Well, this is slightly off-topic for the series I have been writing on, but this strange thought popped into my while sitting on the lifeguard stand sometime in the 5am hour the other morning while I was covering a shift for one of my staff.
This is a little interesting that I was thinking about this because I seeing on the web site that one of the major national youth ministry conferences says its “coming to a city near you in 2015” So perhaps my mindset isn’t too far off on this topic after all.
With maybe one or two exceptions, the “Big Time” National Youth Ministry conferences seem to be offering many of the same seminars that I went to when I attended my first big national conference in 2005. There are many of these “classic” seminars that do need to keep being offered because they are timeless and more practical than what most experience in Bible College or Seminary. While there are some seminars that have stuck with me, it’s the energy, the meaningful worship, the laughter and joy in performance artists. I have been blessed by set up quiet spaces for reflection were great places to find ways to make room for soul care in these times as well. Getting to hear from people who are doing some amazing things for the Kingdom in the general sessions is always one of the biggest blessings.
I have certainly been blessed by them, but it makes it harder when considering the financial investment of traveling to and from these conferences. Being from New England the region deemed too expensive for Groups to host the big conferences there’s always lots of long travel involved. I know that often those general sessions are becoming accessible via live streaming these days. These are amazing conferences, and I’m bummed that I missed out on a chance to attend with my registration fee waived. The time of travel, and the cost of a hotel are a big part of what forced me to stay home. I know I made the right choice, but when I see my friends tweeting all of the great moments I’m missing, I know awesome things are happening, and these conferences have significant meaning.
I also think about the past two Open source youth ministry events that have happened here in the Boston area. Despite them being smaller, no “big time” recording artist leading worship, or touring drama groups heading up the general sessions I have discovered seminars that have been much more meaningful, thoughtful, challenging, and contextually appropriate to the life of doing ministry in New England. The connections that I’ve made have been more meaningful because they are with people I am likely to run into again, and have more reasons to stay connected together. It is clear that people in our area are hungry for what an event like this has to offer compared to the flashy nationally branded events that are often too cookie-cutter to fit into the quirky nature of small church ministry where there are fewer paid youth workers, and little to no training budgets in most churches. The past two years, it has been these events that are huge highlights of my year, and have had equal, if not greater impact on me in my life of ministry.
“What if” …. We could put the strengths of these two styles of youth ministry conferences together? The simulcast format seems to be a thriving way for people to be part of great conferences and training with little to no travel involved. What would it look like to combine the personal/practical impact of local open source seminars with the high energy and encouragement of the general sessions from the big national conferences? Any dreamers/schemers want to put our heads together on this?
Am I just getting too carried away with this? Like whoever created the Bacon Bowl? (which, btw, should have been marketed “Bakin’ Bowl” to represent its ability to bake anything, while still highlighting bacon… but I digress) My worry is that any attempt to combine the blessings of both of these types of events would end up canceling out some of their strengths in the process. Like a TV character science nerd who wants to create a dog-opus. But then I think of the Labradoodle – which became the perfect blend of a poodle’s non-allergenic hair and the pleasant personality of a Labrador. Maybe I should just leave well enough alone. Maybe I need to get a dog….
What do you think?