In 2016, as 16-year-old Shantrice Coleman walked up to the microphone during the third session of the Youth Evangelism Conference, she got an unprompted standing ovation.
The theme of the conference was SPEAK, and Coleman had been delivering spoken-word challenges to the students throughout the weekend.
Those words connected with the audience, Scooter Kellum said.
“What she shared was her passion and her heartbeat, and the students bought into that,” said Kellum, youth ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
“What we want to do this year is encourage students to do exactly what she did — to use their gifts and talents to give the gospel a voice in their lives.”
In fact, Kellum and his team at SBOM are so passionate about it that they’re changing the whole name of the conference to SPEAK. In doing so they’re moving away from the idea of coming to a conference to get evangelized and moving toward the idea of mobilizing students to share the gospel in their everyday lives, Kellum said.
“We want to proclaim the gospel for the students who are there who don’t believe, but we also want to teach and train the students who come to have a voice for the gospel,” he said.
The theme of the 2017 SPEAK conference, set for July 21–22 at Vaughn Forest Baptist Church, Montgomery, is “Voice of Influence,” and the speakers are: Acton Bowen, a Gadsden-based speaker and author; Rick Burgess, co-host of the nationally syndicated Rick & Bubba Show, based in Birmingham; and Josh Holland, a church planter serving in New Orleans.
Bowen will be the opening speaker and will preach the gospel, but he also has a unique perspective as a political analyst, Kellum said.
Burgess also has a unique perspective as a well-known entertainer and radio host who has been given some unusual platforms to speak truth, Kellum said.
Burgess’ young son, Bronner, died in an accident in 2008, and his young adult daughter Brandi came out as bisexual earlier this year.
Burgess is “one who tries to not lose focus of what his voice is — and that’s the truth of the Word,” Kellum said.
And, Kellum said, he “can’t wait” to hear from Holland during the conference.
“He’s a practitioner,” he said. “You would be walking with him somewhere, and he’d disappear, and he’d be back sharing the gospel.”
Living for God daily
Rush of Fools, a musical group from Alabama, will lead worship for the conference, and Coleman, who hails from New Orleans, will be back again this year with her trademark spoken word.
Mike Nuss, director of SBOM’s office of collegiate and student ministries, said that at the heart of SPEAK is a desire for students to come to faith in Christ and understand how to live for Him daily.
“Today’s students have an amazing ability and opportunity to be an influence in their world,” he said. “We hope SPEAK conference will serve as a catalyst for that kind of change.”
For more information or to register, visit speak.ymlink.org.