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Rev. Larry Johnson Announces his Retirement from Youth Encounter

14 Mar 2014 4:17 PM | Todd Buegler (Administrator)

March 14, 2014 – St. Paul, Minn. – After forty years of leadership, Rev. Dr. Larry Dean Johnson announces his retirement as president of Youth Encounter. Under Johnson’s leadership, Youth Encounter has reached millions of youth worldwide with the saving message of the Gospel and has developed more than 1,100 professional church leaders through its team ministry program.

“Larry has given his ministry life to this organization and we are fortunate beyond belief to have had him for so long,” said Brian Brooks, Chairman of Lutheran Youth Encounter’s Board of Directors. “I rejoice in that life of ministry as Larry moves to a new time with new goals and new challenges.”

Johnson’s caring Biblical emphasis has bridged across church bodies and made Youth Encounter activities a prominent inter-Lutheran gathering point for generations.  The organization has partnered with over 50% of the Lutheran congregations in the United States and with national Lutheran churches in over 50 countries. 


“It has been my privilege to serve Jesus Christ through the ministry of Lutheran Youth Encounter,” said Johnson.  “Our Lord has richly blessed me.  I trust that He has also richly blessed many others during my years of service.  My thanks to everyone who has participated in this ministry. I am pleased to welcome my successor Thomas O’Neill. I will keep Tom and this ministry in my prayers that God might continue to bless it.”

Johnson also played an important role in the formation of the Network.  He was a part of the planning team for the first Extravaganza and worked to help develop the infrastructure for the organization.  Todd Buegler, Executive Director of the Network said that "Larry spent hours writing and editing the Network's bylaws, most of which are still in place today.  It was not glamorous work, but it was very important.  We're very grateful to Larry for his time and energy, given to this organization."


O’Neill comes to Youth Encounter with significant experience in both the non-profit and corporate world.  He spent seven years as the Director of Programs at Camp Luther in northern Wisconsin and most recently as a Senior Community Engagement Leader with Thrivent Financial. 

“Thomas possesses the gifts Youth Encounter needs at this time in its ministry. We are blessed that God sent him to us at this time,” said Brooks.

O’Neill’s appointment is effective March 17, 2014. He succeeds Johnson, the only president in the history of Youth Encounter.

“I’m extremely excited to be back in youth ministry,” O’Neill says.  “God has a fantastic plan for Youth Encounter, and I am humbled that He has chosen me to be a part of that.” 


O’Neill grew up in eastern North Dakota and graduated from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND with a degree in Mass Communications. He and his wife Jennifer live in the Minneapolis area with their three young boys, Austin, Caleb, and Trevor.


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