FirstThird recap

I was not sure what to expect heading out to Minneapolis for the First Third conference at Luther Seminary.

JoPa productions hosted this event and did an excellent job in the planning, organization, structure, and purpose.

For starters, this conference was numerically limited intentionally, in order to foster closer community and nurture more intimate discussions.

It was also based around a fairly specific idea/purpose of theological dialogue in youth ministry.

To say it was an academic gathering would be a bit misleading, but there was certainly more focus on theology and higher education than other conferences I have been to.

The attendees were invited and encouraged to participate in the life of the seminary and interact with those students which made for a richer experience.

There were opportunities to embrace the surrounding community of the Twin Cities.

There were plenty of varied learning style included dialogue, group discussion, Q &A sessions, lecture series, worship experience, dinner groups, film study, and ministry presentations.

One could participate as much or as little as he or she choose, but additionally could actively participate via live blogging and tweets and other social media avenues.

The cost was inexpensive and covered most of the meals.

The leadership was down to earth and very approachable and accessible.

Unlike other conferences (names will not be included) there was not even a hint of superiority or celebrity status.

I was able to connect with some bloggers and like-minded youth workers and really spend quality time developing friendships.

I was also able to reconnect with mentors and inspirations such as Mike King, Andy Root, Tony Jones and feel supported and encouraged as I head back to the northeast.

Here is what I hope.

I hope that more affinity gatherings like this develop, focussed around various interests.

JoPo productions is an excellent resource for hosting an event, although I am not sure if they are limited to the Twin Cities.

JoPa productions

I hope that similar regional mini-conferences will emerge across the country.  Something like this would be perfect for the good folk in the northeast.

I hope that the big national youth ministry conferences will focus less on name appeal and attractions and more on community.

I know some have experimented and now offer break out sessions, workshops and even “affinity” groups…and these are all good starts!

First Third  was an opportunity for like-minded youth workers to intentionally meet to learn, support, encourage, converse, network, etc…

I enjoyed simply meeting up with youth pastors and thinkers in unscripted, unguided, brutally honesty and risky conversations about faith, theology, life, and the interplay of those things with our youth ministry.

*Side thought as I sit here in Starbucks at the airport.

It would be great to have some form of national gathering of emerging youth workers to meet up for a few days to connect, read, reflect, converse, smoke a cigar or two, share meals, laugh, recreate, and help guide and shape the future of youth ministry.

We don’t need a conference, we simply need to get together.    We are attempting to have very small regional meeting times here in the metro NY area, but I would love to see one day it expand to difference regions and contexts as well.

I know what Jeremy Zach and I have been conversing on attempting this informal connection via the great World Wide Web, but perhaps one day it may lead to face to face encounters and a deepened sense of connectivity and support.

First Third was a great experience that I highly recommend attending if it is held again.

If not, talk with the fine people at JoPa productions about doing something where you are at and remember there is beauty and power and support in the intentionality of relationships.


the next generation of {youth} pastors


A few months back I attended two ministry conferences, and what a difference I saw between them!

One was the Youth Specialties NYWC convention and the other was my denomination’s district prayer conference.

Besides the enormous contrast in ages,  I noticed a great deal of differences between the two conferences and the “ministers” who attended.

I really am against over generalizations and stereotyping, yet….

At the district conference, the pastors carried their Bibles, did not laugh at certain jokes, only seemed to talk about theology and church ministry, prayed long and doctrinally soaked prayers, and to be brutally honest, just did not seem to have fun or enjoy their time (in my opinion)

There were other noticeable differences that probably just come with age. The preferred style of worship music and lack of understanding new technology were just two. Can you imagine that some pastors there didn’t even know what a blog was!

I thought to myself “Self, if that is what my future in ministry is going to look like, then I am out”

Also, I wondered if that was what I needed to become in order to fit in and be a “real pastor” one day.

And when do I start wearing loafers and sweaters over cotton shirts?

I like my shorts, baseball hat,  zip up sweatshirts and iphone!


OK, now that you think I am bashing pastors, I will admit that when I got to know these men, I learned a great deal from them and found myself challenged and inspired in faith and ministry.

These are wonderful men of God who, although very different from me, have a genuine love for God and love for his Church. This I respect and admire greatly.

Clearly I am not writing about fashion statements, but I do wonder what the next 10-30 years of ministry will look like as the current generation of youth pastors transition out and a new generation phases in.

What will this new generation be like?  They are probably the kids with ADHD in your Jr. high group right now. Scary, right?

What roles and expectations will we put on them and what will they think of us when attending a prayer conference in the year 2020?

It is kind of scary to think that we are the next generation of pastors!  What will we be like 20 years from now as “Senior pastors”.

Will our humor change?

Will we wear loafers?

Will our youth pastors look at us and think the same things we often think now about our senior pastors?

Obviously, with age comes cultural differences.  If we try to act like our high school students or buy certain clothes or trends to fit in, then something is amiss.  So, I don’t think our senior pastors need to necessarily like David Crowder, blog, or wear clothes from the GAP.

But I do think there is a need for them to understand where we are coming from, what makes us tick, to give us certain freedom in our ministries, and to understand the importance of mentoring and relational ministry.

20 years from now, we will be old (at least in the eyes of young youth pastors).  On the outside, we will probably not fit in or look cool.  But youth pastors should feel comfortable in our presence, eager to learn from us, and knowing that we fully support them in whatever God is doing (as crazy as some of their ideas may be!)

Stay tuned for Part 2: Youth Pastors make the best senior pastors.