By Johanna Willett

Teenagers from 15 Arizona churches converged on Calvary Community Church in Phoenix the last weekend of January as part of The Lift Tour, a two-day conference intended to raise up student leaders.

Organized by Orlando-based Student Leadership University, The Lift Tour is making stops at more than a dozen cities around the country — mostly in the South. This was their first time in Phoenix.

The tour’s venture west came at the request of Arizona Southern Baptists’ student ministries team.

“We were looking for something that was an environment not just for hyping up but for empowering and equipping students to live out their faith,” said Curt Blocker, student ministries team leader. “That goal was reached.”

About 200 students and leaders participated in the weekend. About 40 made decisions to follow Christ or responded to a call to ministry, Blocker said.

“We had three students make a decision for Christ on Friday night …” said Caleb Spacht, youth pastor at Happy Valley Baptist Church, Glendale. He took about seven students to the event.

“They were just friends or students who weren’t really connected to the ministry, so the event was a great thing in the sense that it got them there and interested in the gospel in a way that they weren’t before,” he said.

This year, The Lift Tour stood in as a winter conference instead of Winterfresh, a weekend camp that, in past years, has attracted hundreds of students and leaders to northern Arizona.

“We wanted an event that encourages students to share the gospel and builds them up as leaders who are able to influence others,” Blocker said, adding that partnering with an organization such as Student Leadership University can provide resources and encouragement not just for students but for their leaders too.

Over the weekend, Liberty Worship Collective led worship while Jeff Wallace, the executive director of The Lift Tour, and Chad Poe, a pastor at Grace Bible Church in Texas, spoke. Tedashii, a Christian hip hop and rap artist, put on a concert Saturday afternoon, and students and leaders gave more than $400 to provide meals through the ministry Mission of Hope Haiti.

Throughout the weekend, speakers and worship leaders led students through the story of Joseph, consistently pointing to Jesus. With the weekend’s theme of “Crushed,” students were encouraged to consider how pressure creates diamonds in the same way that God refines his people through hardship.

“I haven’t been through many hard times yet, and I guess I wasn’t ever really thinking about it …” said Michael Vogt, a sophomore who came to The Lift Tour with HiWay Baptist Church, Mesa. “But now I know they will come. And I’m going to be ready now.”