conventions.
Teens and leaders chose to participate in one of six tracks based on their interests and gifts:
- Play It (sports)
- Grow It (discipleship)
- Create It (arts)
- Do It (service)
- Lead It (youth ministry)
- Support It (volunteering to assist with the event)
They spent most of each day with members of their track, listening, learning, and doing. In the evenings, everyone came together for keynote speakers, entertainment, and worship, led in part by musical group “Happy the Dog.”
Play It proved the most popular track, with about 200 participants, and the smallest group was Support It, with about 50, said Millie Hoekstra, event coordinator, noting there was a good distribution of participants among all the tracks.
Play It participants planned and implemented a Saturday sports event for local children. The event paired each child with two teens. “It helped me play for God, rather than for people,” said Corey Bulthuis, 16, of Orland Park (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church.
Members of the Grow It track enjoy a team-building exercise.
Some of the Do It track members built a Habitat for Humanity house, despite 100 degree (F) weather. “It really helped me to open up to the family that would receive the house and help them as I would want someone to help me,” said Rebekah Owens, 18, of Brookfield (Wis.) CRC.
“Though it was hot, God really put something in my heart and the hearts of our whole group to work as hard as we could, rather than complain.”
A group of Create It track members wrote their own song and performed it for the entire conference. That was a highlight for Juli Upham, 16, of Fairlawn CRC, Westborough, Mass. “There was no stopping the smiles, clapping, and fist-pumping from the band and audience members. The joy that filled the room was undeniable. . . . Being able to join in worship while watching kids our own age use their God-given gifts put a smile across my face,” she said.
Other Create It participants worked on video production or graphic arts, or performed dramas for the evening sessions.
Grow It participants learned about and practiced prayer, witnessing, and team building. “When I get back home, I’m going to be more confident in showing my gift to others and being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Jami Berentschot, 17, of Inwood (Iowa) CRC. “I won’t be keeping myself in a box anymore. I will be showing Christ’s love to everyone through my gifts.”
Teens at the first Live It! event related to each other on a deeper level than at previous youth conventions, organizers reported.
The new format allowed them to really get to know others who share their interests, said Hoekstra, who called the event a “huge success.”
“Everyone was very pleased with the results,” she said. “There was great variety and great teachers. The kids enjoyed it immensely.”
Live It! will be held every other year, since many youth groups now choose to do a service project on alternating years, Hoekstra said. The 2013 event is planned for the Pittsburgh, Pa., area.