Thank you, SYMC 2011.

{I’ve been sick for the past week, so this post might be old news. Still I want to share my thoughts on the conference.}

Last weekend, March 3-7, I went to Chicago for my first (and definitely not last) Simply Youth Ministry Conference. If I were to sum up the total experience in two words, they would be: MINISTRY CHANGING! Not only was my focus on student ministry challenged and changed, but my personal ministry was also impacted. God brought me up to Chicago for a time with Him and vision casting, and I left the weekend recommissioned and refreshed (though I also came home with a bad cold, ugh).

I won’t give you a minute-by-minute play of the weekend, but I do want to highlight some things that were God “Ah-Ha” moments for me.

JUNIOR HIGH MINISTRY: I DO LOVE YOU.

On Friday, I spent the day learning about Junior High Ministry. To be honest, I have always avoided these workshops/tracks, because I never considered myself “junior-high-pastor” material. I’m more of a “senior-high-deep-discussion-type-pastor” material. But, I humbled myself and entered into the world of Junior High Ministry 101. The all-day workshop was hosted by Kurt Johnston and Scott Rubin – two big JH guru’s.

Not only was the day full of practical ideas and tips, but it was a breath of fresh air as well. I went from saying “I can’t do Junior High ministry,” to saying “I can’t wait to get back to my Junior High students!” Throughout the day, God kept pressing in to me:

These are My kids, and I love them. I want you to love on them, too, and show them what I’ve shown you. I’ll equip you, don’t worry.

Terrifying, yet refreshing. Nerve-wracking, yet confident. I am deeply excited at what God is going to do through and in these students – present and future.

So what did I learn? Simply that Junior High ministry needs to be FUN. Not the “we only play games and don’t do anything serious” type of fun.  Instead we’re creating a ministry that is: Biblical, and fun. Relationship-oriented, and fun. Relevant, relaxing, and totally real … and fun.

CULTURE CHECK: WHAT ARE YOU CREATING?

On Saturday morning, Louie Giglio spoke at our General Session. I love it when Louie speaks. I love his challenge, brought from God’s Word, and his passion, brought from his time with Jesus. This morning’s message was no exception.

Louie asked us this in-your-face-question:

What type of culture are you creating?

Not only in your daily life, but in your ministry as well.  His conviction is that we should be creating a culture that illuminates three things within it – at all times: HUMILITY, HONOR, and JESUS. Humility forces us to see God; Honor acknowledges others above ourselves; and Jesus … well, that should be self-explanatory – it’s all about Jesus.

This caused me to again reconsider the type of culture found in our student ministry: what does it look like? Is it built on humility, honor, and Jesus? Would our students feel our ministry demonstrates this? Would visitors?

FAMILY-BASED MINISTRY: A MINDSET LIVED OUT.

After the General Session I headed into “Family-Based Ministry” with Jim Burns. For awhile now, God has been placing this type of ministry upon my heart. It’s not enough to disciple students; as youth pastors, we need to be equipping parents as well. When all is said and done, parents are still a kids number one source for spiritual input and admiration. Not me (and not you). So this being the case, it only makes sense that we spend time partnering with parents in order to raise up the next generations. Right?!

Two big take-aways from these talks:

  1. FAMILY-BASED ministry is not a program but a MINDSET. Everything done should be run through the questions, “How does this fit into our mission and vision”, and “How does this benefit the family, overall?”
  2. Four basic ways to partner and equip parents: INFORM, ASSIST, ENCOURAGE, and INVOLVE.

In line with this mindset, I was also challenged to start a mentoring ministry within our church. Because I did the full day of Family-Based ministry, I missed the Be With training on building such a ministry (this was led by Bo Boshers). I did buy the book, though, and plan on implementing what I learn as I (re)develop our student ministry.

GAY STUDENTS: STILL A BRIGHT PASSION IN ME.

Sunday I spent the time hopping around from one workshop to another; I did one on developing a vision from the Word up, and developing a healthy youth ministry team. Both were great, but I my head was beginning to overfill with what God was pouring in. So for the afternoon I took a break, contemplated some things, read, and got ready to attend a late-night panel on gay students.

I went to the discussion with the full intention of offering advice and insight, as the Lord led me to share. However, after telling some people my story (a quick version), I was asked to join the peer-panel! I was blown away at this opportunity to say the least. The night went quick, yet it offered great insight: youth workers ARE dealing with gay students within their ministries, and they don’t know what to do. I loved every minute of the conversation – during the actual time and the two-hour talk that continued afterward!

I’m not sure what God is starting, but if it’s what I’m thinking … HOLY COW! Who knows for sure, but Him.

Regardless, my mission and attention to this blog has been renewed. People are looking for truth – for help – for answers – for someone to understand … I am humbled that this site has been a support for all these things – and more.

PROCLAIMING JESUS

In the end, it’s all about proclaiming Jesus. It’s about proclaiming His Name. It’s about proclaiming His truth and love. It’s about proclaiming His mission. It’s all about proclaiming Him … through our lives – my life. Nothing else matters, but Him. As we seek Him, everything else falls into place: our lives, our attitudes, our ministries, our desires and hopes and passion … everything.

And this is how SYMC 2011 ended: proclaiming Jesus. May everything fall away that is not of You, Lord, and may everything take root that is of You. Amen.

Thank you, SYMC. We’ll see each other again, soon.

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