Last week, I posted some thoughts following my experience at SYMC 2011 in Chicago. Here’s a more straightforward review:
We arrived the day before the conference started to help with some set up. Over the past few years, I’ve been on the Inside Track Team, which meant that last October, I went to Colorado with about 75 others to plan lots of details for the conference. Anyway…
Thursday: We arrived in Chicago, checked in to the hotel, and went to the registration area and joined in the fun of preparing chair drop stuff for Friday night’s main session. Re-connected with ITT friends, checked out the bookstore then went to the staff dinner. My favorite part of this day was seeing more ITT staff there than 2010, there was easily over 100 people before the conference got started.
Friday: We woke up a little early and went downtown to see the Willis Tower. We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the “L” station and picked up a lovely pair of double-chocolate donuts and some coffee. Unknown to me was the creme and sugar that the dumped in my coffee, which made it undrinkable. Made it downtown, walked to the tower, went to the top, took photos, and then went across the street to the Giordano’s Pizza for lunch. Back on the “L” to the hotel, where I was able to participate in a Peer Panel on “How to Talk about Love, Sex and Dating” in youth ministry. Following that, we had an open house for our Connect Groups, basically these are peer discussion groups centered around a specific ministry context. I led the “Thriving Smaller Churches” group and for about 2 hours, we met and talked with about 25 other youth ministers. A quick dinner, and then Friday night’s main session, Shane and Shane led worship, the Skit Guys made us laugh and Doug Fields gave a great message about the value of relationship in our various ministries. “Our primary calling is to point teens to the rare person of Jesus.” Jesus is “rare” because there are so many influences in the lives of our students. This is my third or fourth time hearing him speak, and Each time he comes across as more authentic than before. Singer Matt Maher closed things out for us. Late Friday night found the ITT hanging out in Kami and Tim Gilmour’s suite, eating pizza and building relationships. Kami is the event director for SYMC. She rules.
Saturday: A full day at SYMC. Rick Lawrence started us off with a devotion about seeing Jesus as the common thread in all of Scripture, then they had a number of people go on stage holding signs that had statements on them that depicted who Christ was in each book. Louie Giglio spoke and he was great. His topic was “Cultivating Culture” in our churches. He spoke from Revelation 1:17-18 and talked about humility, honor and Jesus. The morning and afternoon sessions for me were “Experiential Learning in Youth Ministry”, headed by Mark and Michael Novelli. I had some great conversations with them between tracks and our Connect Group also met. We talked a lot about “volunteers in the small church” and it was good to be in the group. Dinner, and then the main session was with Ruth Haley Barton on Soul Care. Overall, her message was good, but I feel like it was a tad dry for this kind of conference. If she was leading a lecture, it was perfect material. The think I liked was that we should be leading our ministries from our souls, no selling out or giving in, we should have integrity in our mission. The highlight of the day for me though was Gungor and their “Beautiful Things” experience. When they started up, I was reminded at first of Arcade Fire, lots of genre changes and a total sensory overload. Here is the song “Beautiful Things” from that night.
Sunday: Sunday morning I had lunch with a friend of mine in a pretty crappy ministry situation. He had recently been let go, so we were just spending time together. After breakfast, I met with Stephanie Caro, a friend and mentor to me. Steph is a senior consultant with Youth Ministry Architects, and we talked and did some planning for the teaching time that I was helping her with. For the morning session, I taught in her breakout session about youth ministry organization, specifically with students and trips (luckily, she did not ask me to send her a picture of my office right now). It was great and I was honored that she let me help her. Lunch, Connect Group, and then in the final Experiential Learning session for the afternoon. Sunday night brought Glenn Packiam as speaker who told us that God’s Kingdom is not merely future-oriented but is now, and as His Bride, we are be expressions of this present reality to those we come into contact with. Shane and Shane led us in worship again, they are a perfect fit for SYMC. Here’s why:
We rounded out our night as a group by talking about some of the bigger picture church/youth ministry issues that exist.
Monday: Breakfast with Rob and then participated in the Peer Panel on “Ministering to Parents and Families.” Doug Fields gave the final message on the little things in ministry and how the slightest thing, relationship, scripture, prayer time, has a big impact on us. What’s more, we should be doing the little things because they convey much. He ended by asking worship leader Tim Timmons, “Can we end by just singing about Jesus?” It was a great moment.
I love SYMC because they are about Jesus and youth ministry. They seek to build environments that foster relationship, and I count many of them as friends. I’ve signed up for SYMC 2012 in Louisville, and rumor is that there is another ITT Summit planned in Colorado in October. I can’t wait!