History of YouthCon

History of the National Youth Conference of M.B. Churches

Teenagers of the United States Mennonite Brethren (USMB) Convention began meeting together in the 1970s. Every four years they would gather together from all over the nation to listen to challenging speakers, worship and enjoy activities. These youth conventions have been the largest gatherings of MBs in North America!

The conventions were primarily held at Estes Park, CO, and occasionally hosted at Glorieta, NM, as well. A change came after Estes 03 when USMB Executive Director Chuck Buller began dreaming with some youth leaders about a new model for the convention. The USMB board appointed Rick Bartlett, Wendell Loewen, and Tim Neufeld as a task force to investigate the issue. Upon further discussion and consultation with a large sample of MB youth leaders from across the nation, it was decided to hold the 2007 convention at the Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, CA. One of the key goals of the convention was to move students into an environment where they could learn about and experience holistic ministry in an urban context. Each teenager was given the chance on the third day of the event to move into the city and minister in the name of Christ. The planning team felt that this was a great way to pass along an important Anabaptist/Mennonite value. The conference was a success and set the precedent for future national MB youth gatherings in an "urban" setting.  This was successful for the next three conventions (2007, 2011, 2015).  

After NAMED2015 the planning team prayed and evaluated the convention and God gave them a new vision of the future.  Out of this evaluation time came the new vision of USMB Youth. This new vision included three parts.  First, the team decided the urban setting was no longer valuable enough to justify the rising cost of the event.  The value of serving is still a crucial element of YouthCon, but rather having teenagers serve during the convention the team developed Project: Serve where teenagers can serve in their local communities.  Second, part of the vision was developing a Youth Worker Network to build the connection between conventions.  Third, the planning team one of the weaknesses of an urban setting convention was the space for natural community.  By not having meals together or a free space (other than a hotel lobby) it was hurting one of the core values of USMB Youth: bringing churches together.  So with a stronger desire for community and no need for an urban service project a camp setting was chosen for the next YouthCon.  Glorieta camp in NM was chosen based on its location, price, and recreational benefits.  By having at Glorieta we have included everything in an all-in-one package with programming, housing, and now it includes all food and enough fun things to fill up multiple “fun days” that several groups went on the day before NAMED2015. 

The final change was renaming the event.  The title of the National Youth Convention doesn’t bring about much excitement, and in the previous conventions, the city and year were emphasized more.  So the event was changed to YouthCon which gives it a permeant title and help with continuity.  A theme will still be chosen at each convention.


Here is a Brief Rundown of Every Convention:

Location: Glorieta, New Mexico
Attendees: 1,395 (117 staff, 211 sponsors, 1,067 youth)
Speaker(s): Josh McDowell
Seminars: 34
Special Notes: First every NYC! PDC brought the most youth
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Location: YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO
Attendees: 1,350 (118 Staff, 1,232 youth and staff)
Speaker(s): Mark Lee
Seminars: 50
Musical Guest: Brush Arbor
Special NotesSDC brought the most youth. First talent show happened.
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Attendees: 1,073 (lower due to the economy)(750 youth)
Speaker(s): Tony Campolo
Seminars: 33
Musical Guest: Salmond & Mulder
Special NotesUpdated “Praise Festival” talent show
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Location: Glorieta, NM
Theme: “Experience The Difference”
Attendees: 1,075
(807 youth, 268 sponsors and staff)
Speaker(s): Ridge Burns
Seminars: 19
Musical Guest: Jamie Owens Collins and James Ward
Special NotesFirst NYC directed by an NYC graduate, Steve Schroeder. Crag McNair Wilson provided comedy and drama. $1,000 offering was taken.
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Theme: “Rock Solid”
Attendees: 1,079
Speaker(s): Duffy Robbins
Seminars: 10
Musical Guest: Laura Compton and Acappella
Special NotesSponsored breakfast by the USMB colleges at the historic Stanley Hotel for seniors.
$6,000 offering was taken. Planning team chair was Greg Schmidt. Tim Neufeld did worship. Isaac Air Freight was special guest comedians.
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Theme: “Hearts Courageous”
Attendees: 1,463
Speaker(s): Ridge Burns and Carolyn Koons
Seminars: unknown
Musical Guest: Bryan Duncan
Special NotesPlanning team chair was Greg Schmidt. Comedy by Steve Bridges and Cary Trivanovich. 400 pizzas and ice cream were given away. SDC brought the most youth (639).
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Theme: “Power Up”
Attendees: 1,796
Speaker(s): Deforest “Buster” Soaries and Lori Salierno
Seminars: unknown
Musical Guest: Rebecca St. James
Special NotesThe most attended NYC! Planning Chair was Stuart Pederson. The morning prayer times were led by various Slavic and Hispanic groups. Curt Cloniger performed a special drama.
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Theme: “The Call”
Attendees: 1,560 (1,420 youth from 67 churches)
Speaker(s): Lori Salierno and Tom Tuffs
Seminars: 11
Musical Guest: Skillet
Special NotesThis was the year a blizzard in the Denver area and Estes Park nearly canceled the event.
Planning Chair was Stuart Pederson. The war in Iraq came to a head two days prior to the start of the convention and so the closing session became an interactive service that included a directed prayer time. A $12,000 offering was taken for the North Carolina district project. Adopted 75 compassion international children. A service opportunity in Boulder, CO was introduced.
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Location: Anaheim, CA
Theme: “Everywhere”
Attendees: 1,075 (53 churches)
Speaker(s): Roy Crowne
Seminars: ministry tracks instead
Special NotesFirst time held in an urban setting. The planning team was led by Wendell Loewen, Tim Neufeld, and Rick Bartlett. Used a “hands-on” format in terms of ministry tracks and an all-day ministry experience. Dramas led by One Time Blind. Late night Anaheim Idol Talent Show.
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Location: San Antonio, TX
Theme: “Flood”
Attendees: 915 (40 churches)
Speaker(s): Shane Claiborne and Paula Simpson-Parry
Musical Guest: Stories in Braille
Special NotesPlanning team was led by Wendell Loewen, Tim Neufeld, and Rick Bartlett. Continued the all-day ministry experience in inner-city San Antonio. Voted the best location concerning food and fun options. Late night activities were led by Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University.
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Location: Denver, CO
Theme: “NAMED”
Attendees: 815 (38 churches)
Speaker(s): John Richardson
Musical Guest: Four All Seasons
Special NotesPlanning team was led by Kyle Goings, Joanna Chapa, Russ Claassen, Matt Ford, Jeral Gross, Keith Warkentin, Christy Goentzel. Continued the all-day ministry experience in inner-city Denver. Special guest: illusionist Joshua Jordan. Late night activities were led by Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University.
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