this morning, on the van ride to heathrow, i was chatting with a chap (see how i’m throwin’ down that brit-talk?!) about my impressions of soulsurvivor. he was asking, specifically, what i found that was different from large-scale youth events in the states. and i was having a hard time putting my finger (or mind, or words) on the difference. i could name a few practical things, like the prayer/ministry time i posted about. but in my loss of the right framework, i kept repeating, “i don’t know, there’s just a different vibe.”
i sensed this “vibe” wasn’t just a british/american difference.
then it dawned on me: the difference is, soulsurvivor actually chooses to trust teenagers. they trust teenagers to make choices (example: this isn’t just about having multiple seminars to choose between; it’s lived out — as one example — in that no meeting is mandatory. they have a very cool team of people — called the “engagement team” — who rove around the grounds during the main sessions, finding the few who choose not to attend, and connecting with them. they’re not doing this to “police” them or tell them they need to head down to the big tent — just the opposite; they assume the big meeting isn’t the best place for connecting with and engaging those students, and meet them where they are.). soulsurvivor trusts teenagers to engage culture and use discernment, rather than isolating them from it (example: the late night dance club playing “secular” music). soulsurvivor trusts teenagers to minister to one another, and doesn’t only allow trained adults for these roles (examples: the prayer/ministry time i posted about, and the 19 year-old who gave one of the main session talks. And soulsurvivor trusts that god is actively working in and engaging teenagers (example: there’s a palpable expectancy that god is present and active).
One of the reasons I think I so resonated with this is that it’s been a core value of youth specialties from the beginning to trust youth workers. This is one of the things I believe separates our youth workers convention from others. it’s also a key reason we’ve had some run-ins with youth-ministry-world mucky-mucks in the past few years who think we squander our opportunity to be more directive with youth workers. But, admitadly, it’s easier to live out this trust when our audience is adult youth workers, than – as soulsurvivor does – with teenagers!
I think we in youth ministry in the states could learn a thing or two here. We have talked a good talk for a good long time about youth not just being the church of tomorrow, but the church of today (thunderous applause from a room of youth workers!). but we often treat them like little children who can’t be trusted. And I’m not even that sure we always trust god to show up in their lives (without our gracious help, that is). But I suppose that’s a whole different subject.
I’m very ready to hug my wife and kids and sleep in my own bed tonite.