13 years is a long time to do anything, even something you love and have a calling to do. Throughout the years I have learned a couple things that just make life smoother. In Youth Ministry, the idea of conferences came along fairly early, thanks to some older, wiser friends that shared what they knew.
There are two types of conferences, ones geared toward students, and ones geared toward youth workers. First, lets tackle the conferences made for students…
I live in a small town, and am part of a small church. If you got every High School student in our county into one room, you would still have less than 1000 students. Yes, that small. I take students to large conferences to get them around other students just like them. They may not even be in the same area code (or time zone) but there is a common bond. The second reason I take students to conferences is to get them out of their comfort zone. It sometimes “shocks their systems” enough that they will listen to the same thing I’ve been teaching them for a year.
Secondly, why I do conferences as a Youth Worker….
We all have busy lives and schedules. Just all the needs at Church can grind us to a pulp of we let it. There has to be a time we can pull away and be fed. Some Youth Workers have opportunities to do that throughout the week in small groups, or in a Sunday School class, or at other times. What works best for me is to have a couple opportunities a year to go to a conference or training for a few days to refresh, get new ideas, share hurts and successes with other youth workers. What works for my calendar is doing one in the spring and one in the fall.
Here are a few of the conferences our ministry has partnered with over the last several years…
Dare2Share – This is a great way to get your students talking about and practicing Evangelism. They are great people, rooted in sound doctrine. This year will be the 7th that I have taken students. It is something they look forward to year after year.
(Disclosure: Greg Stier, President of Dare2Share wrote the forward to my book: Rural Youth Ministry. However, there are no advertising relationships between my writing and their ministry)
CIY Believe – This is an excellent conference geared just for Middle School Students (6th-8th grade). Our ministry utilizes it differently than others, since our youth ministry is 7th-12th grade. Believe is in April in our region, so I invite the 6th graders as a way to “introduce them” to what we do in youth ministry, because they are moved up in June.
Simply Youth Ministry Conference – This one is for you, adults. Here is one of the places that I recharge. The first year I went to SYMC, it was because the dates did not work for Youth Specialties Convention. I had been going to YS for several years. After my first year at SYMC, I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. The relationships I have formed with other youth workers all over the country have been very valuable to me. The training and general sessions are excellent. I highly recommend it.
(Disclosure: While Simply Youth Ministry is the publisher of my book and I do have an affiliate marketing agreement with them, no money or product changed hands to make the above endorsement.)