High School -

20 years of MOVE events offers youth pastor deep insight —

By Becca Haines

A lot has happened in 20 years for Mark and Shannon Elliott.

The couple was married 21 years ago, and one of the first things they committed to in their youth ministry was taking their students to CIY’s summer conference.

Shannon said she was first impacted by CIY as a high school student, and encouraged her husband to give the conference a try. They’ve been taking students to MOVE every year since. In fact, they’ve been going to MOVE so long that their two oldest children will both be attending the event this summer, with four more of their children soon to experience CIY events, as well.


“I never thought I’d see this day when I started youth ministry, but I’m so glad,” Mark said. “I love to hear my kids’ unfiltered feedback about everything we do, and they already love the conference and the way God impacts people through it. It might be hard on (my son) Ethan and his group because they’ve all grown up together. It’s an end of a life season, but an exciting new one for my daughter.”


Mark admits every year he recalls his first MOVE experience in 1999, and hopes the same thrill he felt then will be something his own children and students from his youth group experience every year.


“I never experienced anything like it and neither had our kids,” Mark said. “While there was fun and games, there was also a step of seriousness and challenge to maturity at the conference that I’ve never seen at other events. The organization continued to be a blessing – always looking prayerfully at what’s next for ministry and young people, and keeping us as youth leaders equipped in all kinds of ways. Once we went, we couldn’t not come.”


One of the students in Mark’s first group was Tyler Boggs – a young man who felt Mark’s investment and went on to serve the church as the minister of technology. Tyler said he’ll always support Mark, as well as the annual trip to MOVE.


“I saw, even as a student, that MOVE was a place where students could encounter God and make life decisions that week,” Tyler said. “To be a part of that and see the students focus on God and His direction was a special thing. I’ve seen students who have plans already made for after high school, change those plans while at MOVE because of a prompting of the Holy Spirit to follow God’s leading. And Mark is one of those people who radiates the love of Christ in his life through his actions with friends, strangers and his family.”


Mark said in his 20 years of experience, he’s seen what can happen when people invest in others with God’s love, and it’s demonstrated in a beautiful way at MOVE.


“Youth leaders get to spend the week focused on their students – not the logistics or the program – just being there to invest,” Mark said. “A lot of times we’re used to juggling all the balls and it can be distracting, but at MOVE the main objective is to focus on the kids and see what they’re processing. I encourage leaders to get to know the students. That’s how you prepare for the conference. And then while you’re there, take lots of notes so when you get back home you get good questions to ask throughout the next semester. Help them revisit what they experienced and know that CIY does a great job of helping with that, too. While we invest in our students, CIY invests in us, too.”