approaching nywc nashville, a personal reflection

i’m sitting in my hotel room in nashville, at the ys convention. i’ve been here so many times before. in fact, i calculated a couple years ago that i’ve spent more than 3 months of my life in this hotel. ys conventions before i was on staff with ys, ys conventions while i was on staff, emergent conventions and national pastors conventions, and a handful of prep meetings. but today i add a new category: ys conventions after being on staff with ys.

there’s an ego-y part of me that just wants to say i deserve to be here. but there are plenty of reasonable reasons i might not have been invited; not the least of these is that my presence could be (slightly) awkward, or contribute, in a small way, to a distraction from the ‘this is a new day’ vibe that ys is rightfully creating these days. so it’s a credit to my friend tic long, and to his bosses at youthworks, that they were cool with including me.

the san diego convention, a couple months ago, was uber-weird for me. i was loaded with anxiety. that dissipated a bit over the course of the weekend, but still kept me lying low and not being very present. it was hard to put a finger on the weirdness i felt, but i think it centered around not really knowing what my place was. i also had, in a classic 7th grader way, an absurd but unshakable sense that everyone was staring at me (i know this wasn’t true in the least, but i couldn’t seem to escape it). i was projecting little thought-bubbles above their heads: “oh, it’s so nice that he’s here” (with a pitying voice), or “what’s he doing here? isn’t he the guy who screwed up ys?”

one of the really nice things about that experience was that, as i started to notice my levels of anxiety setting in, i recognized the feeling. but the wonderful realization that dawned on me was, “i never feel this anymore!” i had lived with so much anxiety and stress for the last two years we were with our former corporate ownership; so much pressure to conform; so much pressure to turn things around financially; so many impossible decisions, or choices that were expected of me but went against my gut. and i never have that anymore.

sure, if i’m being completely honest, there’s a little identity weirdness in walking around with a nametag that says “speaker”, and not something more. no “all access”, no “ys staff”. and — this is silly, but honest — after so many years of being given absurdly grand suites by the hotel, it’s a little humbling to be in a very, very normal hotel room.

but i expect this weekend to be 170-degrees different than san diego. yeah, not 180-degrees, but almost. the tiny flicker of anxiety is only that. i notice it, but it’s not debilitating. i feel good about being here, and am excited about the stuff i get to do, the youth workers i’ll get to rub shoulders with, and the friends i get to connect with. i’m excited about being present — and i don’t merely mean ‘here’. presence is much better than just being here, if you know what i mean.

12 thoughts on “approaching nywc nashville, a personal reflection”

  1. I’m drinking a cocktail you would love, thinking how honoured I am to have you as a loved and trusted friend. Wish I was there with you. You are wonderful, now, then and always. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. I think we would all like to think that what we are doing in ministry is simply for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, but it seems in times like these we see more clearly how so many other motivations, etc are also involved. I would like to think that I am ministering for all the right reasons, but then I find myself in situations where I see my insecurities, etc and I realize that my ministry so quickly becomes more about me than simply being faithful to God and to others. Even though I haven’t gone through what you’ve gone through, I think I can sill relate and sympathize to a small degree. May God give us all the grace to put all put that other stuff behind us, and boldly run for the prize, no matter what the circumstances! God help me!

  3. Marko…if I didn’t have classes tomorrow I’d be in Nashville right now, and I’d chase you down and do something ridiculous to you…all to show that myself and everyone I know is PUMPED to have you back at the conference…good luck brother.

  4. Just wanna know if you brought the Kilt?
    I was brought to NYWC in Nashville my a youth pastor that I volunteered with. Had an amazing time, and you wore a Kilt.

    You were used by God when you were at YS and you are still used by God now.

    You are a man of integrity and grace.

    Keep it real.

    Enjoy your time in Nashville and be sure to eat a Jack BBQ. The place with the flying pig on the sign.

  5. Marko — As always, I appreciate your candid thoughts. With that said, I want to tell you that you TOTALLY deserve to be there!

    After reading your thoughts here it reminded me of a huge “punch in the gut” that I took earlier this year. After “that punch” I started thinking (and writing) some of the same thoughts you’ve shared here. I, too, shared thoughts that seem to indicate that I didn’t have much to offer or thoughts that I had made too many mistakes and really didn’t belong where I was.

    One day a close friend of mine (who is the reigning cheerleader in my life) said to me “TC, who stole your value from you?” This question helped me realize that I had allowed the enemy to attack me after someone had punched me in the proverbial gut. I’ve since risen from that… taken back what the enemy has stolen from me… and realized that I have a LOT of value. It wasn’t easy though. And there are a handful of people who spoke into my life and have become dear friends because of it. You are one of those.

    All of that to say, don’t even allow yourself to think these negative thoughts about what you have to offer… or even dwell on mistakes you might have made along the way. Personally speaking, I don’t have much of a history with YS, but what I do know is that of all the staffers that YS employs (speaking of past– and present) there is only ONE person that has ever taken their time to ‘personally’ invest in me. That person is YOU. For that you have my upmost respect — always have, always will.

    So go do what you do best. Encourage and equip youth workers.


  6. Thanks for a great Cohort group this week. YS is fortunate to have you there. Knock Frank in a bush if he is still there!!!

  7. Marko,
    I needed to hear what you had to say in your sessions. Don’t tell my boss, but I only went to two actual seminars– both were yours. (Tomorrow I might go to Ted’s if I get up early enough). Last year there was such a void at the Ohio one without you. I was angry and sad that you weren’t there to do the Youth Ministry 3.0 conversation last year.

    Can we just embrace the awkward? If people were staring at you weird in Nashville they were probably just trying to figure out why your hair was so freaking normal. Or they were planning to steal your bag of almonds. (Not me, of course. Other people.)

  8. If the truth is told, many people were staring at you to see what the hair looked like!! You looked great and I was glad to see you there sharing what you do best.

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