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Too many teenagers: Ignite Conference might outgrow venue as numbers continue to swell

Ignite Conference

Faith-filled: Young Catholics celebrating at the Ignite Conference last weekend. More than 1600 young people from across Australia attended the annual event. Photo: Minwye Studios

TEENAGERS are posing a wonderful problem for organisers of an annual youth conference in Brisbane who have watched numbers “bust from the seams”. 

Ignite Conference organisers Luke Plant and Kym Keady, both members of the Emmanuel Community in Brisbane, said the four-day event might “soon outgrow” its venue at Mueller College, Rothwell.

“If that happens we’re going to say, ‘Thank You God for this amazing problem, we know You have a plan and we will wait to find out what it is’,” Mrs Keady said.  

This year’s Ignite Conference from September 22 to 25 drew more than 1600 registered participants, a marked increase on last year’s event. 

As many as 430 students and teachers arrived from Lismore Diocese alone and have been well represented since 2009. 

Others travelled as far as Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, New Zealand and Canada. 

These numbers are an improvement on what began as “a creative arts worship and youth conference” in 2001 with about 100 participants.

Ignite Conference is “a highly professional, national, annual Catholic youth conference drawing more and more people each year”.

Organisers said the growing number of youth attending Ignite Conference meant more Catholic youth believed in the power of the Church.

“We witnessed young people realising Jesus is real, that the Church is relevant, they have a place in it and that God has a call for them personally,” Mr Plant said.

The duo also credited the talent, commitment and generosity of more than 100 volunteers from Emmanuel Community as the conference’s success.

Like many ministries and projects in the Church, all of the success weighs on the shoulders of committed but underpaid individuals. 

“The reality is that no one to date has been employed full time to run Ignite,” Mrs Keady said. 

“Ignite Youth looks like a big ship in the harbour but really we are little people trying to do big things… (and) everything has to be thought about and discerned.

“We didn’t want to ask too much of our volunteers. We want to be able to say, ‘It’s okay to take a break’ and if someone can help we want to encourage them and say, ‘Well done’.” 

Mr Plant said plans for future conferences would depend on the community’s need for an annual youth event.

Mrs Keady said it was obvious young people needed an event to grow in the Catholic faith.

“We realised we are the stewards of a great gift and the impact of not running the conference is far too great,” Mrs Keady said. 

Keynote presenters from around the world played a primary role in engaging teenagers with new and contemporary ideas on the faith, including former X-Factor contestant Fr Rob Galea from Sandhurst diocese and Canadian musician Joe Zambon. 

The community’s homegrown worship band, emmanuelworship, led young people in praise, and launched a new album for the Year of Mercy, called Mercy.

An Ignite Conference App kept participants connected while a variety of vocational, pro-life and other stallholders drew much attention and interest with opportunities to ask questions, enter competitions and take away a stash of freebies. 

Outside of Ignite Conference, the community has recognised a need to develop resources for young people, teachers and other professionals to take home to their parishes, schools, workplaces and homes.  

“We kept getting calls from young people saying (things like), ‘I’m the new youth co-ordinator for my parish, do you have a multi media presentation on discipleship, for example, and this year have released our media collection of six videos for schools and parishes to use,” Mrs Keady said. 

“We also have written Follow, a four-week discipleship series for one person or to run with a group … (and) have the Rise leadership series. “We aren’t changing the message but presenting it in a way young people better understand and relate to. 

“We’re interested in being in people’s every day, what we do is relational, it’s not only about the event. 

“The Ignite Conference is the flagship but all of it, together, is the fullness of what we’re trying to do for the Church.” 

As well as staying in touch with Ignite Conference participants via social media, Ignite Youth offer small group opportunities, Ignite Live monthly gatherings and a retreat for high schoolers each January. 

Their outreach requires not only funding but also the affirmation and support of the People of God, Mrs Keady said. 

“We need practical things like funding and volunteer help but more than anything we appreciate positive and spiritual affirmation. 

“(That means) someone to say, ‘Keep going, well done’ because that’s what impacts us the most.” 

For resource help or to connect with Ignite Youth go to www.igniteyouth.com.

A super early bird price of $210 is being offered for the 2017 Ignite Conference themed “Come”. 

By Selina Venier

Catholic Church Insurance

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