Being with people who “do what I do, and love what I love” was fantastic. I was able to exchange funny stories of what happens in youth groups with others across the nation, learn about applying biblical truth to youth culture, hear ideas from other youth workers about their roles and ideas within their church, and build friendships. These all made the National Youth Workers Convention very valuable to me. 1 out of 1 (me) would go again.
Conventions I attend are usually with teenagers or are structured around general church business. It was easy to tell that this conference was built for those who are working in youth ministry and spending time with teens and young adults. Satirizing interactions with students, content geared towards youth ministry, and a feeling of appreciation from the top speakers because they know the importance of youth ministry. I am not often searching for appreciation but to find it so readily given made NYWC special.
I also felt appreciated by the CLB! I would have never given a second thought to a convention outside of the Midwest because of the time, money, or even just the lack of people I know. When the President of the Seminary comes to a youth convention and spends time in a group and one on one to get to know some of the youth workers in the denomination it means a lot. Dr. Veum was inquisitive about individual jobs, asking questions about how he can help us moving forward, and adding his wisdom to the occasionally scattered brains of those of us in youth ministry. I love spending time strengthening and founding new friendships and the weekend of the convention was full of exactly that. On other retreats, like youth retreats at Inspiration Point, I see other youth workers and can exchange pleasantries, but I am not able to focus my time on them because I am with my youth group. At NYWC we shared meals, long car trips, and discussions on seminar topics. It is hard to feel alone in ministry when surrounded by other youth workers and sharing those experiences.
Reading books and articles online is how I best stay informed about youth culture and how to apply the bible within it. It is far better to hear from some of the same authors in person. Asking Walt Mueller questions about his career in youth ministry is more impactful to me then reading some of his articles on CPYU. Hearing Kara Powell speak on the pros of supporting parents and the importance of having female leaders in an environment where discussion is encouraged outweighs just reading an article. Instead of reading Marv Penner’s books on loving people who find themselves self-harming, I got to hear his heart towards his patients and see him interact and care for people who approached him after his seminar. There were fantastic speakers, excited to share their experiences and research to help better other ministers and further God’s Kingdom.
I have pages of notes I continue to review, new concepts in teaching and leading my youth group, and better connections to others within the denomination and without because of my trip to St. Louis for the National Youth Workers Convention. I highly recommend that, if you are reading this and are connected to youth ministry, you attend next year as well (in Tampa). You can build up friendships, relax a bit, sharpen your fellow youth worker, and give thanks towards and worship the God who has saved us. Plus, Jesus did youth ministry, so it seems valuable enough to work on improving. Hope to see you there!