You can’t put a price on youth festivals

Flame 2019 – image ICN / JS

The pandemic has been exceptionally difficult for young people, and I don’t think we’ve seen the full extent of it yet. They continue to live in a rapidly changing culture, surrounded by social media, with significant pressure and uncertainty regarding their upbringing, and I have never seen mental health issues on the scale I see today.

The role that our churches and youth ministries must play in investing in the next generation is important and should not be underestimated. It has been great to see an army of young workers constantly loving and supporting young people over the past couple of years and I have been so encouraged to see many groups of young people rebuilding and coming together in person.

Anyone who meets young people knows that an authentic relationship is absolutely essential – they need a cohesive connection and I think youth groups need to meet more than ever – in their local contexts but also in larger ones too.

In 2021, Dreaming the Impossible was one of the only youth festivals to take place – and God has met hundreds of young people in the most incredible way. It was a huge roller coaster ride of faith to get there, with a lot of uncertainty – surprisingly all restrictions were lifted just in time! We persevered through all the complications to make the event a reality, because we young people needed it, they needed to meet and meet God.

I grew up in a small Anglican church in Cambridgeshire, in a youth group of about 15 young people. When I was 13 we went to Soul Survivor for the first time. While I had grown up in the church and was involved in the church community with my family, nothing really prepared me for what I felt when I first walked into this meeting room. ‘stable. I was surrounded by thousands of other teenagers who were passionate about worshiping God. I saw God act in a way I had never encountered before and had a lot of fun!

Youth festivals are an annual big time for young people and from the age of 13 I went there every year until I was 20 and I was too old !! At what other age can you spend an extended time with your friends and with God at this age? I have built such deep relationships with my peers and youth leaders and looking back these gatherings have been absolutely catalytic for my faith. It was in Soul Survivor, when I was about 14 or 15, that I first felt the feeling that God was calling me to church leadership and giving me a heart for the next generation.

Many people wonder about the return of big events in this post-Covid landscape, wondering if there is value in the big ones. Have the festivals run their course? Does God do something and shake the church to try something else? And I also asked myself these questions but I am convinced of it, the festivals of young people are always as precious as ever. This is where young people are mainly known and trained and we have to keep investing in local youth ministries, but there is something special happening at a youth festival, which cannot be reproduced in a local setting. What happens in just a few days can impact what happens the rest of the year; festivals have a long-term impact. They give young people the opportunity to be completely immersed in community and in the presence of God for an extended period of time.

Whether it’s spending time in meetings meeting God together, in seminars, in cafes, playing sports, in the silent disco or having hot chocolates together – memories are created and relationships speed up. between young people and also with their leaders. I’ve heard many times that you can do a year of youth ministry in a week at a youth festival!

It is also invaluable for young people to come together with thousands of other Christians and those exploring the faith, as it helps them realize that they are part of something bigger. A young person might be part of a group of five young people, feeling like he is the only Christian around because he does not know any at his school or college – but then it comes to something like the DTI and he realizes that there are hundreds, thousands, millions all over the world like them. It is so important for them to know that they are not only part of their tribe, not the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Anglican or Free Church, but that they are part of the family of God, the Church.

It doesn’t matter whether you take a small group of 3-5 young people or a much larger group – when the young people are outside their usual surroundings, immersed in community and the presence of God, listening to relevant talks from the Bible, being prayed for, worshiping together, as well as all the fun, there is something incredibly special about what God is doing at this time. I have seen it in my own life and in hundreds and hundreds of other young people now. I also think we’ve seen it in a generation of people who are now in their twenties and thirties. If you walked into a lot of churches and asked these guys if their faith had been affected by a festival of youth, I would suspect the vast majority of the room would raise their hands.

I know that youth work has been a real challenge for many youth groups and churches during this pandemic and that many young people are less engaged and are struggling spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Youth festivals are so precious, often a mountain-top experience, a place for relationships and accelerated encounters, but we know that festivals alone cannot provide all the support and discipleship that these young people so desperately have. need. It has to be about disciplining these guys on a relationship level for the other 360 days of the year and the role of the local church is vital. Festivals can give young people the tools in their hands to walk with Jesus day in and day out, but it is their young leaders and peers who are essential to walk with them through all the ups and downs. They’re the ones who are there when they’ve had a bad day at school, when their exams have gone bad, when the house is rough, when their grandmother has passed away, whatever – they’ll be there… home. making a presentation, sending an encouraging text, praying with them.

So my challenge to you… even though youth ministry right now is a challenge and we don’t know what the next few months will look like. Even if you are exhausted and some of you may even feel like you have not much left in the tank, continue to love and bring your young people together locally, and try to do whatever it takes. ‘it takes to bring your young people to a youth festival. Next year. It will be worth it, it will be great for your young people and your ministry to young people will be stronger.

Susie is the senior pastor of the Dreaming the Impossible (DTI) youth movement. DTI serves young people from churches and youth organizations around the world and is managed by Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland. She is based in Nottingham in Trent Vineyard, where she is an associate pastor and volunteer youth leader. She loves anything yellow and can almost always be found with sunglasses!

Upcoming youth festivals already planned


From Friday March 18, 2022 5 p.m. to Sunday March 20 2 p.m.
YOUTH 2000
Retreat oneLeeds Trinity University
Three days of fun, fellowship and adoration! The Leeds Retreat is open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 35, whether it’s your first Youth 2000 retreat or your twentieth, this event is for you. For more details see: www.youth2000.org/events

Friday – Saturday 3-4 June
YOUTH 2000 CELEBRATE – GREAT CHURCH DAY
Join over 30,000 people from across the UK and beyond to worship together in the breathtaking setting of Wiston Estate, Sussex, in the company of some of the world’s best Christian music artists. For more details see: www.youth2000.org/events

July 31 – August 7
YOUTH 2000 GOES TO THE YOUTH FESTIVAL OF MEDJUGORIE
This summer we are going back to our roots and joining 50,000 other young Catholics from around the world for a week of celebration, witness, adoration, mass and much more! For more details see: www.youth2000.org/events
30 years ago a group of young adults who attended the Youth Festival felt inspired and started organizing similar retreats in UK as Youth 2000. This year we are delighted to bring back a group of young Catholics in this special place and celebrate our faith with others. of the whole world. For more details see: www.youth2000.org/events

Friday August 26 – Monday August 29, 2022
GREEN BELT FESTIVAL
For more information see: – www.ents24.com/festival/greenbelt-festival-2022/6249172

August 27-30
REJOUISSANCE FESTIVAL
At Ampleforth College.
Holiday weekend filled with fun, friendship, faith and joy.
For more details see: www.youth2000.org/events

Youth events in the Diocese of East Anglia
For more details see: www.rcdea.org.uk/youth/events/

World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 (moved from 2022)
Pope Francis plans to attend. See: https://worldyouthday.com/lisbon-to-host-wyd-2022

For more information on upcoming youth activities, events and festivals
visit the website of the Catholic Youth Ministry: (CYMFED): https://cymfed.org.uk/

Keywords: Youth, Youth Festivals, Susie Aldridge, World Youth Day, Lisbon, Youth 2000, Greenbelt, CYMFED, Flame

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Richard L. Militello