another national youth workers convention is over, and i have that familiar post-event combo of deep satisfaction, joy, and sadness.
it was a great event, and i know people were blessed, encouraged, and challenged. people told me, as they do, how the event is like a lifeline for them, keeping them in ministry another year. rookies were wide-eyed with wonder about this resource, and the feeling of belonging to a tribe of people who understand them. vets who skip lots of stuff to make room for connecting with friends and taking care of their souls talk about the reality that there is no other place that provides this for them.
the sadness is really, i think, just a normal post-partum type of thing. we work so hard and long to birth this baby, and there’s some natural sadness when everyone leaves the hotels and the convention center is empty.
i’m also sad — and this is NOT a “woe is me” thing! — by those attendees who aren’t in a place to be served by this event. those who write angry emails about our “liberal agenda” (which, most of you know, is just not the case). we deeply desire to serve the whole church, all youth workers — mainline and evangelical, conservative and liberal. and we think the mix of speakers, attendees and perspectives is a beautiful scent to god, a time when we temporarily stash away our differences and come together around our common calling in youth ministry. i know we anger people on the liberal end for being “too conservative” — but they don’t tend to be the angry email writing type. they just don’t return. but the handful of accusational, angry emails from those who think we’ve “gone liberal” bring sadness because i so deeply desire for them to experience the beauty of an inquisitive position (that doesn’t require agreement), the grace of enjoying different perspectives, the growth that can come from wrestling with ideas that our different than our own.
things i particularly enjoyed about this nashville convention:
the general session room: the arena creates this amazing vibe that, although there were 5000 people there, has an intimacy to it. every sees someone else.
the attendees: there was a level of excitement and engagement that was electric.
crowder: david was with us for two sessions, and this is never a bad thing.
sam and ruby and matt wertz: i’d heard sam and ruby perform at a small club show in san diego, and knew we had to have them at the nywc, in nashville, where they live. they did a 20 minute pre-session, and were so amazing. i’d never heard of matt wertz prior to this event, but he brought a fantastic john mayer-ish vibe to his set that was humble and really good.
shane and shane and the skit guys: shane and shane are becoming ys regulars, and i just dig their live performances. rarely do two voices blend so perfectly. the skit guys have become like crowder – it’s hard to imagine a ys convention without them. and i’ve genuinely grown to value them as friends.
francis collins: there were some who were ticked about francis collins’ talk, and other who were bored with it. but i found it fascinating. and i loved that whatever he talked about, he kept grounding it in his love for god.
hook-ups with friends: meals with matt maher and and old college buddy who’s a literary agent here in nash, and a nice meal with eli ruggles, a wonderful dinner with british youth ministry leader matt costley. coffee with chap clark (a dear friend) and roger kamstra, and old intern of mine. a great backstage conversation with dan kimball. visits to my suite by lars rood, steve taylor, and others. all great opportunities to connect with friends.
going out on a limb with my closing session talk: as i did in pittsburgh, i used very few notes, and really talked from my heart about both the intersection of communion and mission, and about the reality — described by jesus — that we have everything we need to be successful in youth ministry, because “we are the equipment”. it was a scary, risky place to be, but it felt like the right ending to the convention.