During summer 2013, around 600 young people and youth leaders came together to study God’s Word at various week-long Contagious youth conferences. Jon Shulver, Contagious Development Director, told ET more about this exciting and growing work.
Since its beginning in 2000, Contagious has been built around three main principles. First, we are passionate about God’s Word and therefore want to saturate young people in it.
Second, we are serious about young people. We feel that teenagers are more capable of listening to preaching and seriously studying God’s Word than is often assumed.
Finally, we are committed to the local church. We want young people and leaders to return home from a Contagious conference with a greater love for and commitment to their churches and a desire to serve in them.
These principles were applied over the summer as we held Contagious conferences at four separate venues. Our conferences for 14-19 year olds met at locations near Perth, Cardiff and Bury St Edmunds, while Contagious Nano (for 11-13 year olds) was held near Ipswich.
Fruit of the Spirit
The conferences for older teens all focused on the Bible’s book of Galatians, under the title ‘Freedom’. Each morning was taken up with seminars looking at the fruit of the Spirit. It was wonderful to witness how, by the end of the week, the young people had a clear understanding of each fruit and an awareness that it could only be cultivated as they looked to Jesus and ‘walked in step with the Spirit’.
During the evening ‘big teach’ we preached our way through Galatians. Consistent with previous years, the evening preaching was the highlight of the week for the majority of young people.
Another highlight for many was the time spent each day in small groups looking at and discussing sections of Psalm 119. Here the young people saw that God’s law, when rightly understood and used, is something to delight in and treasure.
Alongside the seminars, preaching and small group studies, there were also question-and-answer sessions and every young person had a one-to-one discussion with a leader.
Almost without exception, the young people loved the opportunity to discover more about God through his Word and didn’t view the time dedicated to this as boring, compared to other activities during the week.
The other activities were numerous and varied: sports, crafts, drama games, giant inflatables, battle of the bands, film-making competitions, an electronics lab and a ceilidh (in Scotland only!) to name but a few.
The Royal Hospital School, near Ipswich, proved an excellent new venue for the Contagious Nano, in which one hundred 11-13 year olds looked into Luke’s Gospel. This was entitled ‘On tour with Jesus’.
As with the other conferences, the week was packed full with talks, discussions, seminars, music and drama, as the young people explored big themes in the book.
The school provided not just excellent facilities for teaching, but also a great base for all the week’s other activities.
Alongside teaching the youth, a training programme for young leaders was a key element of the Contagious Nano week. The ‘Task Force’ training scheme saw those aged 20-24 serve practically during the conference and receive their own training from experienced pastors and pastors’ wives.
The aims of Task Force, which also operated at two of the other conferences, are to train future Contagious leaders and help them be better servants in their own local churches.
Summer 2013 was a really encouraging time for Contagious. As in previous years, we simply took a bunch of young people and leaders and exposed them to a major dose of the Bible.
We saw them experience for themselves the power of that God-glorifying, Christ-centred and Spirit-inspired Word.
As a result of increasing numbers, new Contagious conferences and venues are planned for 2014 (more details from