For over seventy years, Youth for Christ has been communicating the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to young people. Youth for Christ was born in the mid-1940s through an impulse from the heart of God that simultaneously touched dozens of leaders in different places with a concern to reach young people normal church channels were missing.
This led to dynamic young evangelists, using revolutionary methods, conducting lively mass rallies in dozens of cities under the name of Youth for Christ, in the USA and abroad. With the rapid expansion of the movement there soon became a need for leadership and organisation and in 1944 Chicago pastor Torrey Johnson was elected Youth for Christ’s first president, with Billy Graham as its first full-time evangelist. “Geared to the times, Anchored to the Rock” is the story of the past seven decades, and how the Holy Spirit has motivated, led, and empowered men and women to take the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to young people in every corner of the world.
By 1950, Youth for Christ was already an international movement with Youth for Christ springing up in cities around the globe. In 1968, it also witnessed a development that was to affect the lives and destinies of millions of young people worldwide. In a little-publicised conference early that year on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, representatives from different countries created the International Council of Youth for Christ with Dr. Sam Wolgemuth as the first International President. The birth of this international coordinating body marked a significant stage in the development of what had already become a remarkable movement. The number of nations with Youth for Christ ministry had grown to over 100. Throughout that half century, Youth for Christ’s earliest and most enduring motto has been “Geared to the times, anchored to the Rock.”
The 70’s & 80’s
Youth for Christ continued its growth in ministry reach and ministry locations throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Different ministry models and ministry emphases were developed and refined to reach young people around the world.
In 1994 Youth for Christ launched an extensive worldwide review of the movement led by a task force made up of Youth for Christ senior staff from all over the world. Their work was completed in 1996 with the publication of the Organisational Development Study (ODS) Report and presented to the Youth for Christ movement in Taiwan. The ODS recommendations were unanimously accepted by the Youth for Christ movement and so set in motion the most ambitious restructuring in Youth for Christ’s 50-year history. The ODS report underscored the need for a “new birth” of Youth for Christ involving renewal and realignment with a new vision and mission.
In March 2000 the Youth for Christ family came together in Muhltal, Germany, for prayer and to corporately seek God’s direction. Most of the Youth for Christ leadership, including the International Board, attended the gathering. As they worshipped and prayed together, the Lord exposed and dealt with the interpersonal and structural issues that were hindering the renovation and renewal of Youth for Christ, and by the end of that week the Lord had revealed and confirmed the way forward. The Youth for Christ worldwide Staff and Leadership Conference (General Assembly) in Denver, Colorado, later that year, with the theme “Citizens of the Kingdom reaching the youth of the world,” became the starting point for a new interdependent spirit.
In 2001, over 40 key staff primarily made up of leadership team members from all over the world, came together in Valence, France, to consider the recommendations of the ODS and the changes that were required for its implementation. The result of this consultation was the establishment of the Valence Covenant. It clearly identifies Kingdom principles and a spirit of interdependence that all in the Youth for Christ movement seek to follow in our relationships and ministries worldwide.
In 2002, leadership teams worldwide met in Hungary to further explore how we could for the first time in Youth for Christ’s history unite behind a global ministry initiative. After a week of intense deliberation and consultation, the participants developed the framework of what later became the Global Ministry Plan. Between 2002 and 2003, the Global Ministry Plan was communicated and discussed throughout the Youth for Christ movement.
In May 2003 the then International President, Jean-Jacques Weiler, called the Youth for Christ family to an extended time of prayer as Youth for Christ moved forward to the time of transition.
The Global Ministry Plan
After consultations with most of the Youth for Christ chartered nations, the Global Ministry Plan was unanimously approved by the General Assembly at a gathering of the worldwide Youth for Christ family in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, September 2003. At the Belo Horizonte General Assembly a new strategic focus statement was also adopted which is foundational to the Global Ministry Plan:
Youth for Christ reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social involvement.
and changed at the General Assembly in 2014 to add:
We believe that God is raising up a new generation of disciples who will impact our world as never before and serve and represent Jesus Christ locally, nationally and globally.
2008 GENERAL ASSEMBLY – Young Leader’s Process
In September of 2008, the Youth for Christ worldwide family gathered in Magaliesburg, South Africa, for General Assembly. This was a special event as over 350 young leaders from around the world were present and a new initiative was launched: The Young Leader Development and Empowerment Process.
Many of those 350 young leaders have gone on to pioneer new Youth for Christ ministries in nations across the globe. Others have pioneered ministry into new cities within their nations and a number have become the National Director in their nation.
The wisdom and value of investing in a new generation of leaders has become indisputable. Today Youth for Christ continues to develop young leaders as a key element in its strategy for reaching young people everywhere and giving them the opportunity to be followers of Jesus Christ.