Tag Archives: youth ministry

NYWC Atlanta 2012: Part 1

17 Nov

There’s nothing like a National Youth Workers Convention to jump-start my blogging!  So, I will once again attempt to record my thoughts, observations, and notes here…should anyone be interested in reading them.

I came a day early for the pre-convention spiritual retreat, “Coming Home: An Invitation to Rest in God” led by Mark Yaconelli.  This also gives me a chance to scout the lay of the land before the rest of our group comes up tomorrow.

This is the first time I’ve been to an NYWC in Atlanta that wasn’t at the World Congress Center.  At first I was very disappointed in the new location of the conference, but once I got here I fell in love with it!  The Atlanta Marriott Marquis is beautiful, well laid-out, and has great access to plenty of food options that are reasonably priced.  In fact, I can walk from the parking garage to the hotel to the Peachtree Center Mall without ever stepping foot outside!  I can see definite advantage in having the conference in the hotel!  It takes 30 seconds to get up to my room!

Now…on to more weighty matters.  My first day of retreat was very meaningful.  The Lord has spoken to me and revealed to me some deep things about myself.  We spent the day exploring the idea of “coming home,” with God being the one who is always “at home” in our lives.  We are the prodigals who wonder away and need to come back home to the Father.  We explored our childhood memories of home, we wrestled with the deep fears and longings of our hearts, and we laid ourselves bare to Jesus’ loving attention.   I really can’t write any more on this until I have some time to sit with it.

Finally, let me say that I’m thankful the bookstore wasn’t actually open for purchasing anything.  I gave it a very thorough look over, and if I could buy anything right now, I’m sure I’d blow a small fortune!  There are so many great resources and books there for student ministry and personal growth.  So, I’m now going to spend some time narrowing down my selections!  Tomorrow is going to be great!

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Recognize Your Roots

28 Nov

This blog is a long time in development, thanks to my constant distraction by a little person who has taken up residence in our house.  😉  But, better late than never!

You know the old expression, “You can’t go home again”?  Well, back in September, I did just that!  I enjoyed having the honor of preaching on “Homecoming Sunday” at the church where I grew up.  It was more than a little surreal riding into that parking lot in the back seat of my parents’ car…the only thing that would have made it even more nostalgic would be a good old-fashioned Sunday morning argument between my brother and me.  But once I stepped into the church building, it became clear that this wasn’t a trip back in time.

Seeing your childhood church through adult eyes is a sobering experience.  I haven’t been inside that building in 15 years.  It seemed smaller to me.  There were many welcome updates to the facilities, bringing it into the 21st century.  Many of the old feautres I remember were no longer there…the old 1950’s water fountain downstairs, the bamboo-print curtains in the men’s bathroom that acted as toilet stall “doors,” and the old memeograph machine.  But what trully suprised me where the things that hadn’t changed…namely the people.  I saw men and women who played such crucial parts in my childhood and adolescent faith formation.  Sunday School and VBS teachers, RA leaders (Royal Amabassadors, a Southern Baptist missions organization for boys), Deacons, and other men and women who simply loved and supported me and encouraged me in my calling to the ministry.

This church was the place I accepted Christ as my Savior, was baptized, embraced God’s calling on my life, was liscensed to preach and ordained into the ministry.  I preached my first sermon there, taught my first class, was incharge of my first church-related event, and held my first church job.  It’s because of one summer spent as an interim youth minister that I’m in youth ministry today!  This was, as they say, where it all began!

And to be back there after all these years, married and with a baby just a few weeks away…was more than a trip down memory lane.  It was an opportunity to revisit my roots, to see where I came from, to remember the formative years of my faith, and to say “Thank You” to those whom God used to teach me the basics of His word, and the power of His love.

But it was also, I believe, an important trip for the people at that church.  How often do Christian men and women poor their time, energy, heart, and tithes into the lives of children and youth and never see the fruit of their labors?  How many times have I as a youth minister wondered whether I was making any difference?  How rewarding is it for me to see my students continue to grow in their faith development and remain faithful to the local church through college and beyond?  How powerful is it when a former youth enters the ministry or even comes back home to become a youth worker?  Well, the people of my childhood church were able to see exactly that.   And it was an affirming and rewarding experience to be able to thank them and relate to them that they were in deed making a difference.

What about you?  Where do you trace back your spiritual roots?  Who were the men and women who believed in you, who saw something in you you couldn’t even see in yourself, who dared to trust you enough to give you a pulpit for a Sunday or entrust you with a church van and 14 kids for the first time? 

I encourage you to find the time to visit those people, to return to your spiritual “birthplace” and thank those people.  Let them share in the joy of your labors, tell them stories of lives changed through your ministry, laugh (and cry) about old times, and dream about the future.  It will be a blessing to you and to them.  And maybe, just maybe, down the road some young person will seek you out and do the same!