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Youths pack the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for the Saturday morning session of the 2023 Challenge Youth Conference.
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Nearly 12,000 ‘awesome’ people gather for CYC in Tennessee


There were no nosebleeds at this year’s Challenge Youth Conference.

No nosebleed seating, that is. The annual gathering of young believers from hundreds of Churches of Christ uses an “in the round” stage with four sides of audience, said organizer Larry Davenport, “so every seat in the room is as awesome as the person sitting in it.”

Travis Creasy

Travis Creasy

The conference in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., brought in nearly “12,000 of our closest friends,” said Travis Creasy, campus minister for Riverside Christian Academy in Fayetteville, Tenn., and one-half of the Christian comedy duo Ben and Travis, who performed at the event.

Dale Jenkins, one of the speakers, said, “This year’s massive crowd was the second-largest in our history — and probably the largest gathering of members of the Churches of Christ under one roof anywhere.” The event yielded 51 baptisms, said Jenkins, a longtime preacher and co-founder of the Jenkins Institute.

Organizers recently launched a sister event in the Dallas area that had about 600 participants this year. Both venues featured worship, sermons, comedy and a team of actors performing SWAT, Skits With A Purpose, said Davenport, young families minister for the Jackson Heights Church of Christ in Florence, Ala.

T.J. Kirk

T.J. Kirk

A first-time speaker this year was T.J. Kirk, vice president for student services at Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. His lesson, “Listen to God,” focused on removing distractions. Members of the South Gate Church of Christ in Columbia, Tenn., took the message to heart, singing “Someday” in a darkened cabin after the lesson.

“What better way (to demonstrate the lesson) than to … turn the lights out and remove all distractions?” Brandon Brooks wrote in a social media post.

Will Myhan, student minister for the Highland Park Church of Christ in Muscle Shoals, Ala., confiscated the phones of the kids he takes to CYC so they could concentrate during worship and sermons.

“The thing that I take away every year is how good our young people are in the church,” he said on Ben and Travis’ “Helping Healing Humor” podcast. “You truly see how invested the young people of the church are in the church. I just think that’s incredibly encouraging.”

Last year, CYC board members’ wives launched the Transform Ladies Conference in Pigeon Forge, attended by about 1,000 women, Davenport said. A second conference is scheduled for September.

Filed under: Challenge Youth Conference CYC Dale Jenkins Freed-Hardeman University Highland Park Church of Christ Jackson Heights Church of Christ Jenkins Institute National News Riverside Christian Academy South Gate Church of Christ Top Stories Transform Ladies Conference Youth ministry

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