Changes for NYWC in 09?

Regarding YS conventions, I continue to meet youth workers by the dozens who are struggling to do ministry in the “chosen frozen” of the Northeast. Metro NYC and New England to be exact. As you can notice from the recent Presidential election, there North East is very similar in its ideologies, philosophies, worldviews, and perception of religion..especially “Born Again Christians”

Often, they fellow youth workers share similar frustrations with these type of conventions in that there is no voice from from the Northeast. The ministry and societal realities in the rest of the country are MUCH different than the Northeast (even southern NJ and Philly are different).

The concept of Christian clubs at public high schools is foreign, See you at the Pole is not a highly favored, attended, or welcomed event, and the idea of a “youth pastor” hanging around the locals schools and parks seems kind of creepy and scandalous to many.

So I propose that YS offer a forum for discussion or a seminar about the difficulties, struggles, and hopes of youth ministry in the North East and what it could mean for the future of youth ministry across the board.

What works in other parts of the country simply does not work here.
Also, for the vast majority of youth workers in the North East, they will never have a big budget, big youth room, and hundreds of students and volunteers. We do not have a culture of Christianity or youth ministry and I do not see that changing anytime in the near future.
That is just the way it is..and it does not have to be frowned upon or looked at with discouragement anymore. Perhaps God is doing something new in the North East that will help transition youth ministry into the coming postmodern culture.

Usually the trend in the past (if they have previously attempted something like this) is to find someone from the biggest youth program in the are and label them the “expert”.

Speakers like that (even if from the Northeast) still leave me thinking “But that is not like my church at all”, or thinking that the bigger the program and church the better. (which i happen to disagree with at some levels) Often, the end result once again is that we end up leaving more frustrated and discouraged with our own context and situation than before.

My other though about possible additions/changes to the National Youth Workers Convention for 2009 is to somehow putting flesh on the bones of “emerging” theology and thinking in the realm of youth ministry in a traditional church.

For most of us who find solidarity with much of the this emergent type of thinking and ministry, going out to start a new church is not an option or desire. Yet, many of the speakers have done that or are simply authors, and no longer in the “trenches” of denominational church youth programs.

Over my six years attending, I have seldom met a seminar speak who is also engaged (as I am in) in the thick of youth ministry.  Many times, they oversee large number of volunteers who actually do the youth ministry, or again they might be youth ministry authors or professors.

When was the last time you saw a convention speaker also sit in with his or her staff for the rest of the seminars or browse through the resources in the exhibit hall looking for new ideas.

Personally, an elitism seems to permeate many of these conventions, and therefore it makes it hard for me to really find commonality with many of the speakers. A lack of commonality often can lead away from inspiration and hope and towards isolation, envy, and discouragement. I know that is not Youth Specialities intentions.

I do appreciate the number of speakers who have take time to meet with me, dialog about ministry and family, and offer their friendship to me (and not just their business card and discount on their book!)

So..I propose YS finds your everyday normal youth pastor to lead some seminars for the vast majority of these attendees who are and always will be serving at some small local church.

Additionally, some seminar entitled “finding ways to transition from traditional youth ministry to emerging ministry without having to leave your church!” could be attractive and inspiring, especially if delivered from somone who is still in the process of trying to figure out what that looks like in his or her context (not an “expert”).


5 thoughts on “Changes for NYWC in 09?

  1. Dude, great thoughts. Did you fill out an eval form for Tic?

    BTW, we do have a discussion/forum site. Check it out,

    Thanks man. Yes, I actually have been speaking with Tic Long about some possibly changes/additions to these conventions, both in terms of regional (North East) voices and practical implications and applications of emerging youth ministry within the local church context.

  2. You know I am on this train, doing youth ministry in New England/Suburban NYC is just a different animal. Nothing made that more clear than when I was in Oklahoma City for a couple of months this past summer. I helped out in a couple of youth ministries who did the same stuff as us but had 500 students coming out. All the schools had no Wednesday night activities so churches could do their youth programs, it was a different world. A mega church there is 10000, here its 1000. I visited about 5 churches or so, most of them had multiple staff members for youth. Here is what worries me though, will they someday look like us? Is New England and Suburban NYC somehow on the front end of this and they will be fighting to make youth ministry work in 10 years the way we are now? Maybe everything we are doing, working through, fighting with will be able to help the rest of the world in 10 years. Just a thought.

    I tend to think that we are Mark! It is frightening to be a trail blazer and attempting to navigate unchartered territory. I think that we can probably learn a great deal from our brothers and sisters in the UK who have seen the affects of postmodernity effect church and ministry over the past 10-25 years.

  3. I think your comments are right on. But I would add that there is also a theological ghetto: it is obvious that YS (and Group for that matter) realize their biggest market is evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, so that is who they play to. It is ironic that YS has been in the thick of the Emergent movement, but often chooses to play it safe with speaker choices and publishing decisions.

  4. My name is Mark Helsel and I have taught seminars at YS for the last six years and I am just everyday joe youth pastor. I take my volunteers and staff and sit in the main sessions and I walk the exhibit hall looking for new ideas.

    We are out there.

    Good to know Mark. I will be looking for you at one of these conventions. Glad to hear that YS has this on the radar. Keep up the good work. -dan

  5. I hear your desire and am working on NYWC 09 to better meet those needs.

    Have you seen our plans for Open Space Saturday at NYWC ’09? I think you will like this concept as a way to leverage the collective wisdom of the youth ministry community rather than a select few “experts”. Let me know your thoughts.

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