christian post reports on nywc changes

apparently someone from “the christian post” watched the podcast we did last week about the changes in the nywc for this fall. other than me being quoted as saying “pissed off” (which sounded ok on a live podcast to youth workers, but seems a bit edgy for the christian post!), i’m pretty pleased with this summary:

Youth Specialties, one of the largest organizations equipping Christian youth workers, will be making some dramatic shifts this year at their popular convention.

One of the major changes includes featuring main session speakers who won’t push the buttons of a theologically diverse crowd.

For years, Youth Specialties had brought in various speakers to the National Youth Workers Convention to cater to youth workers from different denominations, theological backgrounds and contexts.

“I think part of how we pursued that (serving a diverse crowd) is, to put it in a negative, we’ve almost built a convention where everybody has the opportunity to get pissed off or to get bugged by something,” said Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, in a webcast this week.

“It’s like celebrating those differences was actually becoming divisive rather than bringing us together,” he added.

Oestreicher explained that the organization received “so much more critique,” some of which were ugly, from convention attendees last year who felt the youth workers organization was pushing an agenda of some sort.

One of last year’s main sessions addressed the issue of homosexuality and youth. The featured speaker was Andrew Marin, president and founder of The Marin Foundation, an organization created to build bridges between the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and religious communities through scientific research, Biblical and social education.

Oestreicher insisted they were not trying to push any kind of agenda but realized that the convention was creating more contention that unity.

So this year, the organization is looking to shift their approach from presenting a “variety show” during the event’s main sessions to focusing on what they all have in common.

This year’s featured speakers will “address the heart and soul of youth ministry rather than hot button issues,” Oestreicher said.

“We’re trying to be very intentional to choose speakers that are not there to push buttons or raise issues as much as to speak to your soul as a youth worker, challenge you in areas of leadership or carrying out your calling but not like hot button theological topics,” the YS president stressed.

Speakers for the main sessions (now termed “Big Room” rather than “General Session”) this year include Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley; Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries; and Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz.

While controversial topics such as homosexuality will not be discussed in the main sessions, Oestreicher noted that participants will still have the opportunity to engage in such discussions during the “labs” or seminars portion of the convention.

“It’s not like we’re trying to make this a vanilla event that is lowering the bar to the least common denominator so that we can all agree on everything and create some kind of false utopia,” he stated.

The point of the shift this year, he said, is to utilize the main sessions that everyone attends to encourage the soul and to challenge youth workers in their faith and leadership. Other topics are being saved for the labs.

Among other changes, this year’s youth workers convention will also include an “unconvention open source” day where attendees who want to lead their own discussions will have the opportunity to do so. Rather than have attendees choose from Youth Specialties’ own hand-picked list of speakers and discussions, the participating youth workers will be able to shape the day themselves.

“We really felt it was time for us to move away from only YS picking all the speakers,” Oestreicher said.

The changes to the 2009 convention come as Youth Specialties is undergoing some internal changes, Oestreicher noted, including relocating its headquarters which is currently in El Cajon, Calif.

“YS needs to continue to evolve and change and grow, or we shouldn’t exist anymore,” he stressed. “We have to become a new organization so we can serve you guys in ways that are timely and meaningful in the culture that we live in, not in the culture of 1978.”

Every year in the fall, Youth Specialties hosts three conventions. The 2009 National Youth Workers Convention will be held in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Atlanta, respectively, beginning in September. More than 3,000 attendees are expected to attend each event.

7 thoughts on “christian post reports on nywc changes”

  1. I think the changes sound great, but personally my husband and I LOVED the convention last year! We were in Sacramento and we came away refreshed and challenged. We personally were grateful that YS was willing to talk about the issue of how the church is interacting or not interacting with the gay/lesbian community. Maybe in other parts of the country this isn’t as upfront of an issue, but in our community and even in our family we’re dealing with it regularly. I don’t remember if I agreed with everything Marin said, but I know that he came from a place of love and grace which was so refreshing to hear. Anyways, I just wanted YS to know that we appreciate what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and where you’re headed!

  2. I think one of the greatest roles of the NYWC was to push buttons, and be forward-thinking. This last year with Phyllis Tickle, Andrew Marin, and others you guys did a great job of bringing to the forefront issues that need to be addressed, but aren’t necessarily! I love Francis Chan, Andy Stanley and Don Miller, but these aren’t speakers that are going to challenge my thinking, address issues I don’t even have on my radar yet, etc. I read these guys stuff/listen to their podcasts all the time!

    Please guys, don’t give in too much to “conservative” or “status-quo” thinking. I get enough of that at church!

  3. Yes! I agree. I love it when I am challenged by YS and their speakers. I still listen to the mp3’s from last year from time to time!

  4. let me clarify: i loved what andy marin brought. i’m very glad we had him speak. that was just an example. it was the quantity of those subjects that i think created the issue i was referring to.

  5. Marko, I was able to see the webcast and I think the Convention this year will be great.

    Each time I’ve been to YS I’ve come away feeling pushed to think differently about something (or many things) and most importantly refreshed. I know YS will continue to push us in the labs and in other creative ways – but from where I’m sitting in the trenches now I’m really looking forward to some Big Room worship with some crazy-awesome colleagues this fall.

    I know YS is going through some changes with a move, staff and restructuring the convention and other things. Just know that you and your ministry are in my prayers as you continue to serve, train, push, refresh and minister to and with us youth workers!

  6. I gotta say this feels like YS is caving in. Does corporate have anything to do with this?
    Is this the final nail in the coffin of the Wittenberg Door edge?
    Is tony campolo next?

  7. Several years ago I made a comment on the old YS forum about how it irritated me that it seemed every convention speaker was also selling something. That comment got deleted – I can only assume that it was because I was considered an instigator. ( I really was just irritated…not trying to start somethin).

    Anyway, I said that to say this. I think this is a move in the right direction. I think allowing the open source day is Awesome and will allow people to learn and interact more with their peers. It all sounds exciting and interesting! Hope I can go check it out!

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