Three Tips For Making The Most Out Of A Youth Ministry Conference
It’s SYMC week which means we’re pretty pumped. The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is always one of our favorites, in part because of the emphasis they put on training at a very grassroots, organic level. There are hundreds of hours worth of workshops and peer panels lead by both youth ministry “experts” as well as your average, everyday youth worker in the trenches.
We noticed our friend Phil Bell wrote a post on his blog where he lists four tips to making the most of SYMC. (It’s a good post. Go check it out.) We decided we’d add to Phil’s list with three of our own.
Here are three thoughts on getting the most out of a youth ministry conference:
Don’t Be Afraid To Rest
I’ve had this discussion over the years with youth workers and there is a feeling among many that because your church has either paid for you to go, or at least has given you its blessing, that resting is somehow poor stewardship. I disagree. If you asked your Senior Pastor, or whomever your supervisor is, why you were allowed/encouraged to go, I bet the answer isn’t “So you would spend all your waking hours in different workshops or seminars.” I bet the answer is something like “So that you would grow in your effectiveness as a youth minister.” If you can skip a general session or a workshop or two to rest your body and mind, do it.
There’s a fine line, of course. If you skip a session to veg out and watch SportsCenter, I’m not sure that’s as justifiable. ☺ And if you blow off an entire day (or two) of a conference, you probably are on the wrong side of the stewardship question. However, if missing a few scheduled events contributes to you returning to your church invigorated and refreshed, don’t think twice about doing it.
Make Time For Evaluation
Not of the conference. Of your ministry. So many youth ministers are moving so quickly they rarely get time to step back and evaluate their ministries. Most conferences provide big enough blocks of unscheduled time that you can set aside time to simply think about how things are going. This works even better if you have members of your team with you. It’s a great time to think about where you’re winning, and where you’re coming up short. The cool thing is that you might find workshops or resources that speak to the very areas you need to improve.
Learn With The Intent Of Replicating
No, I’m not telling you to pirate your favorite author’s book. I’m suggesting that you engage with workshops, seminars, and even general sessions with the intent of replicating them for others when you get home. The truth is that most people can’t afford to bring their entire team of adult volunteers with them to conferences. And it would be silly to think your local network of youth ministers will all attend. So as you listen and learn, do so with an eye toward coming home and leading these seminars with your adult volunteers, or modeling them for your youth ministry network.
I can’t speak for every workshop or seminar leader, but I know that I never hesitate to make my Presentation slides available for anyone who wants to go home and lead my workshop with their people.
It’s too late to embrace this for this year’s SYMC, but what if instead of you going to a youth ministry conference next year you sent one or two of your adult volunteers instead? What would it do for your youth ministry to have one or two key leaders be able to dramatically increase his or her level of training and inspiration? My hunch is that it would do wonders. Sure, it is tough to give up the chance to attend a conference. But, hey, we’re called to be servant leaders, right? In the end, this kind of move could exponentially increase your ministry’s effectiveness, which, would be worth it.
We hope to see you at SYMC! We’ll be leading a few workshops and a peer panel or two. We’ll also have a table in the store. Stop by and stay hello. See you there!