‘Total depravity’, ‘foreknowledge’, ‘predestination’ and ‘justification’ might not be words we think teenagers keen to understand more about. However, during summer 2014, over 500 young people and youth leaders came together to consider their meaning, and much more, at various week-long Contagious youth conferences.
The conferences, for 14-19-year-olds, met near Perth, Kidderminster and Ipswich — with the title ‘Dem bones: When God meets a dead man’. They were packed full with preaching, discussions, seminars and music.
The morning teaching was based on Romans, with a particular focus on words mentioned in Romans 8:29-30. The evening preaching looked at Bible narratives of conversion, and of life coming to dead people. As with previous years, these were the highlight of the week.
There were also question and answer sessions and opportunities to meet one-to-one with leaders. The overall teaching programme aimed to show the wonders of God’s grace and sovereignty in bringing life to dead people.
The teaching was stretching and challenging, but the young people responded positively. The following comment from a teenage girl was not untypical: ‘One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that God chose us to be with him, when he had no reason to. We didn’t do anything extraordinary and yet he chose us. I’m coming home from Contagious feeling more excited about going to church. I also feel more determined and not ashamed to tell my non-Christian friends at school about Jesus’.
The venues (Strathallan School, the Pioneer Centre and the Royal Hospital School) offered excellent facilities for teaching and a great base for a varied afternoon programme of activities — sports, crafts, drama games, giant inflatables, film-making competitions, to name but a few.
A training programme for young leaders was also a key element. The TaskForce training scheme saw those aged 20-23 serve practically during the week and receive training on leadership.
The aim is to both train and equip future Contagious leaders and encourage those on the scheme to be better servants in local churches.
In addition to these conferences for 14-19-year-olds, there were two Contagious Nano conferences for those aged 11-13. This age group looked at the life of Paul, in Acts, and were encouraged to get on board the gospel train, and take the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth. About 200 young people and leaders were part of Nano.
Record numbers attending, great new venues and exciting plans for the future are some reasons why summer 2014 was encouraging. But there is greater joy in the knowledge that God’s Word remains as powerful as ever.
That God-glorifying, Christ-centred and Spirit-inspired Word was heard this summer and, as a result, many young people are praising God for his salvation and sharing that good news with others (more details at www.contagious.org.uk).