Hundreds of teens from around the Midwest swarmed around Reardon Auditorium on the Anderson University campus Saturday afternoon, playing hackeysack, talking with friends and other loud activities typical of junior high students.
But within minutes, they were seated in the auditorium and at rapt attention as speakers shared stories and encouraged them to strengthen their faith.
A little more than 3,000 junior-high aged kids attended two sessions of Believe, a touring Christian conference sponsored by Christ In Youth, an organization that provides programs at Christian churches around the country. [Photo: Jordan Howerton leads worship during Christ In Youth's Believe conference for junior high students at Reardon Auditorium on Saturday.]
Travis Trueblood, the site coordinator for Believe, said about 1,700 attended Session 1, which was held Friday and Saturday. Session 2, featured Saturday and Sunday, will host about 1,300 students.
Trueblood said Christian pastors, youth ministers and students from as far as Pittsburgh arrived in Anderson for the event. The event has conferences in larger cities in California, Texas, Missouri, Florida and throughout the Midwest, but Anderson is the only conference with two sessions.
“I’m not sure why that is, but for whatever reason, a lot of people come here,” Trueblood said. “I think it’s a good central location for a lot of people in the Midwest, and it’s safe. I used to be a youth pastor and I know you didn’t exactly want a lot of kids running off in a big city.”
Believe has been holding conferences at Anderson University for a decade, and Trueblood said it’s always a popular event, and the city acts as a great venue. Christ In Youth has been in business since 1968, and supports similar conferences throughout the country each year.
This year’s conference features main speaker Danny Curry, a minister at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield. Other performers provide entertainment between speaking sessions and breaks where the teenagers can meet and mingle.
With so many teenagers running around, there’s a need for volunteers at events like Believe. Sarah Brown of Joplin, Mo., worked as the volunteer coordinator at this year’s conference, leading a total of about 40 volunteers. She said this stop is a little more hectic because it’s so large and hosts two sessions, but she said that makes it more fun.
“We hope they go back to their homes and youth groups and just do good things,” Brown said.
Youth pastors Scott and Karen Moore brought 12-year-old McKenna Parks and 13-year-old Andrew Ryan from their church in Fort Wayne. Parks and Ryan said they were both excited because it was their first year attending the event. Scott Moore said Anderson provided a convenient location.
“The proximity to Fort Wayne makes it easy to get here. It’s a good mid-point time for junior high kids and this is a good place for worship,” Moore said.
Believe moves from Anderson to Holland, Mich., in two weeks, and closes in Atlanta in May. Trueblood said it’s been fun, but he wants to challenge the students to become more serious Christians.
“It’s not just about coming here and having fun,” Trueblood said. “We want them to build good relationships with each other and take home what they learned and practice it day to day. They don’t have to wait until they’re adults. They can do amazing things right now.”
—Jack Molitor is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: Don Knight. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.