Tag Archives: ys convention

post-national youth workers convention

well, the nywc is almost over. only the final ‘big room’ to go. i’ll be heading down in a few minutes to attend that whole session, in support of my friend tic long. after more than 30 years at ys – most of those years leading the nywc – tic is doing his first-ever general session talk. i know what he’s going to talk about (fear), and think he is the right person at the right time with the right message.

this convention, here in nashville (as opposed to the earlier one in san diego), has not caused anxiety or weird feelings for me. honestly, it’s been wonderful. i’ve had a very full schedule, but have deeply enjoyed my time here. i haven’t been able to make it to the general sessions much, due to so many appointments — the one session i made it to did feel a little weird for me, as that space has so many memories and is so deeply connected to who i am and who i was. but, really, being here has been awesome.

i spoke 4 times:
– a ‘fishbowl’ dialogue called “soul care for busy non-contemplatives”. i really enjoyed this one — lots of great interaction and participation. i love the fishbowl format, and really felt we had a “we’re in this together” vibe in the room.
– a brand new seminar called “leading without power”. i think this one went well — i got good feedback. i’m planning on a blog post series with some of this content in the weeks to come.
– a 2 1/2 hour ‘grande seminar’ called “youth ministry 3.0”. despite the remote location, we had a decent turn-out, and great interaction.
– and a late night discussion on “the future of youth ministry”. this had a super-small turn-out, and some of the dialogue was a bit odd; but it was still worth doing. i have a blog post series planned out of this one also.

and i had dozens of meetings: time with friends getting caught up, time with youth workers who asked for an hour, time with current and potential ministry partners cooking up cool new things for youth workers (ooh — i’m so excited about some of the stuff i’m gonna try in 2011 and 2012).

in the end, this convention didn’t feel as much like closing the loop on a past reality to me as much as it felt like framing and realizing the good, new reality. i think the ‘leading without power’ seminar title is a good metaphor for my place at nywc, and it’s good.

i hope i get to come back next year!

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.