NYWC 2010…afterthoughts from Nashvegas

*A view of Broadway highlighting the gems of Nashville: “Jack’s” BBQ, Legends Corner, and The Stage

As habit, and a way of justifying procrastination, I chose not to blog about the National Youth Workers Convention until after it concluded.
it gives me time to process, reflect, and decompress
Also, i am prone to make calls too early.  Over the years I have learned you cannot always judge a book by its cover (or the first few days of a conference)

Thus….one day after I returned from NYWC 2010 in Nashville, here are some thoughts…

1) The convention seemed to be smaller than years in the past.  This is my 9th year attending. This year seemed to lack something, but it could just be me. I would imagine for 1st timers, it was great.

I agree with Mike King that compared to last year, with all the confusion and uncertainity surrounding everything, this year seemed back on track.

Mike King- \”Back from Nashville\”

2) There were no free give-aways on the seats in the general sessions which I usually like but also end up weighing down my bag and suitcases in the end.

*I attribute both of these changes to the decline in the economy

3) There was an emphasis and focus on soul care (prayer, sacred space, and pastoral counseling)

These are extremely important and perhaps the best aspect for me this time around.

I will admit that I missed the Labyrinth Experience and also Jeff Johnson and Vesper services.

4) The exhibit hall was packed, every ministry and organization trying to get ahead and sell more curriculum or mission trips. Friend and blogger Paul Sheneman mentions in his blog;  “It is called an exhibit hall and not an exhibition hall.  The later can get you into some serious trouble:)  Enough said.

The balance of my thoughts will focus on #5 and #6

5)

What I noticed the most was the de-emphasis of progressive ideology, theologically based seminars, and topics/speakers who could rattle the cages…or at least offer different perspectives.

Youth Specialties encouraged us to attend seminars that we may not agree with, yet offered a low amount of topics, themes, or speakers towards that end.  I suppose Tony Campolo’s views of social justice may be uncomfortable to some, but he has been advocating for that for almost a decade.  Ted Haggard generated much stir, but that was more due to his unintended remarks about Muslims than anything else.

Some former speakers and presenters were glaringly absent, some had minimized roles,  and others were actually in attendance but not asked to speak or teach ( i think it will write a separate post on this later)

6)

I remember writing about the Zondervan and Youth Works transition last year and was privileged to speak with Paul Bertleson and John Potts  of Youth Works (both very gracious and great men) and shared personal concerns and hope for the new regime and things to come.

One of my observations has been over the past few years I notice the same youth ministry “veterans” leading a majority of the seminars.
I respect their life-long commitment to student ministry.  I really do.

However, they are a product of their time and their culture. and in my opinion their time has passed.

Most no longer work directly with students, and many have not lead a church-based youth ministry for over 20 years. I wonder how they empathize with the daily struggles of youth works and today’s culture of teenagers. How are they working within the current framework of postmodernity, budget cuts, suicidal teens, and debates about inclusiveness, tolerance, and affirmation.

Statistical research and cultural analysis only tells one story.
The daily working with and for adolescence is a whole other ball game

But I do believe these veterans have a purpose and roll.  My stated hope was and is for youth ministry veterans to come alongside younger and emerging youth workers to mentor them personally and spiritually, not so much professionally.  I would love to have a ministry veteran of 30 years coach me in life, faith, marriage.  They have been through struggles and the ups and downs of life and youth ministry.  I just don’t soak in their expertise now as it relates to working with kids in my context.  I love their experience but honestly question their relevance, and trust me countless of youth workers feel the same way (but they just might not get in trouble for writing about it)

Having shared my views last year….what did we find this year…..even more 50+ youth workers on prominent display.  I do realize there is a growing trend of older youth workers and seeing this bunch serves as inspiration and examples, but what about all the younger youth workers?

Y.S and Youth Works….there is no need to eliminate or ostracize that segment, but please be intentional about creating time, space, and platforms for the next generation. They need a voice and need support.

The conversations I had apart from the convention with men and women who fully understand my situation and what we all are going through was far more helpful, supportive, and inspiring than most “how to” seminars.

I realize I am a product of my own experiences, growth, and maturation, yet also know from the hundreds of conversations I am having there is a ground swell of support away from the past traditionalism of youth ministry and towards a theologically driven dialogue and progressive youth ministry.

More and more small conference such as First Third, Evo Youth, and  Princeton Forum will be popping up and more youth workers will begin to opt for those smaller, but more intentional, focused and relevant gatherings.

I noticed plenty of  affinity gatherings at NYWC covering every single facet of youth workers, except emergent/progressive/theological ones.  Interesting.

There was even something for small town rural part-time workers living in Nebraska, (or something like that) but none targeted for emerging leaders.

*There were a few select seminars that I will mention in a later post that I recommended and was glad to see offered, but they represented a striking minority.

These larger all-in-one conferences can remain relevant to broader audiances by offering more types of seminars, gatherings, and intention ways to connect and network.

Secondly, regional and strategic seminars and affinity gatherings would fill a big void and serve a great purpose for localize and contextual teaching/training, support, networking and relevant cultural conversations.

(I will also write more about that later and address it to the Chosen Frozen here in the Northeast)

In recap, one year later from the “merge”,  I don’t see much in the way of progression, safety perhaps, but not the progressive, forward thinking vision I have been used to with Y.S

And quite honestly, I am wondering if the departure of Marko is the reason, or if  Youthworks is intentionally moving in a different direction.  (and that’s okay if you are, just kind of let us know….)

YS has always been known to push the envelope, provide a platform for those who have none, and taken chances in hopes of leading the church towards relevance, progression, and a new future

While I agree that they are back on track, it seems to me they are on slow train backwards.  I sincerely hope I am wrong.

This blog is not meant to criticize, though I realize that some may be offended (I offer my apology in advance to you)

I love YS and the guys at Youthworks.  I mean that with all sincerity. I am a big fan.  I am hoping for the best but also realize the longings of so many youth workers.  I want to see this marriage stay together.

I enjoyed the conference and still would recommend it to most.

I liked the Soul care, networking and connections made.  The best conversations on theology, youth ministry were organic and took place over dinner, and during our own “late night” options (thanks again to Sparkhouse)

But with trepidation, I wonder how long before the remnant of emerging youth workers disengage or dissociated themselves from YS  and the NYWC.

I remain committed to YS but sincerely hope to see progression ahead.

Recap:

For what it’s worth (perhaps not much) here is what I would like to see next year, and I know that I also speak for hundreds of youth workers:

1) Emergent/postmodern track (call it something else if those terms are scary)

2) Academic/Theological track

3) Seminar or affinity gathering for the Northeast

4) Feature more women in seminars and main sessions, not just talking about sex or working with middle school girls

5) Offer contextual mini-conferences in strategic geographic regions

And hey, if the powers to be from Youthworks and YS would like to chat…I’m all ears because I believe in you guys and the potential

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Immerse Journal

I wanted to share just a few thoughts about the new Immerse Journal for youth workers.

Immerse Journal home page

I have been waiting for a publication like this for quite some time, and have been encouraged and inspired so far by what I have read.

For those of who unaware of Immerse, here is some brief information on it.

A note from Chris Folmsbee regarding Immerse:

“Each article is meant to help youth workers in whatever context they might find themselves working to help guide students into spiritual formation for the mission of God.  Immerse is about providing youth workers with theologically robust, soul-caring and genuinely practiced tools for contextualizing the mission of God. ”

He could not have said that any better, and three issues from it birth, Immerse has proven itself true to its vision and hopes.

What I have discovered in Immerse is new ideas, theological insights, spiritual direction and formation, and an emphasis on historical and ecumenical Christianity rooted in biblical narrative of missio Dei (the mission of God)

What I also have appreciated is that under the guidance of Chris and the executive director Mike King, Immerse is providing a voice for new thinkers and youth workers.  While I have always appreciated the “experts” speaking into youth ministry issues, it has long been an issue of mine that those individuals are “the” voice of youth ministry.  They are the ones who speak at conferences and, until now, they are the ones writing for all the youth ministry magazines and books.  I get it.  They have years of experience and wisdom and we can learn a great deal.  But what about younger, fresher voices?  There has not been a platform for the unseen youth workers until Immerse jumped into the seen.

Sure, Immerse has and will continue to seek input from veterans (as they should), but will also provide all types of youth workers and thinkers a voice.  In the past few years, I have met numerous young youth workers who have amazing theological insights to youth ministry.  Some have collaborated on some writing with me and others I hope to work with in the future.  Though less “experienced” than even myself, these men and woman understand contemporary teen culture and the interplay of contextual Christianity and, I also believe represent where youth ministry is heading in the future.

Immerse, and youth ministry leaders such as Chris and Mike are progressive, forward thinking, yet still grounded and rooted in historical and biblical Christianity.  I appreciate them as friends and as believers in the emerging generation of youth workers.  They believe in the Church, the future of youth ministry, and the hope and dream of God for the world.

Immerse is a good read for youth workers of all types, and finally ones who are really interested in the interplay of theology and youth ministry.

Our theology influences and impacts how and why we minister to teens. It helps determine what we teacher, how we teacher, what kind of environment we hope to create, the type of faith community we strive to build with our teens, why we do “missions” or service trips, and what we hope to accomplish while on them.

This past year I attended a conference in MN focussing on this same interconnectedness.  You can read my thoughts here

First Third

A note about Mike King

Mike King is the CEO of Youth Front Youthfront and author of Presence-Centered Youth Ministry.  Presence Centered Youth Ministry

*This book sets the bar for creating a theological and historical foundation for God’s presence in youth ministry.  The book shows how classic disciplines, symbols, and practices can shape the worldviews, virtues, and habits of young people today.    “If Brother Lawrence had been a youth pastor, this book would have been his favorite resource.” – Kendra Dean

How to get a free copy of Relationships Unfiltered and partner with Andrew Root

Friends and fellow youth workers

Below is a note from a good friend of mine and excellant youth ministry thinker and resource Andrew Root. I have known Andy for a few years now, read all of his books, and had the privledge of attending the First Third conference and being a guest on his radio show.  He knows what he is talking about and his insights into teen culture, faith, and Christianity have both inspired and shaped my own ministry with my students.

From Andrew……

“Hello Youth Ministry friends, I’m sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading, but I have broken transmission to offer you an opportunity.

I wanted to get before you the chance to get a free copy of my book Relationships Unfiltered. As the new school year approaches and you think about volunteer leader meetings and trainings I would like to suggest you take a look at Relationships Unfiltered. It’s written just for this setting with discussion questions and chapters filled with illustrations and stories–but also promises to get you and your team thinking theologically about your core practice this coming school year: forming relationships with young people.

Here’s what I can do: If you’ll email me (aroot@luthersem.edu) I’ll send you a free copy of the book so you can look it over and decide if it would be of help to you and your volunteers.  If you’re interested in using it you can then go to Zondervan.com or Zondervan.com/ministry and type in the code 980752 in the “source code” box.  Starting August 1 this will give you a 40% discount on as many books as you’d like.

And I’ll also offer this, if you do use the book with your team, I’m willing to do a select number of skype or ichat conversations with you and your team after getting through the book.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I hope you will take him up on this offer, or at the least, look up his resources and see if they can be useful for your own personal development and ministry.  I have used this particular book with my leaders and it is extremely valuable for both full-time youth pastors and volunteer leaders.

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.

FirstThird days 2 & 3

Day 2

Ok, I must admit that I slept in Tuesday AM.  But..from what I heard it was a great morning!

There was a coffee and conversation time with Rollie Martinson followed by a lecture from Kendra Dean on the importance of youth work.

In the afternoon, Tony Jones lead another table talk time with Andy and Kenda focussing on Andy’s theological project and premise of hope in despair. Kenda’s discussion on passion was facilitated by Doug Pagitt.

There was plenty of group participation and collective brainstorming around these issues.

*Interesting note, that Tony specifically asked the audience of youth workers to give a concrete example of their theology in action, namely what is one particular thing that we do because of our theology?

No one raised a hand in response!

It seems we have moved so far away from programmatic youth ministry that we are afraid to admit if we still play games, do retreats, lead mission trips, etc…

As a side note, I personally believe that programs and traditional structure in youth ministry can still work, they just have to be contextualized and theologically thought through more than presently.  We cannot, nor should not, base our programs from a book we read or simply because we used to do that while we were in youth group.

It is imperative that we critically ask the question, “Why are we doing this?” and what is this…. (insert name of activity or program)  saying about our theology and what we believe the gospel to be?

The creators of First Third had a brilliant idea for dinner.  They sent out 10 discussion groups to 10 different restaurant locations around the Twin Cities. Each group had a host (conversational facilitator) and a guided theme.  The cost of the meal was included in the registration.

The topics diverged as much as the choice in food.  I choice to link up with a fellow blogger and heck of a guy Jake Bouma at a burger and beer joint called The Bulldog  The Bulldog

12 of us sat around a table with some great food and beverages discussing theological questions and concerns that have come up in our youth ministry, or our own personal journeys.

It was fascinating to hear the many different perspectives and views represented across the table. Not to mention that the Rooster burger was heavenly!

In no other conference would this mixture of youth workers gather together for community.

I ended the night with two other youth pastors at a cigar lounge where we discussed the future of youth ministry (what will the issues be ten years from now?, just how contextual does youth ministry need to be?, what will our roles in church be reformer or revolutionary?)

Day 3

The last day began with (I suppose you could call it a presentation) on Spark house and their new innovative approach to rethinking confirmation.

Sparkhouse resourcing

I was very impressed with their vision, as well as resources and would recommend checking it out.  Even if you do not teach a formal confirmation class, it is one of the better holistic, creative, sensory, and theological “disciplship” resources I have seen.  You will want to check out Re:Form curriculum @  Re:Form

You will also want to check out some of their innovative teaching and discussion starter videos @ Sparkhouse videos

FirstThird attendees all then participated in chapel at Luther Seminary and I was blessed by the message from Kenda Dean, the worship, the hymns, and the holy Eucharist.

Kenda then presented Lecture #2 on the translating of our faith across generations. She offered some profound and inspirational thoughts on what it could mean to share our faith in both word and deed in the way that invited all to participate and receive.

Some rules for translation:

The best translators are people not programs

Translation works best in community

Translation can threaten those in charge

Through her talk, she both challenged and encouraged us to “Imagine the world as though the kingdom of God is at hand”, and to “Imagine the world is better than it is and live as though it were possible!”

Kenda posed the question, what if our job is not to convince young people that Jesus is alive but rather to live like it?

Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after our taco buffet lunch and missed the last discussion session, but I am sure that the Twitter feed and #1st3rd will fill me in.

I will write up a brief recap and final thoughts later.

Updates from Dan

Greetings!  (I love saying that word…it seems so…I don’t know….old school European or something)

Anyways, I wanted to write a quick update on my writings.  I will be taking a short 3 month break or so from my personal writings and thoughts while I work on the upcoming book project God is Loud.

I do have some interesting thoughts and blogs in the making including the following categories

Youth Ministry/Personal:

Why I stopped witnessing

Spread too thin?

You never know who will walk through your doors

Lessons learned from college football

A fresh up of inspiration

Actions speak louder than words (and often beliefs)

Book reviews:

Sustainable Youth Ministry

Presence Centered Youth Ministry

The Blue Parakeet

The Youth Ministry Survival Guide

and…the “Shift” series parts 8-10.

So stayed tuned ladies and gentlemen for those posts plus many more in our next episode.

However, the exciting news is that I will be switching gears for a bit and using this blog as a springboard, launching point, and collaborative laboratory for the God is Loud project.

I am working on a time-table and talking with Chris Folmsbee and Barefoot about deadlines, but hopefully this will be finished around graduation time (making for a great gift for your seniors…they don’t have to know it was free!)

I hope to post one chapter at a time and then for around two weeks get input, examples, writings, etc.. from youth workers.  We will then process them all and use what we can (while taking every thought into consideration) and expand and edit the chapter until completed.

In order not to confuse things, I will refrain from posting my usual writings and articles.  However, if and when articles are published, I will simply add a link to those.

I will be out in the Twin Cities, attending the First Third conference held at Bethel Seminary.  Andrew Root, Kendra Dean, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Mike King and others will be on hand leading the discussions of theological foundations and implications for the future of youth ministry.  Should be great!  I will hopefully post a few blog updates from my time out there, and after that will be posting the God is Loud materials.

So there you have it.

Thanks for your support, partnership, and participation in the months to come.

Emerging youth pastors unite

Below is a recent post from my friend Jeremy Zach.  Youth Pastor gone mad

He lives and serves out in CA and also is the founder of a new, innovative, and progressive training resource for youth pastors.  ReYouthpastor

We have been in dialog and discussion over the past few months about the emerging trends of contextual youth ministry, as well as our common frustrations with the current trend of traditional models and approaches.  We are like-minded and share a similar passion and vision for the future of youth ministry and for the hope of spiritual formation of students (especially postmodern and “unchurched”).

We also believe there are many, many more like-minded youth pastors and youth leaders out there.

This is the post and perspective of Jeremy Zach, one of the many emerging voices….

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My youth pastor blogging friend Dan Haugh over at www.emergingyouth.wordpress.com and I have been talking about somehow uniting  progressive youth pastors across the web.

Obviously, there is a stark polarity in the brands and breeds of youth pastor bloggers.  It is not rocket science detecting what youth pastors are pressing the envelope and what youth pastors don’t have a clue.  In my assessment the progressive youth pastor population is slim.  My point is that there are very few youth pastor 3.0.

The problem is:  the youth pastor 3.0 doesn’t have healthy outlets and networks where they can contribute ideas without getting called a heretic, an emotional basket case, and an outcast.  The youth pastor 3.0 needs spaces and platforms.  Of course, we have blogging which literally turns into a brutal UFC fight and only leaves the youth pastor 3.0 more pissed off with some blood on his/her knuckles.  Trust me, I am talking from a lot of youth pastor blogger brawling experience.

Even though I like pretending to be a tough guy on the web, there needs to be arenas and avenues for unchurched youth pastors to play and articulate their heretical ideas about youth ministry.

Possible steps to obtaining a youth pastor 3.0/emerging web network:

1.  Assemble youth pastor affinity networks all across the web that represents the geological landscape of the USA youth ministry.

–  I really like what firstthird.org is doing.  I really wish I could go and be apart of that, but times are tough.  Firstthird is a dialogue, at Luther Seminary with Dr. Root and Dr. Kenda Dean,about theology in youth ministry.

2.  Identify and clarify who are the youth pastors 3.0 blogging on the web

–  I wrote what I think are the themes of a new emerging 3.0 youth pastors here and here .  Here is a brief list of:  average youth ministry dudes and dudettes that I think get it:

http://www.adamlehman.us/wordpress/

https://emergingyouth.wordpress.com/

http://mattcleaver.com/

http://www.rethinkingyouthministry.com/

http://www.jakebouma.com/

http://www.jonjolly.com/

http://ministryallies.com/

http://pomomusings.com/

Feel free to make any recommendations…..

3.  Brainstorms what a web network would look like for emerging youth pastors.  There has to be more out there….

Back to Dan…..

We would love to hear from you and continue to progress this discussion in the months to come.  The future is bright so its time to unite (hope you like my feeble attempt at cheesy cliches!)

YouthWorks takes over YS

As many of you already knew, there had been a strange brew mixing over the past month or so with Youth Specialties.  I recently wrote about the “letting go” of long-time YS president Mark Oestreicher and I, like many of you, assumed more changes would be shortly arriving.    The release of YS Marko

A few days ago, I was attending NYWC 2009 (The National Youth Workers Convention) in Atlanta.  The president of Zondervan Moe Girkins, who made the decision to fire Marko, was brought up on stage to clear up the air,,, so to speak.  Silence pervaded the gathering.  Pins could even hear themselves drop.

Moe really didn’t answer why that particular decision was made, but she did share about Zondervan’s relationship with YS and its vision for the future.  I appreciated the boldness and courage that it took for her to stand in a room of 3,000 youth workers (many of them still pissed off) and explain herself.  I give her much credit.

Then the ball dropped that YS would in fact be purchased by a non-profit organization called YouthWorks. They invited their president Paul Bertelson to come on stage and share briefly their history and vision for this new partnership.

The audience again was stunned, partly due the fact that the convention had just begun and also that very few people have heard of Paul Bertelson.  Here is a brief overview of YouthWorks:

YouthWorks

When YouthWorks was founded in 1994 as a youth missions organization, our dream was to be a broader resource for the church—to “Help the Church Be the Church.”

Over the past 16 years, the YouthWorks ministry has become a family of ministries serving children, youth, college students and mult-generational groups.

The addition of Youth Specialties to the YouthWorks family of ministries is a wonderful complement to our long-term ministry vision and mission. We are excited about this new stage in the ministry life of YouthWorks and Youth Specialties! —Paul Bertelson           President & Founder, YouthWorks

Now, within a few hours, I had contacted a few friends who are well connected in youth ministry and they assured me that this is probably a good thing….Certainly finanicially and very possibly for spiritual/ministry/growth implications as well.

I have also included 2 brief tweets on the subject.

Andrew Root (@rootandrew) wrote:

“The YouthWorks thing is good news to me. That cheer you hear is from Luther Sem as MN becomes more the center of the future of the church.”

Tony Jones (@jonestony) wrote:  (I will also link his blog article about the news at the end of the post…very good insights)

“Having helped found YouthWorks, I think they’ll do a great job with Youth Specialties.”

For what its worth, here is my $.02 (that would be two cents in case you didn’t follow)

I love YS.  I started reading YS material over 10 years ago and have been attending the NYWC conventions since 2003.  They have revolutionized the way I think and do youth ministry.  From its beginning, YS tried to do 3 things:

Ideas. Publishing. Events.

It’s hard to do all those things well and maintain enough financial stability to keep yourself afloat.

If YS tanks it, then we all loose out, right?

A few years back (maybe 4-5) Zondervan came in to buy/parter with YS for its publishing.   This has certainly helped YS to market its authors, resources,  books and curriculums to a far greater audience.

Now, YouthWorks comes in and takes over the Events.   I assume this will include the NYWC and One-day training.  Perhaps they will expand events or go in the opposite direction.

Either way, this leaves YS to do what it first did and does well.  Create and Innovate Ideas for youth workers.

It also now gives a youth ministry/mission organization a chance to step in and help rethink the purpose of events.

Personally, I have been thinking about these events for a few years and wondering if some changes and updates were needed.  Not sure what, but I sensed that something needed changing.

I have heard over the years that the cost was too much and distance too far, too much emphasis placed on youth min “celebs”, too much “for profit” marketing, too taxing for YS staff and trainers, etc…

I hope YouthWorks will consider these factors in its decisions and really actively listen to the needs and concerns of everyday youth workers and volunteers.

Already, a major shift has happened.  It looks like rather than holding 3 conventions a year (which has to cost a great deal of money), they will hold one next fall in Nashville.  So, there will truly be A National Youth Workers Convention.

Here are a few other suggestions I would like to propose (hey, you never know who may be reading)

Either do the once a year large Convention or hold smaller regional ones that youth pastors could bring their teams to.

I would love to see a similar but smaller version come up to the Northeast.  Maybe you don’t rent out the massive convention center in the biggest city, but you book all rooms and halls at a decent size hotel.  Keep the cost low and no flying necessary.  Youth for Christ holds its annual Excel conference in upstate NY by Albany and does a great job (although we don’t go anymore), but it would be great to have mid-sized 500+ conference for youth leaders.  YS used to get big name bands to come in for worship and shows and have already made the switch to local bands.  Rather then bringing in 6 nationally known speakers, you could bring in 1 “celebrity” and supplement them with local speakers/pastors/trainers/authors who actually understand the dynamics and complexities of your particular culture and context.

Secondly, and maybe what will happen, would be to offer affinity gatherings.

For instance, one year you want to connect, network, and learn about spiritual formation in youth ministry.  Everyone interested in that area (affinity) heads down to Kansas City and YS partners with Mike King and Chris Folmsbee (Youthfront and Barefoot) and the local youth ministries down there for a few days.

Andrew Root is already doing something similar at Luther Seminary this March.  The First Third conference is basically an academic affinity gathering looking into the theology of youth ministry.  People like Andrew Root, Tony Jones, and Kendra Dean will be there to help lead the dialog.

Perhaps an innovation/creativity gathering with the fine folks of North Point Community Church down in the Atlanta area.

Postmodern Youth Ministry connected with colleges or seminaries and youth groups either in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest.

Some could appeal to mega church youth ministries, while others may be perfect for average to small size groups.

As I often say, youth ministry here in the Northeast is vastly different from other places and it might be the same for you.

Therefore some form of regional and/or affinity gatherings may be the future of youth ministry, especially if you could do them in cost-effective ways (churches,hotels, colleges, local bands, speakers, etc…)

2 things are happening that are both necessitating and facilitating these changes:

1) Our economic situation is causing us to rethink and question if spending $1,000 for one person to attend a conference is a good thing and if paying $5,000 for a speaker or band is good stewardship.

2) We are part of a beautiful move of God and things are changing.  Change can be difficult but is often necessary to give birth to something new and wonderful.

After this major announcement I overheard someone at the conference say “Well, this is end of Youth Specialties.  Yaconelli is rolling in his grave right now.”

I’m not so sure.  I think this might be the beginning of something great, especially if YouthWorks makes efforts to to keep the innovation and prophetic voice of YS going.

From the press release  “Overall, Youth Specialties is a wonderful complement to the YouthWorks ministry. But, just as important, we hold dear the stewardship of the Youth Specialties legacy that is being passed on to us.”

Tony Jones\’ thoughts on acquisition

YS press release