Friday, March 12, 2010

SYMC 2010: post conference thoughts

It's been a few weeks since I attended the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago. I'm still thinking about what I learned and experienced, but I wanted to share some of my post conference thoughts...

1. Sustainable Youth Ministry - Deeper Learning Track
I read the book last year. Sustainable Youth Ministry is simply one of the best youth ministry books I have read in a long time (and I'm not just saying that). So, going into the 4 sessions I had an idea of what we would discuss. But I knew I wanted (needed?) to go over the material again, in a new way. I am glad I did.

Though I did not get to be there all 8 hours (see Ministry in the Valley) I was able to take a lot of great information from what I did hear. What I appreciated most about this track was that it allowed each participant chances to apply the material to his/her own setting. It was not a "get overloaded at a conference and go home and do nothing" seminar - it was a "work on steps to application during the conference, so you can go home and implement changes" seminar.

I recommend attending this seminar any chance you get. And hopefully in the next week or so, I'll post some of my thoughts and notes.

2. Meeting online friends, in person
Being connected to people online has been a blessing. It is helpful to have people who are not connected to my situation to talk to and share with. But going to a convention, like SYMC, changes those relationships. The friends I know from their profile pictures took on a new dimension when meeting in person. Now when I talk to these friends online, I have a lot better picture of who they are and what is going on in their life.

3. Ministry in the Valley
I got to be part of the Ministry in the Valley this year. It was a group of youth workers willing to listen to, pray with and talk with hurting youth workers. Based on what I experienced and what I heard from others who were involved, it was a much needed part of the convention for some youth workers.

If you are hurting, you are not alone.
If you are hurting, do not be afraid to talk with someone.

4. Talking Youth Ministry
I always enjoy sitting around (even better on Sack Chairs) talking ministry and students. Hearing another youth worker share about their ministry, passion and what God is teaching them is a great encouragement to me. I always walk away with new ideas and perspectives.

5. Surprising Legacy
This was the theme for the weekend. And for me, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed a reminder that God has called me to leave a legacy. My ministry is not solely dependent on my position. It is more about how I am living in order to honor God, regardless of what title is in front or after my name.

6. Being reminded of the importance of what we do
This goes along with #5. I was reminded a few times that the things my wife and I are doing are important. It is not about being seen or even getting paid. The main point is to love God and love others.

7. Staying off-site
I got to stay with an old college friend for the weekend, which was great. The only downside was that I missed some of the evening stuff because I had to drive to his house. On the other side, since I didn't have a room to go to when I had downtime, I was able to spend that time hanging out and talking with people. Not staying at a local hotel made the whole conference feel different, not a bad different. Plus, I do not think I would have been able to go if this arrangement was not possible - so for that I am very thankful.

8. Overall feel
I really enjoyed the small atmosphere of SYMC. There were plenty of youth workers (2500) but it didn't feel overwhelming. Plus, the speakers and presenters were very welcoming. I had multiple conversations with presenters, who were not "too busy" to stop and talk to youth workers. Plus, even Thom & Joani Shultz (owners of Group Publishing) were willing to stand around and talk with those of us who spend our time ministering to students. This behavior says a lot about the company - and Group has "gone up" in my book. (I already liked the company, but now I've seen firsthand that its about more than just the bottom line. And that means a ton to those of us on the front lines.)

I will definitely be going back in the future. And if you should, too!

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