Maiden Voyage

Taking to the stage, youth pastor Joel Bennett sheds his Australian homeland to come Stateside with the inaugural Kingdom Youth Conference


Hillsong United has become an internationally recognized name in Christian culture. Their acclaimed worship team has written an astonishing number of songs that flood radio stations and sanctuaries everywhere. Yet what is equally important at the Sydney-based Hillsong is the heart they have for ministry, which enables them to share God with the world.

One man who has been a pivotal member of this ministry team over the years is Joel Bennett. He has spent many a season devoted to Sydney’s youth as a pastor with the church, but this last year has brought a call beyond his native borders to which Bennett has taken a step of faith to follow. This summer, the maiden voyage of the Kingdom Youth Conference, a traveling ministry that will span the US, took to sea. The focus is not only to share the word and encourage fellowship, but to forge strong leaders and provide a platform for missions work. It has a format reminiscent of the youth conferences of yesteryear, but it is a unique entity in perspective and delivery, offering up an impressive docket of musical guests and speakers. It also happens to be Bennett’s new traveling family; he has joined as a speaker on each stop of the journey.

KYC is now well underway. It will soon be touching down briefly on the West Coast before wrapping up the trip in the Midwest. Amid what is surely chaos while living on the road and wrapping up holiday festivities, Bennett was kind enough to take some time to talk to HM about KYC and what makes this conference an experience he is passionate about pursuing.

Kingdom Youth Conference is brand new this year. What is the mission of this touring event?
To see decisions, make disciples and partner with the local churches. We are seeing young people from all over turn out and make decisions to follow Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

KYC is being advertised as a multi-faceted experience of ministry, worship, and leadership. That format has a feel similar to the recently departed Acquire the Fire conferences. Is this essentially a rebirth of ATF, or is it something different entirely?
Kingdom Youth Conference is nothing like ATF except that it is a two-day event for young people. We love the ministry of ATF — and it was amazing — but we feel God calling us in a different direction. This is a new day and age. I believe the message can never change but the method must.

Looking at the schedule, you have a 45-minute slot at each stop on the tour. Without giving away too much, what is the theme of this speaking segment?
This Fall, we have had five pre-launch events and each event was different in its own right. But the message I am known to be speaking to young people is all about them knowing they have a purpose and plan from an almighty God and are loved by God; go live it out.

As a youth minister, you have been involved at Hillsong back (in Australia) for many years now. What inspired you so strongly to take your ministry on the road and join KYC for this season instead?
My wife and I still call Hillsong home whether we are in Sydney, LA or any other part of the world. In saying that, what we saw for years in the youth ministry in Australia, we believe the freedom and message of Christ needs to be spread far and wide. God has opened some unique doors for us to share the good news and stepping into the USA was a part of the next phase for us. To be a part of the speaking team of KYC is amazing, especially seeing what God has and will do.

In the span of this tour, there will ideally be many lives changed by God. On the last day, you face the crowd of youth, pastors, future leaders, new believers — what do you most hope that they will have learned and can take home with them?
We hope that everyone feels rejuvenated and lifted up. So many students are facing this world alone and in need of someone, and we believe that someone is Jesus. I believe youth pastors feel a heavy weight and pressure, and we want this to be a freeing event where they can get closer to God and get their joy back. A quote I have heard growing up from my senior pastor Brian Houston is, “Church is to be enjoyed not endured.” I believe that’s one major component to these conferences.

Joel Bennett of Hillsong was posted on January 2, 2017 for HM Magazine and authored by .