50 Year Legacy
The year was 1969, gas was 35 cents per gallon, Neil Armstrong was making one giant leap for all mankind, and True Grit was the most talked about film. In the midst of all of this was the beginning of what would turn out to be one the longest running teen conferences in the United States. On the campus of then, Baptist Bible College, Jim Huckaby and others helped organize and run the first ever Teen Leadership Conference. It was his goal to bring together high school aged students and equip them with the necessary tools needed to make a difference in their communities.
Some may not know but back in the first few years of TLC, there was no Phelps Center and sessions were held in Jackson Hall. The room commonly known as “The Pit” was used as a gym for activities. Jim Huckaby was the man in charge and lives were being changed. Mel Walker came through the conference in the summer of ’72 and said that TLC challenged him to live for God and pushed him to see himself as a spiritual leader.
Huckaby handed the program off to the current President of the University, Dr. James Lytle. He was in charge from the mid to late ’80s to the early ’90s when Walker took over the ministry. After going through the conference in the early ’70s he became a counselor in 1975. It was at this point in his life that he realized “people could be used by God to see lives changed for eternity.” Mel was not the only story of people who have been a student at TLC and gone onto lives in full-time ministry.
Pastor Don Shirk of Grace Baptist Church of Batavia attended TLC one of the summers that Walker was a counselor. Shirk was impacted that summer and now lives out what he was being taught on a full-time basis. Another man who came as a high school student was Jonathan Engle. After being a student, he served as a counselor while attending Baptist Bible College and is now a Pastoral Resident at Faith Church of Lafayette Indiana.
From Mel Walker, TLC was placed into the hands of Glenn Amos who headed the program for some time then passed it off to Dwight Peterson. Throughout the transitions the reason the conference was started never lost its power. Students were coming to Christ, counselors were realizing the impact they can have, and youth pastors were being equipped to help their students. The idea of helping the youth pastors was introduced in the ’80s to find a way to make the experience of TLC worthwhile for everyone involved.
Since that summer in 1969, TLC has been a consistent week-long training session for students as far west as California and as far south as Florida. Beginning on July 15, the life-altering ministry started by Jim Huckaby 50 years ago will take place. Students will be trained to be leaders and by the final day, they will be ready to make a difference in their communities
This article was written by Colby Bonewitz, Co-Marketing Director of Teen Leadership Conference at Clarks Summit University.