By Chris Moon
After 15 months without holding a single event because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christ In Youth is back.
The Joplin, Mo.-based organization in late May resumed its summer conference season for middle and high school students.
“The summer’s going great,” said Jayson French, CIY’s president. “It was no doubt a long stretch [without events].”
The year 2020 was difficult for CIY. The organization lost between $25 and $27 million in topline revenue as events were shuttered, French said. CIY laid off about 30 percent of their employees.
But the organization remained viable by creating video curriculum for churches during the slowdown. And now it is back doing what it does best with its MOVE and MIX conferences for high school and middle school students.
“It’s not about strategy or crafty leadership,” French said. “It’s about the goodness of God.”
CIY still is operating at reduced capacity, as they could not schedule conferences in some locations this summer. Venues in states like Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and Pennsylvania weren’t able to reopen. Some camps, meanwhile, went out of business during the pandemic, French said.
“We lost a lot of venues . . . ,” French said.
CIY expects to host 30,000 students this year, down from a typical pre-pandemic year of 45,000. The group’s summer schedule has 37 events on it this year, down from 55 from 2019 . . . but up from zero last summer, so there’s a lot to be thankful for.
“We’re seeing a ton of first-time decisions for Christ, just left and right,” French said.
He said COVID-19 really has impacted the mental health of teenagers. Many adults were able to fare better during the pandemic because of various life experiences that prepared them for stressful times. Teens don’t have the luxury of such experiences.
“You have a generation right now that is really rocked after what they’ve been through,” French said. “We’ve dealt with that all summer.”
CIY’s summer theme, “For All Forever,” focuses on the book of John.
“Jesus is for all, forever,” French said. “That has really resonated.”
CIY’s future remains bright, French said. The organization still is running at reduced staffing, but it hopes to add back to its staff in September as it prepares for next year’s season of events.
And CIY has invested in new resources—such as the digital weekend retreats it gave away to local churches last year. CIY also is ramping up a new curriculum arm called Convos, and its team has created a virtual production studio.
“We’re doing great. We’ve hustled. We’ve worked hard. We’ve stayed hungry,” French said.
The first events CIY hosted after the pandemic year were a MIX conference for middle school students in late May in Oklahoma and a MOVE conference for high school students in early June in Joplin.
“The first time we walked in the doors, a lot of us just welled up in tears,” French said. “It’s good to be back.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.