Unlike previous years, I did not write about SYMC while at the conference. It was a different kind of conference for me this year as I’m in the midst of transition to a new/non-youth ministry ministry. As such, it was weird being at a conference focused on student ministry. Not “bad”, just different.
Here’s what I participated in, and my thoughts:
In the morning, hung out with my friend Stephanie Caro (Youth Ministry Architects) and Jay Montgomery, a youth ministry friend from Carollton Kentucky for some coffee and conversation. The main topic was equipping volunteers for leadership. Jay is awesome, he provides his leaders with a lesson overview before their ministry night and he is working on having recaps after their ministry night to talk about how they can better engage students in relationship.
Relating to and Engaging Parents in Your Youth Ministry: Peer Panel with Leneita Fix and Tasha Levert. There were about 20-25 youth workers involved in this conversation and it was encouraging to hear from them on their desire to build relationships with parents.
PM session with Francis Chan: His main point was on discipleship and the need of believers to be both discipled and to be discipling other people. He shared an amazing of how someone involved in their church ministered to someone the night before, and how Chan was “supposed” to be the person doing this discipleship. Take away: discipleship and ministry happened without him because discipleship is about Christ, not Francis Chan. Discipleship is all about investment
9 Best Practices for Thriving as a Smaller Church Youth Worker: I taught a portion of this session with Steph Caro, my section was on the need of churches to minister inter-generationally. You can find Steph’s material from her workshop here.
Smaller Churches Connect Group: Connect Groups are a great way for people to dig deeper in conversation and relationship about different areas of ministry. We spent much of our time sharing our ministry contexts and talked a little bit about recruiting and equipping volunteers in the smaller church context.
PM session with Jon Acuff: Acuff is one of my favorite people. I got to hang out with him at SYMC’s ITT Summit last year in Colorado, and he is the real deal. He talked about how listening to internal and external voices of criticism remove our joy. My two favorite quotes were, “God is not surprised or disappointed by the size of our ministry” and “Don’t judge your beginning by someone else’s middle.”
AM Session with Rick Lawrence/LifeTree Cafe: Rick never ceases to amaze me with his insight and awareness of everyday life and objects as metaphor for the Christian life. I leave both challenged and encouraged to see Christ and discipleship in different ways. I’m simply blown away by the grace, mercy and compassion that he demonstrates.
Smaller Churches Connect Group: We dug deeper into the equipping of volunteers for ministry to students.
AM Session with Kurt Johnston: This was the first time that I’ve heard him speak and I loved it. He talked about how often we try to compartmentalize life, to find balance, when in reality, we ought to be embracing the messiness of life because this demonstrates just how out of control it really is. Only in this messiness can we see Christ provide the right order…Him.
“Air Time”- SYMC put several “unknown, regular youth ministers” up on stage and gave them 3-5 minutes to share their hearts. This was not “amateur hour”…rather, it was the heart and soul of the conference. SYMC was NEVER about a big name, and this cemented that fact.
Going to Whole Foods with Rachel and Ben. That place is a hippie communist mecca…and I loved it.
Eating a Chia Chocolate Energy Bar and feeling every sense on alert after 45 minutes.
Hard Rock with Rachel and Hannah.
The ITT Saturday night party.
Time with 15 ITT members in ministry, with one of our own.
Kami, Rick, Sherri, Andy, Jake, Shane (& Shane), Jon, Jake, Halsch, Dish, Josh, Melissa, Hannah, Rachel, Mike, Steph, DJP, Dustin, Matty, Frank, Jacob, Leneita… the 2500 youth workers that made SYMC possible…thanks.
Disclaimer: Several times above, you’ll see something about the “In the Trenches Team” or ITT. I’m on the “In the Trenches Team” for SYMC. Each year, the ITT has a 3 day retreat in Loveland Colorado to put the pieces together for the coming year’s conference. Everything that happened this year at SYMC had the fingerprints of the ITT. The ITT is comprised of regular youth ministers, pastors and even a few senior ministers, along with many staff members at Group Publishing. To paraphrase the old “hair club for men” commercial…I’m not just an attendee, I’m a part of the conference. We’re always looking for new people to join.