In 2000, three experienced Christian youth workers — Ian Fry, Trevor Pearce and Pete Woodcock — arranged a week-long conference for young people aged 14 to 19.
The aim was to give young people and leaders an opportunity to give significant time to study God’s Word, to discuss it, hear it preached and be transformed by it. It was described as a Bible boot-camp. Around 40 teenagers attended. They named the conference Contagious.
The name has proved apt. Contagious has now spread and developed. In 2012, over 500 young people and leaders were involved at four separate conference venues. In order to manage this growth and develop its ministry further, Contagious has recently appointed its first full-time worker.
Jonathan Shulver, previously Associate Minister at Farnham Baptist Church, started his role as Contagious Development Director in August 2012. Jonathan answers here some question for Evangelical Times regarding Contagious and its future development.
Question: What are the core values that Contagious has been built around?
Jonathan: Since its beginning, Contagious has been built around three main principles. First, we take God’s Word very seriously. We are utterly (and increasingly!) convinced that when the Bible is taught and preached in the power of God’s Spirit, lives are transformed.
Second, we take teenagers seriously. We feel that teenagers are more capable of listening to preaching and seriously studying God’s Word than is often assumed. We want to resist the pressures to entertain teenagers rather than stretch their minds, to provide an emotional experience rather than communicate truth, to settle for superficial fun rather than seriously pursue God.
Finally, we are committed to the local church. We want to see young people serving Christ within their local churches. We want young people and leaders to return home from a Contagious conference with a greater love and commitment to their churches.
Q: What do those principles look like in practice during a week-long conference?
J: The first two principles mean that a large percentage of each day is dedicated to Bible teaching. The teaching (around five hours every day) is presented in various ways — preaching, small group study, seminars, video workshops and question and answer sessions.
Each conference focuses on one particular book of the Bible or Christian doctrine. The Holy Spirit, the book of Revelation, idolatry, the resurrection and the sovereignty of God are among the topics we have covered over the years.
It is that simple. We take a bunch of young people and for one week expose them to a major dose of Bible. We want them to experience for themselves the power of this God-glorifying, Christ-centred and Spirit-inspired Word.
Our young leader training programme (named Task Force) is an example of how our commitment to the local church impacts what we would do. We hope and trust that the training and teaching the young adults receive will be an ongoing blessing to the churches they are part of.
Q: How do the young people generally react to the high level of Bible teaching given?
J: Almost without exception, the young people love the opportunity to discover more about God through his Word and don’t view the time dedicated to this as boring, compared to the other activities arranged during the week — such as sports, crafts, music, and just being together.
The numerical growth Contagious has experienced over recent years has been built on the fact that the majority of young people who attend Contagious want to come back the following year and often bring friends with them. It’s Contagious!
Q: Where are Contagious conferences held and are they all similar?
J: We are arranging four separate conferences in 2013. Contagious East (taking place near Bury St Edmunds), Contagious West (near Cardiff) and Contagious Scotland (near Perth) will all be having the same teaching schedule — looking at the book of Galatians — and are for young people aged 14 to 19.
Contagious Nano will be taking place near Ipswich and there young people aged 11 to 13 will be looking at the life of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.
Q: What are some of the plans for Contagious in the future?
J: There are numerous excellent Christian camps for young people throughout the UK. Many of them have an evangelistic focus and we are grateful to God for them. We are not in competition with these camps, but rather want to complement them.
There are few conferences with the focus that Contagious has on Christian discipleship, and where young people are given so much time to investigate and think deeply about God’s Word.
Under God, therefore, we want to see Contagious continue to grow numerically — with more young people and leaders attending. We are looking too at arranging some day-conferences and developing our young leader training programme.
In all these things, we are, of course, totally dependent on God and our greatest hope is that God would be pleased to use Contagious to bring glory to his name.
For more information about
Contagious, please visit
www.contagious.org.uk or e-mail