As the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference begins a new season of ministry in joining the legacy conferences of Memphis and Tennessee, new ministry initiatives for youth are developing. The new conference youth transition team will work to create new experiences for conference youth, planning conference-wide gatherings and partnering with Beersheba, Cedar Crest, and Lakeshore to continue to offer successful retreat opportunities to support our conference priority of empowering young people to be spiritual leaders and develop a culture of call. Some events will not carry on in the names or in the forms they took in the legacy Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Legacies will continue to form and transform new events engaging in youth discipleship, worship, and leadership for young people. We celebrate the stories of discipleship and worship, and seek your prayers and support as a new culture of retreats and events is established for our new conference.
Over the past four decades, tens of thousands of youth and young adults have experienced the joy of connection at Warmth in Winter, the legacy Tennessee Conference youth gathering. From a humble beginning as a multi church youth retreat at Cedar Crest, to a 100+ church, multi-thousand person gathering at Opryland, Warmth in Winter sustained its mission of discipleship and intentional worship in the Tennessee Conference over many decades. The culture of call remained a fruitful part of this journey as well, as youth who experienced Warmth in Winter with their churches went on to become volunteers and youth ministers. Some answered a call to ministry and in time brought their churches to the gathering as well, bringing the experience full circle. This experience has been an invaluable part of the fabric of youth ministry in the Tennessee Conference. Integral to the experience, the Tennessee Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) helped to form and transform the event through their servant youth leadership, offering energy and representation to shape Warmth in Winter into a youth-led ministry. Hundreds of young people offered their gifts to empower their peers to experience Christ in a meaningful way.
In the legacy Memphis Conference, conference youth gatherings have taken many different shapes and forms over the years. From the Youth Annual Conferences of yesteryear held at Lambuth University to JR/SR High Retreats at Lakeshore to Youth Annual Gatherings at Annual Conference and more, the common thread of conference youth ministry in the Memphis Conference has been investing in the spiritual development of young people as they learn by leading, celebrating the strength of our United Methodist connection, and engaging the community in mission and disciple-making. In recent years, young leaders on the Memphis Conference Youth Council (CYC) took primary responsibility for envisioning and executing conference-level ministry under the guidance and mentorship of the all-volunteer Conference Youth Leadership Team. The lives of thousands of youth have been transformed as they witnessed young people being empowered to lead ministry. As a result, several have discerned a call to ministry, and the Memphis Conference has supported two cohorts of young people to attend Exploration in the last ten years to further explore their call.
In recognition of this important transition work and the realities of the continuing pandemic, conference leaders made the difficult decision to postpone in-person conference youth events until later in 2022, recognizing this delay would allow opportunity for more youth to gather safely. We are excited about the creativity and energy the transition team will bring in creating a new youth event for our new conference, continuing to focus on call, discipleship, and worship!
We look forward to sharing plans for conference youth ministry and an official date for the first TWK Conference Youth Gathering to be held in Fall 2022.