I haven’t always worked for YouthSpecialties, in fact, I didn’t attend the National YouthWorkers Convention for more than a decade of my twenty years in full time youth ministry. 2003 was my first year to attend in Phoenix, AZ. I even happened to briefly meet Mike Yaconelli the then owner and founder of YS, in the hall before his untimely death that would occur just a few weeks after.
I’m not sure why I waited so long to attend, but looking back, I wish I’d attended earlier. Nothing helped me accelerate my growth as a minister to youth more than the relationships that I built during NYWC.
For those planning to attend this fall, I’d like to encourage you to take advantage of the 3 modes of relationships you can foster at the convention.
Peer To Peer. Probably the most encouraging part of the event is being able to interact and meet with peers presently in the trenches. Knowing that they are experiencing the same challenges and being able to share what God is doing is simply fantastic. These are the meetings that happen in the “in between” spaces of the events, late at night, over meals, hanging in the lobby. Be sure to connect with others, and we have several ways to help you do that onsite. Take advantage of them.
Mentors. At NYWC you’ll meet youth workers that aren’t perfect, but may be further in the journey than you are. These men and women have powerfully spoken into my life over the years, and maybe you can find some folks that can do the same for you. One such person changed my life significantly by sharing some insights that made a profound impact on how I was using my time and talents for discipling youth.
Sages. There are some people who have lived lives that are deep wells to draw from. Their thoughts will linger with you, you’ll want to write them down and keep their words close to you. There are times that you’ll be able to grab a cup of coffee and talk with these men and women…at other points you may sit in a seminar or general session and be moved as God uses them to speak powerfully into your life. I’ve had several moments like these while listening to speakers at NYWC. The hardest part for me is to take on the position of learner in these settings. We spend so much of our time teaching; I always need to be reminded that my time at NYWC is about learning. I often find myself evaluating the speaker’s delivery and content, and sometimes forget to be open to how God wants to speak to me.
So as we come to NYWC, realize that the event is allowing time and space for these remarkable relationships to be used by God to form us. I hope you will join us, not only to receive, but to give.
Last year at this time, I wasn’t considering YS as part of my ministry future. But God used connections with people at NYWC San Diego in a profound way that led me to be open to the position I’m currently in. My prayer for all attendees is that the Spirit might use these gatherings to profoundly move us deeper into His story.