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It's conference season in youth ministry! Regardless of denomination, in the next few months, there are many youth ministry conferences that you will be apart of or be invited to. Here is some wisdom about how you can make the most of your time spent at a youth ministry conference.
Go into Looking for One Nugget.
Get that one piece of information, write it down, and then focus on it during the remainder of the time. It’s easy to go into a conference assuming that you’re going to take tons of notes, listen attentively, and come back a completely changed youth minister. While this is always a responsibility, and the Spirit will move in you however He wants, I believe that the best way to take home something practical is to listen for that one piece of information, that one nugget, that really hits you and sticks with you.
Once you hear it, focus in on it and mull over it and pray over it with the remainder of the time. Ask the Lord what He’s trying to show you or tell you, and take that one big thing home with you.
Another advantage of this approach to conferences is that this will help you pick the conferences that you attend. Ideally, you go to every conference and bring home something from each. But in reality, you may not have the time or your church may not have the resources to send you to every single one. If you are really looking for a way that you can grab your students' attention and get them excited for the Bible, maybe you don't go to the conference about youth ministry organization or about volunteering. Go to a conference focused on preaching and engagement and take home that one big thing and apply it to your ministry.
Process with a Team.
Again, resources may be limited and time may be a problem, but conferences are best experienced with a team member or team members. Maybe you bring the volunteer that leads your high school Bible study, or if you have an intern or an associate youth pastor, or even your whole team (if you have one). The reason why is because everything is better understood through discussion and through talking.
In the evening when you get home, or to the hotel, from that day’s sessions, you and your team sit and talk about what stood out to you. What takeaways did you grab? You have your one big thing, but maybe other team members took another big thing that hit them just right and they want to apply.
Do NOT Implement Everything You Learn at a Conference
Everyone, when they get home from a conference, has that “conference glow.” I remember coming home from my first youth ministry conference ready to overhaul my ministry, make tons of changes, and I couldn’t wait for my students to come to the next youth meeting where we were going to completely change the way our time went together. My team and volunteers almost had a twitch in their eye they were so overwhelmed.
Change is a slow process, and to implant changes in your youth ministry, you have to take things slow. Wherever you are at, just say this out loud with me: “I WILL SLOWLY IMPLEMENT CHANGES IN MY MINISTRY.”
This goes back to my first point of just bringing home one thing. If you just focus on one big thing that you can take home, you can make a small change that will help you reach your students better. If you come home ready to overhaul your ministry, it’s going to be too much change at once.
Andy and Jake talk more about these tips in the video below!
Andy Blanks is the Publisher and Co-Founder of YM360 and Iron Hill Press. A former Marine, Andy has spent the last 17 years working in youth ministry, mostly in the field of publishing. During that time, Andy has led the development of some of the most-used Bible study curriculum and discipleship resources in the country. He has authored numerous books, Bible studies, and articles, and regularly speaks at events and conferences, both for adults and teenagers. Andy and his wife, Brendt, were married in 2000. They have four children: three girls and one boy.