I remember the day I got a postcard in the mail about a youth ministry conference. It was from Youth Specialties. As a youth pastor, I got tons of junk mail from companies wanting me to buy their youth ministry stuff. There was so much junk mail that it was overwhelming so I usually just threw it away. However, this was the first advertisement I received about a conference. I didn’t know such a thing existed for youth workers. I was skeptical, but intrigued. This was before the Internet so I didn’t have much to go on.
This was my second church to serve in as a youth worker. I had been fired from my first church… twice. I didn’t know it, yet, but I would eventually get fired from this church, too. Youth ministry was off to a rough start. I saw this postcard as a life line. I was hungry for training. Fortunately, my church board agreed to send me. I came back encouraged, equipped and energized for youth ministry. After that, I did my best to attend a conference every year.
I’m in my 24th year of youth ministry. I haven’t been to a big conference in several years. It’s starting to show. I haven’t lost my love for youth ministry, however, I feel like if I don’t get back to a conference, I’m going to start winding down. I don’t want to fizzle out and close out my years of youth ministry.
If you’ve been to a conference, you know what I’m writing about. They’re amazing. If you haven’t been to one, here are some reasons you should:
• Being Equipped (You don’t know what you don’t know)
Conferences offer breakout sessions on a wide variety of topics taught by experts in the field. What you learn in these can help you gain or change perspective. They can also help you realize skills you need to develop.
• Finding Encouragement
Well-run conferences spend some effort encouraging you in a couple of ways: 1. In general sessions, and 2. through facilitating conversations you’ll have with other youth workers. You will realize you’re not alone in your difficulties, and that you’re actually able to encourage others you meet. Youth ministry from us to students is largely about relationships. We need those relationships, too, but with peers. You can get these started through conferences. While you’re at a conference, become friends on social media with youth workers you connect well with. That will be a great source of encouragement and an awesome sounding board when you need to work through ideas.
We get renewed energy from conferences in a few ways: New ideas, resources, and interaction. Our “youth ministry well” runs dry on our own. Conferences provide a place for your well to get filled back up and helps you find ways to keep it filled between trainings.
What if you’re “just a volunteer”? What if your ministry won’t send you to a conference? What if it’s too expensive?
What if you decided you’re going? Once you decide to go, the obstacles move off to the side. You are now just working out the details. If you have to take this out of your own pocket, start saving. What if you can’t save? There’s great news about that… there’s probably an event within driving distance at some point during the year. Do a Google search. What if your youth ministry organized a conference, invited speakers and area churches to your location?
Do it for your own development. Do it because you’ll be a better leader in your ministry. Do it because you’ll be better equipped for your students and energized to last.
I’ve decided I’m going to go a little crazy on the conferences this year. I’m actually going to 3, one of them is even free. I don’t recommend going overboard like that. I’m only doing it because I need to make that investment so I’ll go into year 25 and beyond super strong. My goal going forward will be one a year. I even got my youth ministry to help. They’re paying for my meals while I’m at the Orange Conference later this month.
As you commit to going to training events, you’ll find you do what the title of this posts suggests: Better Youth Ministry
Originally published at Volunteer Youth Ministry.