In 1986 Kirk Pankratz was in his backyard praying about his present situation. He was a young Senior Pastor who had just planted a church in a small town in western Oklahoma. He asked God for wisdom and direction. What he got was a mandate from God to reach teenagers in America. The beginning of this vision had to do with a summer camp. The first steps toward its fulfillment came in 1987 when Youth America was born.
The Early Years
Like no other youth camp before, the progressive, energetic summer camps of Youth America swelled to thousands of students in attendance on the campus of ORU in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the first few years. Soon after, another aspect of Youth America came to light: Campus Clubs. Taking the lead role in our nation, Kirk and the Youth America Team set out to see a Bible Club started on every school campus in the country. In the early 90s, almost every state had a Youth America Campus Club – and much legal action was pursued concerning the “equal access” laws of the land.
In the mid 90s, Youth America launched another arm of ministry dedicated to equipping Youth Pastors. The Quest Leadership Conference was a catalyst for many churches, while the summer camps were still raging and expanding.
In 1994 Youth America’s Epic Plant was opened right in the backyard of Church of the Harvest, the local church Kirk started in Oklahoma City. Sleeping up to 840 campers per week, this 60-acre campus within the city limits gave Youth America the potential to expand. As the new millennium dawned, Youth America was impacting thousands of students and leaders, and the Youth America Relational Resource Ministry was launched to equip leaders and students to reach to the city within each week of camp. Today Youth America isn’t just a national summer camp outreach, but it’s also the local expression of youth ministry at Church of the Harvest.
From his backyard over 30 years ago, Kirk Pankratz couldn’t have imagined how Youth America would evolve, the countless ministries it would launch, the thousands of lives that would be saved, or the numbers of people who would be called into ministry from that one revelation. He just knew that the vision of Youth America was God-inspired.
One thing is certain. In its timeline, you can see for yourself that Youth America has always been a ministry willing to blaze new paths and attempt innovative approaches to reaching young people. If you are of that same spirit, consider joining thousands of others with the same vibe at camp this summer.
Youth America Summer Camp Themes:
1987 – Youth America Is Born
1988 – Taking Back The Heart Of America
1989 – Preparing A Prophetic Generation
1990 – Going Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before
1991 – Locked Up No Longer
1992 – Bustin’ Down The Barriers
1993 – Crankin’ Up The Heat And Making Hell Sweat
1994 – The Genesis Expedition
1995 – Burn The Ships
1996 – The Edge
1997 – Decade Of Destiny
1998 – Go The Distance
1999 – Year Of The Bug
2000 – The Appointed Time
2001 – A Gripping Focus
2002 – In Motion
2003 – Ready To Rise
2004 – One Voice
2005 – Marked For Greatness
2006 – Born To Lead
2007 – They Devoted Themselves
2008 – Distinguishing Light
2009 – Rule The World
2010 – A Cause – A Generation – A Revolution
2011 – We’re Going Public With This
2012 – Awaken
2013 – On The Rise
2014 – Undefeated
2015 – Strictly Inclusive
2016 – Taking Ground
2017 – It is Written
2018 – Pioneers
1. Redefine the church to the next generation
God’s Church is the Ultimate Cause on the earth. It is the rock that Christ built and positioned to push back the gates of Hell. The Church is a body of believers, mobilized to carry out the cause of Christ. But most young people today do not have a true revelation of what the Church is, or the power that the Church can have. There is a growing misconception that the Church is just an organization that puts on services and is a place we attend once a week. The reality is that we have limited the Church by what we have known it to be in the past. We consider it our mission to provide God encounters and life-changing experiences for thousands of young people and leaders each year, setting an atmosphere to help redefine the Church to the next generation as the Ultimate Cause that will take complete devotion and relentless passion.
2. Build Next-Generation Churches
The young-adult age is virtually non-existent in church today. Statistics say that 80% if churched high-school students intend to leave the church upon graduation. This is a trend that we must reverse. In our church (Church of the Harvest), we’ve seen the power that young adults can bring, and we’re unwilling to live with the fact that most churches today are not experiencing the influence of that age group. We are making it our mission to rally the young-adult age group, to take back the generation that has seemed to fall away from the Church and raise up young men and women to carry the cause of Christ, so they can step into leadership roles and see God’s Kingdom built. We must begin to awaken the desire in our youth to be a part of a greater cause (the Cause) as a lifelong mission, not just to be a part of a youth group. We want to see every church thriving in all generations, experience the strength and life of a healthy church.
3. Create and Impart the Sound of a Movement
We believe that God has given us the mandate of creating a fresh sound that calls people of all ages and demographics to worship. In our recent past, God’s grace to carry out this mandate has been evident. We have written and produced numerous albums and DVDs. Many songs on those projects have become anthems of churches all across America. Our heart is to be a source of worship for the church world, creating and imparting music that truly touches the heart of God and compels people to worship Him. Not only do we produce music from our own team, but we are also stirring up a culture of young adults in this nation who dig deep for creativity and aspire to write songs and develop a sound according to the uniqueness of their churches.
4. Empower Leaders Through Relationship and Resource
Over the last 29 years God has raised up some truly incredible pastors and leaders in our ministry. Youth America has proven to be one of the catalysts of youth ministry in this nation. We are blessed with incredible leaders who have years of experience on both the local church and national ministry level. We have a full spectrum of experience and success, ranging from youth ministry to leading a church, to worship teams to creative and media. We carry a deep conviction to be a support to churches everywhere, utilizing our relationships to train and impart to leadership, pastoral, and creative teams. One of the most powerful resources is relationship. Imagine a web of ministries that are bonded together through a common mission, who are offering support and advice on a constant basis. We believe we can help further your ministry through the resources and relationships we have to offer.
Through our conference, camps, music, college, relational networks, resources, and events, we believe that we can link arms with churches across America and see a generation devote themselves to God’s Church, the Ultimate Cause on the earth, and to be the church so expansive in energy that not even the gates of Hell will be able to stop it.
CHURCH OF THE HARVEST
Youth America is based out of our own local church, Church of the Harvest. We believe in building the local church, and we carry that out every week in our own church!
We have a “come as you are” motto, and all are welcome! We love to worship, we believe in kids and the next generation, and we love the diversity represented through the people here of every age, race and walk of life. We’re one big family meeting in two locations in the Oklahoma City Metro area. After just a few visits here, you’ll catch our heart for loving God, helping people, and serving our city! We can’t wait to meet you.