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by Brett Kunkle
My passion has always been youth. Ever since my days as a youth pastor in the local church, I've sought out ways to more effectively reach students and offer them serious teaching and discipleship. That's why I started and developed Stand to Reason's apologetics mission trip to Berkeley and our theological mission trip to Utah. Of course, those trips require some serious effort. There are lectures, reading, studying, tests, and more, and that's before we ever go on the trip. Then there's the actual trip, with engagements with atheists, agnostics, skeptics, Mormons, and anyone else we can throw at the students, all day long. But most Christian kids won't have the opportunity or the maturity to attend a mission trip like this, so I've thought a lot about the best way to reach larger numbers of students. How do we get that typical evangelical student, who is sitting in our youth groups week in and week out, exposure to deeper teaching in apologetics and theology?
Three years ago, we tried out one of my ideas: an apologetics conference specifically designed for youth. I called it the reTHINK Conference, and our tagline was, "Stand to Reason Student Impact exists to provoke a new generation to rethink their worldview, recapture the truth, and then reengage the world for the cause of Christ." We had about 400 students, youth workers, and parents attend that first conference, and we were ecstatic. We did it again in 2013 and more than 600 showed up. Last year about 1,100 came out, and last weekend 1,500 people (most of them students) came out for our fourth annual reTHINK Student Apologetics Conference in Southern California. We've clearly seen the success and impact of this conference on the lives of young people. But why? What has made reTHINK successful? Of course, it's ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, but what have we done on our end to facilitate God's work? Here are a few thoughts that might help you as you try to reach your own young people…
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