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Youth Convention Returns as One-Day Event

March 30, 2022
Photo: AOYC planning team

The popular All Ontario Youth Convention (AOYC) is set to take place this year after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2022 event will be a one-day gathering on May 7 for youth and mentors.

For nearly 50 years, the annual convention has drawn hundreds of teens and young adults from across Ontario for four days of worship, speakers, and fellowship.

“The heart of the AOYC has always been to see teens impacted with the love of Jesus and become passionate about sharing that love with their communities,” said Natasha Chandler, part of the AOYC planning team.

The annual conference began meeting in 1975 and grew over the years, with some events bringing together over 1,000 teens from around the province. Well-known speakers and bands led sessions and worship, and the event was surrounded with prayer by volunteers before the event and in specially designated prayer spaces during the event. Some volunteers serving at AOYC have said that they serve now because the event was a significant part of their faith journey as young people.

After two years of canceled events, Chandler noted, teens, parents, and youth leaders were reaching out to the AOYC team. “They were eager to be able to get together again at the AOYC; they still felt a need for larger faith gatherings like this, despite all the changes of the past years.”

Recognizing the pandemic’s impact on young people, Chandler praised youth leaders for adapting to use online conferencing, care packages, and distanced, masked, and outdoor visits to continue mentoring the teens and young adults they serve.

The AOYC has similarly adapted for this year’s event, taking into consideration COVID-related safety protocols and exploring new ways to connect in today’s cultural reality.

Chandler said the planning team met toward the end of 2021 to discuss possibilities for a 2022 event. Amid uncertainty about restrictions that might be in place in the spring, the team decided to plan a one-day event, eliminating the need for overnight accommodations while still providing a full day of togetherness that youth and leaders have been missing.

While youth leaders have long attended the event with their youth groups, Chandler said, this year the focus is more intentionally on teens’ relationships with the significant adults in their lives.

“Discipleship happens best in long-term relationship, so we're strongly encouraging every teen (or group of teens) to come with an adult – a youth leader, a pastor, a cool aunt or uncle, a mentor from church, a parent – someone who can help them to continue learning and growing well beyond a single event,” she said.

The team hopes to create an event that will help to open new discussions and channels of connection for youth and their mentors.

The theme of this year’s AOYC will be “Joy,” said Chandler. Participants will look at true joy, the One who gives joy, and how we can find and hold on to joy even in painful seasons of life.

“We'll be learning the joy-giving practices of visual art, creative writing, sharing community, prayer, and many other practical habits that help us build a life on a firm foundation, regardless of what lies ahead for each of us,” Chandler said, adding, “We'll have a few joy-filled surprises along the way too.”

Other changes this year include the venue and timing. While the event was held for many years at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., on the Victoria Day weekend near the end of May, this year’s event will take place at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont., on May 7 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Chandler admits that the planning team isn’t sure what AOYC events will look like in 2023 and beyond, but notes, “We pray that the AOYC will continue to bless the lives of students and that we'll be willing to go wherever God leads! We are grateful to be a part of the story he’s writing in the lives of teens through their families, schools, churches, mentors, and so many others.”