For IGNITE emcee and New Jersey native Preston Centuolo, this year’s conference is just as much for leaders as it is youth.
“We want the youth to feel unified and the leaders to feel reinvigorated,” Centuolo said, emphasizing the IGNITE breakout sessions that will be held for leaders to develop strategic planning and vision for their groups.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the drift unless you’re intentional about keeping your eyes on where you want to be and where you’re going,” he said.
The Wildwoods Convention Center will be the scene for the IGNITE 2016 Conference, September 30 through October 2, bringing together over 1,000 students grades 6-12 throughout the Greater New Jersey region. For Centuolo, the excitement of being in a beach town he loves, coupled with the powerful experience of the conference has ‘ignited’ thrill and anticipation.
Since his days as a college intern, Centuolo has continuously immersed himself in youth programming and development. After graduating from Valley Forge University with a BA in theology, he became a successful youth minister, serving in East Brunswick and Vineland.
Wishing to raise his level of impact on children, families and the community, Centuolo founded The Youth Alliance in 2000, a faith-based nonprofit specializing in cutting edge, customized school and community-based programs. The Youth Alliance now spans the country and the globe.
Centuolo has become a reputable international communicator, motivating crowds of young people and youth group leaders with his contagious energy. Traveling extensively as a speaker, school assembly motivational communicator and event host, Centuolo considers it a privilege to have shared at events and organizations such as Creation Festival, Youth for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and professional NBA and NFL chapels.
Growing up in the tiny South Jersey town of Barnsboro near Sewell, Centuolo attended Vacation Bible School at Barnsboro UMC as a child and maintains a love for his home state. He seeks to reignite hope for a bright future in the lives of young people at IGNITE.
“I want every person to recognize they have immeasurable, irrevocable purpose and value no matter what their past or present circumstances,” said Centuolo. “Their special gifts and even their struggles can be transformed into platforms of success.” He hopes to diffuse societal messages that misconstrue success and to challenge young people to chase after meaningful, authentic dreams. .
With a keen ear to absorb and process,, Centuolo’s gift as an emcee allows him to draw connections, fill in gaps and tighten the overall message while at the same time rallying, motivating and inspiring both youth and leaders through masterful storytelling.
“I want students and pastors to leave with tools and to feel empowered on how to disciple,” he said. “IGNITE is a time for leaders to plan strategically and grow their vision.”
For Centuolo, strategic planning means getting rid of distractions and a willingness to have tough conversations.
“A lot of youth group leaders tend to think implementing their ideas are the answers and keys to success,” he said, “but that’s not always true. It’s their character.”
Centuolo believes successful youth groups are team-led. He urges leaders not to get distracted by their circumstances but to focus on where they’re headed. “That can go for most things in life, not just youth ministry,” he added.
“Preston’s ability to share hope and love for young people is phenomenal,” said one school social worker. “So many kids had a spark in their eye reignited because they saw so much of themselves in him.” One student said that he felt like he could “actually be somebody” after Centuolo’s motivational talk.
Centuolo addresses common issues facing students in an effort to demystify confusing messages in today’s technological era. His words have resonated with youth struggling to find balance in a chaotic, high-pressure age of information overload.
“IGNITE is not just going to be an event,” he said, “It will be an experience.”