Dedra Henry’s church is small. Her husband, James, accepted the call to serve as pastor there in 2019, and when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, they lost nearly all of what little youth group they had.
“Our youth group consisted of our son and daughter and maybe one or two others,” Henry said.
She was passionate about teaching them on Wednesday nights, but she also wanted them to experience the things a larger youth group would.
So she and her husband loaded them up in 2022 and took them first to Super Summer, then to SPEAK Tour in August.
“We wanted to keep the momentum going,” Henry said.
And at SPEAK Tour — a night of worship designed for youth to bring their friends to hear the gospel — two of Henry’s daughter’s friends made decisions to follow Christ.
“From there, it just started feeding off of my daughter inviting her friends and then they invited friends, and we ended up going to another SPEAK Tour that was closer to us in September,” she said.
At that event, three of her son’s friends from band made decisions to follow Christ too.
It’s been a galvanizing experience for the youth group at Henry’s church, Enon Baptist in Atmore, not to mention the church as a whole.
On Aug. 27, two teens who went to SPEAK Tour last year followed through with baptism. Their parents joined the church the same day.
“All the glory is to God,” Henry said.
She said she’s thankful for SPEAK Tour.
“Because we have nothing in this area, our kids are just hungry for something, and they really enjoyed it,” she said.
Josh Meadows, student ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said that was the idea behind SPEAK Tour — to take the SPEAK conference, in past years held annually at a single location, to a variety of dates and locations where it would be more accessible for churches around the state.
He said attendance “has been phenomenal” at this year’s four SPEAK Tour events, held in Centreville, Haleyville, Cropwell and Athens. The events have drawn between 750–800 total so far.
“It’s just been an incredible time of worship. I think comfortably I can say we’ve had 45 decisions for Christ out of SPEAK Tour this year so far,” Meadows said. “It’s been great for relationship building and networking among the churches, and it’s been an incredible investment for the Kingdom.”
The next SPEAK Tour event will be held Sept. 27 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Ozark. The speaker will be Brent Finchum, a youth ministry coach, and the band will be One Step Closer.