Youthquake: a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.

YQL cast members goof off as they greet incoming audience members.

Oxford Dictionary released its Word of the Year 2017 in early December followed by an unexpected amount of backlash. The word “youthquake” denoted the impact of the young people in 2017, drawing attention to the growth of youthful participation in the political and social aspects of recent culture. Avid internet users criticized the word, citing it as a poor choice because no one actually uses it. Local Jacksonville non-profit YouthQuake Live heartily disagrees.

Originating over 20 years ago, YouthQuake Live commits itself to giving Jacksonville youth the opportunity to reach their own generation.  One of its core messages speaks on this idea: “We are created by teens, for teens, to reach teens.”

Dora, Boots, Map, and Backpack ask the audience for guidance.

The beginning of the organization sprung from a youth group’s desire to preserve their passion returning from a missions trip.  Having seen the power of God in their own lives on the trip, they wanted a way to make that impact not only in other countries but in their own city.  Their deeply set vision was encouraged by their youth pastor, Sean Yost, who would become the founder and president of the organization.  Yost saw the influence those twenty young people could have and, following the direction and vision given by God, created what would become YouthQuake Live.  That first event in February 1995, with its clip-on lights and exorbitant amounts of duct tape, hosted an audience of forty teenagers who held an equal desire to know Christ, and began the life-changing journey of YouthQuake Live.

The Joker and Batman have a showdown while Robin and Wonder Woman preside.

With 23 seasons now under their belt, YouthQuake Live continues to make an impact with their free, monthly, live events.  Each event is held at a different local church and incorporates drama skits, live worship, a dance performance, and a themed message into its 2-hour run time.  The organization’s cast consists of 70+ 13-18 year old teenagers, contributing to all areas of the event, including drama groups, worship team, dance members, and even its behind the scenes tech members.

YQL cast member and audience member at a life-changing altar call.

The clearest impact of a typical YouthQuake Live event can be seen at its altar calls, where affected teens can sit with YQL cast members and hear about the radical love of God from their peers.  After standing on a stage wearing crazy costumes or praising God unashamedly, the altar calls give cast members the opportunity to meet face to face with the teenagers they want to impact.  Both parties engage in a conversation about how God can and will change lives, or has already done so in themselves and in Jacksonville.

YQL tech cast member manning the cameras for a YQL event.

For all the hard work and dedication that goes into putting on a YouthQuake Live event, it all comes down to teenagers presenting the Gospel to their own generation in their own words.  Every skit that YQL puts on is created by its cast members; every dance choreographed by the teens who contribute their Sunday afternoons to practice.  In each area, young people are equipped by the adults in their life who see their passion, their desire to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.  The impact that they have is not diminished because of their youth.  YQL declares its stance on that belief in another of their values: “Age doesn’t stop me, it just gives me more time.”

The perception of youth in the world has often been one of entitlement, laziness, and incapability.  YouthQuake Live, and apparently the staff members of Oxford Dictionary, seek a change in that.  The influence of young people, once given the tools to act and someone to believe in them, creates an unmistakable, unambiguous change in culture.  YouthQuake Live has given some of their local teens the chance to join in the fight for this generation, and it all began with a youth group who believed that they could be used by God.

YQL worship team leading the audience into the presence of God.

YouthQuake Live’s next event, titled “Love Potion No.9” will be held at New Life Christian Fellowship on February 2nd at 8 pm.  *NOTE: this event is YQL’s annual “True Love Waits” show, which discusses some topics recommended for audience members 13+ years old. **NOTE: this season’s TLW show will be 80’s themed, and YQL encourages dressing in your 80’s best.

Follow YouthQuake Live on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Photography used in this article by Jeff Westcott Photography.

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Maddie began her involvement with YouthQuake in 2014, first as a cast member, then as an intern, and now continuing in a staff member capacity as the Volunteer and Communications Director. She owes it to YouthQuake for evolving her from a shy, isolated teenager to a determined, proactive leader.