SHAWNEE—The purpose of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s annual Oklahoma Youth Ministry Forum (OYMF) is “to provide training, encouragement and challenge for Oklahoma Youth Ministers and Leaders.”

More than 150 student ministry leaders took part in the 2011 OYMF Nov. 18-19 at Shawnee, Immanuel. The conference was designed to address specific key topics in Youth Ministry in the areas of family relationships, personal spiritual growth and professional helps.

“Each year, critical evaluation and strategic variations in format and content help keep the OYMF on the edge of youth ministry effectiveness,” said Andy Harrison, the BGCO’s student ministry specialist.

“This year’s theme focused on IDENTITY,” he said. “The scripture tell us in Galatians 2, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.’

“We want student ministers to realize their personal identity is now inseparably intertwined in the person of Christ,” said Harrison. “Their identity is not dictated by the perceptions of students, parents or other staff members of church.”

Harrison was one of a selection of speakers and experts to speak at the 2011 OYMF.

Britt Darwin-Looney of Praesidium spoke on “guarding your ministry from disaster.” Praesidium is a firm that works with organizations to create “Environments that protect the children, elderly or vulnerable adults you serve from abuse.”

“In today’s society, taking steps to ensure a secure environment for your students is not optional,” she said to the gathering of student ministry workers. Citing statistics and stories, Darwin-Looney underscored looming threats and potential risks. “I want to help you not just report and respond well to a bad situation, but prevent one in the first place,” she said.

Other general speakers included Robert Smith of Upside-Down Ministries and Doyle Pryor, pastor of Sapulpa, First. Pryor, who spoke on Saturday afternoon, helped attendees think about identifying the specific community where they serve.

In addition to the general sessions, attendees could learn and connect in breakout sessions. Topics included “boys and girls ministries,” “building volunteers,” “how to lead your group” and “keys to small group effectiveness.”

“I am glad to be here and learn and make connections,” said Chad Thompson, youth minister at Inola, Calvary.

In addition to the general and breakout sessions, there were times set aside for encouragement and challenge. Leading worship for OYMF was the Matt Roberson Band of Houston, Texas. Roberson’s band focused on exalting Christ, and led the participants in four meaningful sessions of reflection and praise.

“Your ability to follow Christ is your greatest leadership potential,” Harrison said to attendees. “What will become more cutting-edge in your ministry than the cross of Christ?”

For more information on OYMF, visit