As millennium fever grows, people around the globe will mark the occasion in
decidedly different ways. Hotels near Times Square have been booked for years
by those anxious to party away the night in the bars and streets of Manhattan.
Concerned about the enormous binge, police in the Big Apple are warning
theaters to close New Year's Eve because of the disruption expected from up to
2 million revelers. Others will hunker down in the safety of their own homes
and wait expectantly to see if predictions of widespread disruptions caused by
the Y2K computer bug will come to fruition.
But young people looking to mark the momentous occasion in a more
significant way will join with thousands of their peers throughout North
America for YouthLink 2000. Expected to be the largest Southern Baptist youth
event ever held, YouthLink 2000 will encourage students to focus on Jesus
Christ and on taking Him to the world at the dawn of a new era. Up to 200,000
students are expected to converge on seven host cities and link together in
spirit and by satellite to focus on their personal role in continuing the long
Southern Baptist heritage of missions and evangelism.
The conference will include energetic worship, fellowship, messages from
evangelism leaders and other teens and some of today's best-known,
teen-oriented, Christian music artists. In addition to talking and singing
about sharing Christ with the world, students will dedicate part of their time
at the conference to personally walk the neighborhoods of host cities and share
the life-changing message of the Jesus whose birth they're celebrating.
"As we approach the promise and uncertainty of the 21st Century, nothing is
more important than creating Great Commission hearts in our young people," said
Bob Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board. "The blessing and
responsibility of evangelism still rests with Christians of all ages, but in a
very real sense this event is the opportunity for our generation to say to
young people 'The next leg of this relay is yours. We can't run it for you.'
"We feel YouthLink 2000 is a once-in-a-lifetime event for youth to gather in
such large numbers to be challenged. I can't think of a better way to spend New
Year's Eve 1999 than by honoring God and learning to share Him with others,"
Doug Edwards said. Edwards is a parent of three teens who will travel from
their home in Ketchikan, Alaska, to Atlanta for YouthLink. "We believe this is
a God-ordained event."
YouthLink is designed to challenge Christian students (from junior high
through college) to accept their roles of being on mission with God to win the
world to faith in Jesus Christ.
Edwards said he would encourage other parents to allow their children to
take part in YouthLink despite what some people are predicting for the New
"We are not ignorant or naive. Life is full of risks. If I'm going to take a
risk, I'd rather take one for the Kingdom of God. I believe the benefit for the
kids is worth the risk, considering the future of the church in the next
century," Edwards said. He adds that he and his kids plan to remain in Atlanta
for a couple of extra days before returning to Alaska.
Edwards reflects the feelings of thousands of parents who are encouraging
their teen-age children to catch a glimpse of what the new millenium may hold
cast through an on mission perspective.
Seven sites, one spirit
YouthLink will be hosted at the Anaheim Convention Center, Atlanta's Georgia
World Congress Center, the Denver Convention Center, the Houston Astrodome, the
Phila-delphia Convention Center, the St. Louis Trans World Dome and Tampa's Ice
Palace. All seven sites will be linked by satellite for the three-day event,
Born almost a decade ago, the YouthLink Steering Committee, consists of
members from the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, the
North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Woman's Missionary Union. As the
event has progressed, those closest to it have seen some unanticipated results,
including a movement of prayer.
Focused intercessory prayer for the nation's young people has become one of
the early ancillary benefits of YouthLink 2000. The 30th of each month has been
set aside for prayer and fasting related to the event.
"Jesus Himself is interceding for our kids," Henry Blackaby, author of
Experiencing God and NAMB special assistant to the president for
prayer and spiritual awakening, told Baptist Press. "Jesus is praying not that
they would come out of the world but that God would keep the evil one from them.
This is not the time to withdraw. It is a time for our students to go into
their schools with boldness."
Pray and act, says Blackaby. "The one thing I see in scripture that I don't
see enough in God's people today is linking prayer with action that
"The hour is so serious," he added. "We can build bunkers and withdraw. We
can demonstrate that we have no faith in God. But we have a generation of
teenagers watching what the adults do."
The heart of the event is to awaken students to their role in taking Christ
to the world.
"We're not interested in telling kids 'Here's what the denomination thinks
you should do' or 'Here's what our missions agency thinks you should do,'" said
Len Taylor, director of NAMB's Student Evangelism team. "We're praying that at
a time when much of the world will be waking up with a bad hangover, these kids
will wake up on New Year's Day with a fresh vision for where they fit into
God's plan to bring salvation to the world."
YouthLink leaders recommend a follow-up event back at the church to offer
teens an opportunity to respond to decisions made during the conference.
Organizers are praying that YouthLink will see 1,000 youth commit to full-time mission service and another
1,500 commit to full-time ministry.
YouthLink organizers want to reassure parents concerned about potential
Y2K-related computer problems surrounding the New Year. Concerned parents have
several options, including accompanying their kids to the event or bringing
their kids home a few hours early.
"All 700 adults working toward YouthLink 2000 feel a strong sense of
responsibility for every student until they are home safely," said Dean Finley,
YouthLink co-chairman and NAMB collegiate evangelism consultant. "We're
encouraging parents and churches not to allow concerns about the unknown to rob
their kids of this unique opportunity that will change thousands of lives for
With the November 1 registration fee increase deadline approaching,
YouthLink organizers also hope that adults in churches whose youth are not yet
planning to attend the event will prayerfully consider encouraging their church
"For the rest of our lives we will remember where we were when the calendar
flipped from 1999 to 2000," said Reccord. "I can't imagine a more meaningful
memory than one of standing side by side with my closest friends and thousands
of peers in a time of praise, worship and commitment to our Savior."
Joe Conway is managing editor of On Mission.
The $75 registration deadline for YouthLink 2000 is October 31. Beginning
November 1 registration is $90 per person. Individuals or groups may register
online by visiting the YouthLink website at www.youthlink2000.org or by calling
888-YouthLK (968-8455). All registration fees are non-refundable for the
December 29-31 event.
The YouthLink website provides updates on all seven host cities' Y2K
compliance and includes information about the readiness of YouthLink venues and
lodging in the host cities. General information may be obtained by calling the
YouthLink helpline, 888-968-8455.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC