Youths fired up after first IGNITE weekend in Wildwood

October 10, 2014 | | GNJ News, Next Generation Ministries

WILDWOOD – They came from far and near and in large groups and small groups. But a large majority of the 750 youths and their leaders that attended the IGNITE Youth Conference last weekend left with a sense that they were all one in spirit.
“The programs were really great, but what was really cool was having a bunch of other kids our age to worship with,” said Josh Bae, who attends the youth group at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Hasbrouck Heights.
The conference took place at the Wildwood Convention Center for the first time and also on a different weekend for the first time and under the new name of Ignite. The keynote speaker was Preston Centuolo, who told stories of his personal struggles as a youth and encouraged the audience members to not get down on themselves and to depend on God.
“I liked his message of ‘don’t let life push you down,’ ‘’ Bae said. “Just go forward with God. He already has you.”
One of the highlights of the conference came Saturday night when Centuolo asked those who had never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior to come forward and those who needed to make a recommitment to come forward as well. It was estimated that about 500 youths did come forward, with those making new commitments taking a blue glow stick and those recommitting taking a red glow stick. The rest of the crowd was handed a yellow glow stick.
Then after Centuolo finished his message, and with the lights down and glow sticks in the air, the band Starfield took the stage for a concert.
“I think definitely last night was a highlight,” said Becky Montross, who attends the youth group at Trinity UMC in Hackettstown. “The band had us all going and I think we all had a really good time.”
The performer who opened Saturday night was magician Justin Flom, who has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show, is a regular performer in Las Vegas and also is featured on a SyFy Channel magic show Wizard Wars. Flom said the fact that he shared his faith in a youtube video called “Soldiers Deck of Cards” actually led to his big breakthrough. The video has more than 4.7 million views.
“I really liked the magician,” said Max Lister, who attends Pinelands UMC youth group. “And I really liked playing the games and hanging out in the hallway.”
There were several games for youths to play before and after the scheduled program, such as foosball, basketball, a shuffleboard table and air hockey.
The other featured speaker for the weekend was anti-slavery activist Zach Hunter. Also, the Jamie McMillan Band performed and led worship, VH1’s Ellie Lee was the emcee and Ground Zero Masters Commission, a group of college age students, performed stomp routines, skits and assisted with several aspects of the weekend.
But the biggest help for at least some youths was knowing and being reminded to trust God in all circumstances, a common theme in Centuolo’s messages.
“He helped me a lot,” said Kaylynn Hyslon, who lives in Port Norris and attends Buckshutem UMC. “He let us know that if we have hard times or problems, not to give up on ourselves.”