A MOVEMENT IS BORN
The Youth for Christ movement was born in America in the mid-1940's. God touched dozens of leaders around the country with a concern to reach out to those young people that normal church channels were missing.
Dynamic young evangelists using revolutionary methods began conducting lively mass rallies in more than a dozen cities, often under a common name, Youth for Christ. By November 1944, it was clear that some organisation should be formed to handle the growing flood of requests to start new rallies.
A Chicago pastor, Torrey Johnson, was elected chairman of a temporary committee. He opened an office in Chicago and asked Billy Graham to become the first full-time Youth for Christ worker. Less than a year later, Youth for Christ International, Inc., was formally incorporated with Torrey Johnson as the first president.
O God, we want this kept on a miracle basis.
-An early prayer from Torrey Johnson and the YFC leaders.
1968 witnessed a development that was to affect the lives and destinies of millions of young people world-wide. In a little-publicised conference, early that year on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, representatives from sixteen countries created the International Council of Youth for Christ. The birth of this international co-ordinating body marked a significant stage in the development of what had already become a remarkable movement.
YOUTH FOR CHRIST AUSTRALIA
Youth for Christ began in Australia in the late 1940's. There were various youth events being held around Australia, in Adelaide, Newcastle, Queensland and Geelong by dedicated and godly men such as Allan Cunningham and Rev E Watson. Youth missionaries from the various states joined together and in February 1949, the name Youth for Christ, which had already been in use in Australia, was officially registered with the YFC International body.
We recommend that a letter be sent recognising the Australian Committee consisting of Messrs. Watson, Bryson, Foreman, Meade and Cunningham. We encourage them to proceed with Australian Youth for Christ. - From the minutes of the February 1949 Executive Council of YFC International
In 1950 Rev. E. H. Watson was nominated as Vice President for Australia. The 50’s were a period when Youth for Christ rallies flourished as avenues for youth evangelism. Hundreds would attend and the rallies would contain music, communal singing, gospel presentation and an invitation to respond.
The 1960's witnessed exciting and rapid growth with many young people committing their lives to Christ through YFC rallies, the Campus Life program and also Youth Guidance. YFC centres ran programs in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Dalby. In NSW, YFC programs were run in Sydney, Katoomba, Nowra, Newcastle, Maitland, Lismore and Muswellbrook. Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide also saw rapid growth of programs. The Warragul YFC office opened in 1963. A committee of YFC state Directors met on a regular basis and YFC was also a resource for rally speakers in Tasmania. In the late 1960's Clive Stebbins became National Director of Australian Youth for Christ.
We had our very first large rally in the Melbourne Town Hall and I’ll never forget that… the place was packed to capacity. We had 2500 people in the Melbourne Town Hall, another 500 down on Swanson Street and Collins Street trying to get in and as a result we saw hundreds of young people commit their lives to Jesus Christ. - Clive Stebbins, Former YFC Australia Director
The 1970's were years of consolidation and God blessed the ministry which was experiencing continual growth. It was at this time that the Perth office of YFC was established although programs had been running before this. Central Coast Youth for Christ began around 1975 with the first full time worker being appointed in 1981.
On October 15th 1976 under the chairmanship of Alan Waugh with Eric Leach as National Director, Youth for Christ Australia was formally incorporated as a public company and Australia Youth for Christ Limited was born. In 1977 there were 29 centres under the YFC banner although there was much diversity in their programs. YFC Ballarat began in 1979 and YFC Bundaberg in 1980.
Sam Heyburn, under the chairmanship of Peter Daniels, was elected National Executive Director in 1982 and remained for seven years in this role.
In 1994 David Wraight was appointed full time National Director of Australia Youth for Christ Limited and this same year the National Board of Directors under the chairmanship of John Bond made a decision to migrate from a company structure to an Incorporated Association. On the 18th of August 1995 Australia Youth for Christ Limited ceased to exist and Youth for Christ Australia Incorporated was birthed after being formally incorporated. The new incorporated structure was put in place with nearly all Youth for Christ centres across Australia coming under the one corporate banner, of Youth for Christ Australia. At the end of 1999, there were 16 YFC centres around Australia together with a National Office based in Melbourne, Victoria. There were over 100 staff around the country and over 1500 volunteers participating in the various programs.
In September 2000, David Wraight accepted the position of YFCI Asia Pacific Director and the National Board nominated Tim Brown to replace David as National Director. Tim served as National Director from September 2000 until November 2001. David Bonanno under the chairmanship of Daryl Harford was appointed to the role of National Director in March 2002, serving in that capacity until March 2009, at which time Conrad Parsons was appointed to the role of National Director. Wayne Burgan succeeded Daryl Harford as National Board Chair and served in this capacity till October 2010 at which point Paul Campey was elected and served until March 2013. Chris Powell was appointed Chair in April 2013. Conrad Parsons was appointed YFC Pacific Director and resigned as YFC Australia National Director in April 2013. Richard Sharp then appointed in 2013 and served until January 2015.
Cindy McGarvie assumed the role of National Director in June 2015, with Chris Powell as the National Board Chair.
Youth for Christ has embraced the notion that their vision ‘to give every young person in Australia an opportunity to be a follower of Jesus’ cannot be achieved alone. Consequently YFC Australia works in partnership with churches and other youth organisations all over the country.
Today Youth for Christ internationally works in over 110 nations around the world.
YFC Australia is committed to communicating the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to every young person in Australia. Its team are dedicated to being constant in their faith but radical in its application. They share in the pioneering spirit of commitment and flexibility shown by the early founders of the organisation.
YFC’s founding President Torrey Johnson, when asked about the future of Youth for Christ replied that the best was yet to come!