In Church of God, Youth Ministries

foodbank-copyThough this was an “off year” for the International Youth Convention, it was certainly not an off-year for Church of God youth ministries! In April, the historic ONE event brought together IYC, NIYC, and Hispanic Council students in a beautiful expression of unity. And in July, the biennial Leadership Summit convened, offering students serious about Christ-centered leadership the chance to hone their leadership skills for a lifetime of service wherever God takes them. Though these two events have come and gone, their impact on students can still be felt to this day. Most recently, the Leadership Summit proved highly influential for some 110 attendees that descended on the campus of Anderson University. For these students and their leaders, it was, just like IYC, a moment of life change.

Students who are serious about Christ-centered leadership in any field—not only vocational ministry—benefit from seasoned leaders throughout the event. This year, such leaders included Ann Smith, Jim Lyon, John Pistole, Richard Mansfield, and Steve Southards. For four days of intense leadership training, these students experience hands-on community service, worship, practical teaching, and small-group sharing.

Andy Stephenson, director of Church of God youth ministries, says there are numerous things he’ll remember about Leadership Summit 2017. Ann Smith—wellspring of wisdom—is one of those. He also says students got a front-row seat for an especially personal and poignant glimpse of Jim Lyon’s childhood experiences. Since Christ-centered leadership is, at its core, servant leadership, no Leadership Summit experience would be complete without a service project. Watching the students, each representing different parts of the country, different backgrounds, and a variety of ethnicities, was especially memorable for Andy.

Tami Byrd, who serves as project coordinator for Church of God youth ministries, recalls vividly a student whose comfort zone was stretched at the event. On her first day, the student began to regret attending, but she stuck with it and found herself growing in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Part of this change took place in the setting of what’s called a “family group.” Family groups mix students of different youth groups, locations, and ethnicities to create a setting each day in which students can get to know one another in ways that sharpen each other and broaden their perspectives. It’s one of the experiences that Tami sees as often having the greatest impact from year to year, even when the biggest names headline the list of speakers.

The following testimonial from the pastor of students at Salem Church of God in Clayton, Ohio, perhaps best captures the eternal significance of an event like Leadership Summit:

I have never been to or taken a group to Leadership Summit, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. Our teens that I brought with us were pretty nervous about rooming with kids they didn’t know. 

Within the first thirty minutes, those fears were washed away. I loved getting to see our teenagers interact with and engage with other student leaders from across the country. Even just this week, a month after Leadership Summit, one of my students told me that she still has a group chat with her family group from LS, and they are still touching base with and supporting each other.

The speakers were incredible. One of my students was so inspired by Ann Smith that he came home with a four-week series idea based on some of the things that she had said that he wanted to start at our church. Our students were challenged to examine themselves, while also challenged to go and be the church.

I think for the first time one of my students was able to start picturing herself as the leader I had always known was there. She started believing that she could be a leader in the church and a spiritual catalyst in our community. That kind of experience is more valuable than I can say.

Thanks so much to the Leadership Summit Team!

Learn more about Leadership Summit at


Start typing and press Enter to search