By John Harrell
Ministry Incubators staff
“Worship me.” That’s what Olivia Eckart Williamson experienced as God’s call to her when she was a senior in high school: to worship the Lord, with her school as the venue.
She remembers being at a restaurant with a friend, three hours into planning for a student-led worship event, and seeing the word enlightened. It had been printed on a piece of paper that was sitting on the table.
That’s when she knew she had the name for her venture. “We need to tell our peers the call that we have,” she said a half-decade later of her vocation then, “and enlighten them on the call to do ministry in our school. It’s a mission field.”
That’s how Enlightened Students was born, a ministry that grew to the nationwide youth-empowerment movement that it is today—one that sees high schoolers leading worship events with their peers, and which God uses to catalyze healing amid cultures of violence and despair that can often take root within a school’s walls.
Williamson knew that she was on to something when she came to one of Ministry Incubators’ early Hatchathons back in 2017, and the process helped her to clarify and refine what she wanted to accomplish.
“The biggest thing I took away from Hatchathon was how to communicate your vision,” she says, “how to be really clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Because when you have a chance to present your passion and what you feel maybe God calling you to do—what you feel like you need to do with your life—you sometimes only have a few moments. And so Hatchathon really helped me find that sweet spot.”
As the ministry has grown, it has joined forces with Never The Same, a ministry startup led by Williamson’s father, the Rev. Geoff Eckart, which has seen student-led prayer ministries so impactful for a school’s climate that grades have been known to rise.
Now, Enlightened Students has a portfolio of 50 events completed in just seven years, including a 2021 summer tour. When the pandemic hit, Williamson and her team pivoted online and served over 2,000 youth, including in places far enough afield that they wouldn’t have been able to reach them otherwise. In all, over 5,000 students have been impacted through Enlightened Students since its inception. During this year’s tour, 18 students were baptized—all but two of them spontaneously in answer to a call to new life in Jesus.
“I don’t know where Enlightened Students would be today if I didn’t have a space to learn,” she says, looking back on that early Hatchathon—“to experiment on some things, to try some things—but to hear advice from people who have done” the work of innovation before.
As she looks ahead to the next horizon—more schools blessed by the love of Jesus, more students’ lives and futures changed, more communities made healthier—she stands rooted in a moment of courage and obedience to Christ’s call. It was the moment when she said “yes” to a Lord who calls high schoolers to take Jesus’ love to the world.
Check out Olivia’s ministry
Enlightened Students closely partners with Claim Your Campus, a student-led prayer movement.
Learn more about the impact of CYC here: