BROOKSVILLE — Abundant Life Christian Center's youth leaders are hoping the church's Get Connected 2010 festival today at the Hernando County Fairgrounds will help teens connect with God.
Youth pastors Jeannette Camacho and Francisco Miranda began the GNT Youth Ministry about four years ago in hopes of reaching local youth with the Gospel message in a way they believe will appeal to the younger generation. GNT stands for God's New Team.
Today's event is part of that outreach.
"Unfortunately, in Spring Hill and this area, you don't see that many events for youth," Miranda said. "Pastor Jeannette and I felt from our hearts that we wanted to do an event where we can reach out to them through music and drama."
Get Connected 2010 will feature Christian contemporary, rock, hip-hop and Latin music by bands that are mostly from Hernando County and Tampa — My Brother's Scars, Elizabeth Oliveros and the Bona Band, Pacto Eterno, Omy and Yariel, Carlos Fines, Providense and Humbe.
A band from Puerto Rico, Mark 2, is making a return visit to this area to play at the event.
"Mark 2 is paying for the flight from Puerto Rico to be here. They haven't asked for money," Miranda said. "They came over a couple months ago for a concert in our church, and they heard me talk about the need to do something for the young people in Hernando County. They really fell in love with the vision."
Speakers at the festival will include the host church's senior pastor, apostle Alex Torres; Nathan Stout, a youth pastor from West Virginia; Manuel D. Ayala from Puerto Rico; and the pastor of Victorious Life Church in Tampa, Gilbert Rodriguez.
Members of the church's youth group will also participate.
"We put together the idea and tried to get the youth involved in it," Miranda said. "You will see the youth working at the venue — on the tickets, on the stage, backstage. We tried to get them involved so they know we're really thinking (about) them and doing something they can be proud of."
Heaven's Gates Christian Fellowship will help with the event, including presenting a drama by its youth group.
"We're going to have about eight vendors with international food (for purchase), bouncing for the kids, a clown, the Christian Motorcycle Club, the bloodmobile will be there. Bank of America is going to hand out information. Different ministries will hand out information about their mission trips and stuff like that. But it's going to be basically music, worshiping and a little drama from youth groups. And there will be music all day," Miranda said.
Advertising for the event says it will "transform those teenagers looking to change their lives and follow our Lord Jesus' footsteps."
That message is also presented at the youth ministry's weekly meetings. Miranda said about 35 to 50 youth attend GNT Youth Ministry at 7 p.m. each Friday at the church, 2977 Commercial Way in Spring Hill.
"We put up lights and tried to change the environment of the church because some of them don't want to go to a church," Miranda said. "So we changed things around to make them feel like it's young and more for them."
Miranda said the ministry encourages teens to be bold about sharing their faith and standing up for their beliefs.
There is an ongoing effort to interest more teens in the group, he said.
"Our church is located in front of the movie theater, so we get a lot of kids going to the movies," Miranda said. "What we do is bring out pizza and send the kids that always come to us to go out there and tell them we got free pizza. We've been ministering with that and getting good response. Some just come for the pizza, but we plant a seed. We speak the word of God and let God work on them."
There have also been other large events, including previous Get Connected festivals.
Miranda hopes other churches will get involved with the events.
"We're looking forward to meeting other youth pastors and senior pastors," he said. "We'd like to do events in Hernando County and try to get together as one body and try to reach kids with cool ideas and cool things for them."
GNT's Web site says the hope is that 5,000 people will attend today's event.
Canned goods collected at the event will be sent to aid the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.