Last weekend, 3000 youth workers joined together in Louisville for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I have to say, I have been attending these conferences since they began, and this one was the best yet! Here is my top five list of highlights. Some are serious, and you will see that some are funny too:
1) Brilliant General Sessions:
This year it seems like the planning team did a brilliant job to make their general sessions a time for youth workers to truly breathe, to worship, and to take in some of the best general session speakers I have ever heard.
- The Speakers: Francis Chan, Jon Acuff, and Derwin Gray brought a level of transparency and authenticity that I had not seen in a while. Their messages were not just inspiring, they were challenging and practical too.
- The Worship: In addition to the amazing speakers, Tim Timmons and Shane & Shane, (who now refer to themselves as part of “the SYMC family), led most of the worship. They truly helped us to breathe and experience God in a refreshing way without the lights and glitz… Simple heartfelt worship…
- The Experience: During morning sessions Rick Lawrence and the team provided experiential opportunities (including Life Tree Cafe), to be refreshed and connect with God. Given that the theme for SYMC was “Breathe,” these experiences were a great way to be filled up each day.
- The Skit Guys: These guys did an amazing job crafting their skits around the theme of ‘breathe.’ They didn’t simply show up and repeat their material. They seemed to take great time crafting and adjusting their skits to help us breathe, laugh, and be refreshed. Their balance of humor and seriousness seemed perfect.
2) For Youth Workers By Youth Workers: Being a part of the IT3 (In The Trenches Team), it was great to see how this conference is truly owned by youth workers in the trenches. I am amazed at so many people and all the hard work they did to create an brilliant experience. There were so many of them working behind the scenes and not looking for any credit for what they did. They truly love SYMC and were prepared to do whatever it takes to make this conference incredible. Yet, in all this, every one of them always had time to stop, talk, and encourage new comers and reconnect with those who had been before. In September a group of about 100 these IT3 will gather again for a summit in Colorado to review and plan for SYMC 2013.
3) Air Time: ‘Air Time’ was a part of the general session experiences this year, and it had a particularly great impact of me personally. The idea behind ‘Air Time’ was birthed last September at our IT3 summit. The premise is that a youth worker from the trenches has 3-4 minutes to share their heart about ministry and life. It was an opportunity to hear from an everyday youth worker who could truly relate to the audience and encourage them in their ministries. It had particular significance for me since I was one of those youth workers who was asked to speak during ‘Air Time.’ I was honored to be asked and humbled to share my heart to encourage youth workers.
4) Conversations: This was a big highlight for me this year! Some of my greatest times of learning and encouragement came through conversations on sack chairs, or over a cup of coffee. SYMC has really worked hard to create a culture of conversation and make it easy for new and returning youth workers to truly connect. Their connect groups intentionally gathered people from similar ministry or life situations, and gave them times to talk, pray for, and encourage each other. This year I met so many new people who were coming to the conference for the first time. Everyone one of them commented on how easy it was to connect with people there…
5) Getting Kicked By Cheerleaders! (Yes, you read it correctly)! This year we shared but of the conference center with cheerleaders who were taking part in a national competition. One evening after dinner, myself and my buddy Ben saw a group of cheerleaders getting off of a bus and creating a “cheer tunnel” for each cheerleader to run through… It looked so much fun, that Ben and I could not resist the opportunity to run through and be “cheered up” ourselves… As we ran through, the cheering cheerleaders realized that we were impostors and began to kick and try to trip us up as we ran through. Fortunately, Ben and I are both soccer players and have received our fair share of kicks in our time, and we were able to keep running through the cheer tunnel. Note to Self: If you’re not a cheerleader, think twice about joining their cheer tunnel…
So there you go. There’s my top five highlights. Did you go? What were your highlights? What did you get the most out of? Are you coming to SYMC 2013? I hope to see you there!!!