Tag Archives: Youth Specialties

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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Great News on the YS front!

11 Jan

I was so glad to read the news that YouthWorks has brought Tic Long back into the Youth Specialties family this past week.  As many of you know, Youth Specialties has had a rough 18 months.  With the laying-off of so many of the key players, with YS being sold to a new company, many questioned whether this was the end of the YS we’ve all known, loved, and trusted.

I joined countless numbers of people in youth ministry who blogged about this.  And I’m happy to join another mass of bloggers in reporting this great news.

This development has answered some of the questions I raised in my previous blog entry, and has gone a long way in building trust with YouthWorks. 

In his blog, Walt Mueller had this to say about his impressions of YouthWorks and their handling of the “passing of the YS torch” (emphasis mine):

I’m grateful for the folks at Youthworks who have purchased Youth Specialties. Several months ago a small group of us had the opportunity to meet them, learn about their heart for ministry and plans for YS, and have them ask us questions about the YS that we all knew and loved. Three things impressed me about the folks at Youthworks. First, they have a real heart for Christ and His Kingdom. That was clear after meeting them personally, visiting their website, and hearing from people who have ministered with them over the years. It was very evident in their deep humility and maturity. Second, they are very wise. As I watched the process of purchasing YS unfold, I realized that I needed to watch carefully. I was being afforded an opportunity to learn from some people who were doing things right. And finally, they are people of prayer…

I encourage you to go to Walt’s blog and read the entire article.  Since most of us won’t have the opprotunity to sit and talk with the leadership of YW, we have to rely on those who have and will to help us understand our new partners in the world of youth ministry.  Of course, one of the greatest voices (especially on this issue) is that of Marko.  His blog on this is insightful and encouraging.  Please check it out.  And I’ll leave you with his closing words, a fitting benediction:

so join me in raising a toast and a prayer of thanks. three cheers and a prayer of blessing on tic as he re-begins. three cheers and a prayer of blessing on the leadership of youthworks for having the insight and humility to bring back a leader of such character, skill, and childlike wonder.

An Open Letter to YouthWorks

23 Nov

When a beloved organization or franchise changes hands and comes under new leadership, it can illicit a variety of responses.  Some react out of excitement, hope, and optimism for the future.  Others express great concern or even outright anger and hatred!  And there is certainly cause for both reactions.

Take for example, the movies Batman Begins (and The Dark Knight) and the new Star Trek movie.  These are such beloved franchises with dedicated (obsessed?) fans.  When Chris Nolan and JJ Abrams were announced as producing/directing new movies in these franchises and that they would bring their “take” on them, the reactions ran the gamut I mentioned above.  The fear?  Not that things would change.  Things needed to change in these tired, worn-out, campy movie franchises.  Or else new leadership wouldn’t have been needed.  The fear was that the new people in charge wouldn’t understand the soul  of Batman or Star Trek.

Now, I’m not implying that Youth Specialties was getting tired, old, or campy.  Far from it!  YS and all it ecompasses (including NYWC) are more on the cutting-edge of youth ministry and the emerging culture than ever!  Guys like Marko and Tic GOT IT.

But the fact remains…new leadership IS in place.  And for the National Youth Workers Convention, that means YouthWorks are the new directors and producers of our beloved franchise.  Do they GET IT?  Do they understand the Soul of YS, NYWC, and of youth ministers?  That remains to be seen.

So here is my “open letter” to YouthWorks about what I see as the “soul” of NYWC:

To Paul Bertleson and the leadership of YouthWorks,

First, you have my supportive prayers as you take-up the mantle of training, inspiring, celebrating, affirming, equipping, and resourcing the youth ministers and youth workers of God’s Church arround the globe.

Second, I will give you all the benefit of the doubt.  As a youth minister who came to a church on the heels of someone who was well loved and served there for 8 years, I understand the importance of giving the “new guy” a chance to shine and show us what he’s about.  I will give you space to be who YOU are as an organization and see the vision, personality, and uniqueness you bring to the table.

Finally, I want to express to you two hopes I have as you begin this journey with us, the YS family of youth workers.

  1. First, I hope that you will value those at YS who have a history with the organization, who have invested so much of themselves into it, and have shaped what it is today.  The current staff of YS are a brilliant, caring group of people who love Jesus, kids, and youth workers.  I’m sure the same is true for the staff of YouthWorks.  I only ask that the two staffs are melded together, and not approached with an “in the new, and out with the old” mentality.  I trust that will be so.
  2. Second, I hope that you will strive to understand and retain what I see as the SOUL of NYWC in particular.  This soul is unique among youth worker publishing and training companies.  There is something singular about YS that sets it apart.  YS has never settled for the status quo.  They’ve always had a way of rocking the boat, of being a prophetic voice, of stretching our hearts and minds, of challenging us to reacher higher, deeper, and farther.  I pray that NYWC doesn’t just become another “pep rally” for youth ministers or a platform for one particular approach or philosophy of youth ministry.  KEEP ON honoring the diversity of churches and youth ministry approaches.  KEEP ON inviting speakers who will challenge our presuppositions and stretch us.  KEEP ON providing space for youth ministers to be still, be quiet, and discover the rich heritage of contemplative and creative approaches to worship.  KEEP ON affirming and celebrating and loving on hurting youth workers.  That is the soul of the NYWC, of Youth Specialties.  And I pray it always will be.

Grace and Peace to you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  May you be blessed in the months and years to come with wisdom, clarity, and the opportunity to shine as stars for the Glory of God and benefit of His Kingdom.

A fellow youth worker and friend,
David Lambert

 

Reflections on 8 years of NYWC

22 Nov

This is my 8th time attending NYWC.  This event has become a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts to me.  I have grown so much spiritually, theologically, in youth ministry philosophy, and in methodology.  Every year at NYWC I experience some kind of paradigm shift or major growth.  In other words,  NYWC is a Game Changer.

My first year was in 2002 in Nashville with my wife.  I knew very little about Mike Yaconelli, YS, and the larger world of youth ministry.  Just attending that year changed my entire perspective on youth ministry.  I was with thousands of people dealing with the same issues and having the same heart for students as me!  And I was affirmed and celebrated for what I do and who I am.  That was life changing.

Other years have taught me about:

  • spiritual formation and contemplative practices (my own and for the students in our church),
  • creative ways to use video and technology in a church context (thank you John Falke for opening my world up to the wonders and fun of Photoshop!),
  • exposed me to authors and speakers whose wisdom and insight have lifted me to new levels of thinking, challenged my worldview, and formed my theology…people like Donald Miller, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Marko, and Mike Yaconelli.
  • equipped me with real-life, practical ideas that have infused my youth ministry with creativity and freshness.

There have been years where the Game Changer came in the form of a speaker (Louie Giglio’s talk on “I know I am not, but I know I AM” still informs much in my life), an idea from a seminar or just from walking around and observing, an experience like the Prayer Room or the Labyrinth, or from a Critical Concerns Course (Rob Bell and Mike King and Michael Novelli).

But this year is different.  Every year I’ve been to NYWC, I’ve always had my wife, and for the past 6 years I’ve brought a team of adult leaders–from 2 to 7!  But due to financial reasons, I was only able to come by myself this year.  I was more than bummed about that in the weeks and days leading up to it.  Not because I’m shy about meeting new people, but because it was going to make this year (an NYWC already filled with uncertainty and change) so different.

But that is what has given me this year’s Game Changer!  The theme of this year is simple: connections…relationships…collaboration…networking.  I have met more people from around the WORLD this year, people who love Jesus and kids like I do, people who struggle with the same issues I do!

In a way it’s come full circle from my first year;  except this time, I’m not the newbie.  It shocks me to think about this…but I’m the veteran!  At least as far as NYWC’s go! I have so enjoyed getting to me people, share ideas, laugh and pray together.  From eating dinner Thursday night with 15 total strangers, to connecting with them again throughout the weekend, to Open Space Saturday, to connecting on a deeper level with another youth minister from my town…I have experienced something I probably never would have if I had brought 8 people from my youth ministry.

So here’s to a new era in my approach to youth ministry–collaboration and networking, and hopefully becoming a part of the broader conversation.  Another life-changing year at NYWC.

NYWC Atlanta Day #1–Friday, November 20th

21 Nov

Day #1 for most NYWC attendees, but day #2 for me.  And what a long day it was.  Long, but very, very good.  It’s really late, so let me do an abbreviated blog.  I’ll start with a list of interesting things that happened today:

  • Breakfast at Starbucks with 2 new friends in youth ministry.  An unexpected blessing of having to attend by myself this year is all the opportunities to meet new people and develop friendships.  My heart for ministry really beats in rhythm with their hearts for ministry.  Great discussions.  Good coffee.
  • Part 2 of the Intensive Lab was fun, collaborative, and interactive.  Concluded with reflective, journaling, and artistic activities utilizing the Art Den and the Sanctuary.
  • Enjoyed Mid-day Prayer and Compline in the Sanctuary.  Got to visit briefly with Lilly Lewin and Mike King.  (Surprised and impressed that Mike remembered me from the Critical Concerns Course 2 years ago!  What a memory he has!)
  • Big Room #1 and #2–more fun and interactive than I think its been in the past.  Lanny Donnoho is a pretty good frontrunner for the show.  With him and house band, kinda feels like a Late Night-type show!  Not necessarily a bad thing.  But when it’s time for worship and the message, we are getting down to business.
  • Andy Stanley was amazing!  I’ll share some of his insights below.
  • Saxaphone-playing Guy from the audience also amazing!  Probably one of the biggest surprises from an attendee on stage I’ve seen in 7 years.  Kenny G, watch out!
  • Spent 1/2 has much in the YS Store–not because they don’t have good stuff this year, but because I’m trying to scale back my spending at this thing!
  • Covered 1/3 of the Exhibit Hall and loaded up on tons of freebies to give to our students (and a few for me).
  • Enjoyed bumping into new friends from Intensive Labs throughout the day, and worshipping with Matt Funk from FUMC in Thomson, and his wife.
  • And one last thing:  “Momentum.”  What a great video that was.

Sorry this is all bullet points, but I really am worn out and need sleep.  Here are some thoughts, observations, quotes, ideas from today.  In no particular order:

  • You MUST watch this Youtube video.  Too cool.
  • Our ministry environments and program structures reflect our values.  Higher quality presentations and programs do NOT equal deeper relational connections.  More programs and resources do NOT equal transformation. The relationship structures must be more important than program structures.  What do we value in our ministry?  Are our programs and approaches incongruant with our values? (from Mark Novelli’s portion of the Intensive)
  • I came away with several ideas today about how to incorporate art and artist teenagers into our student ministry (Dan Kimble’s lab).  Thinking about how we can collaborate with the high school’s art department.  What if we did a Stations of the Cross display with each station being artistically represented by high school students?  What are some ways we can encourage the more introverted students, the more artistic students, mentoring them and helping them find ways to contribute to the worship of God in our youth ministry?  I’ll have to do a whole blog on this soon!
  • Also some ideas about how to redesign our meeting space.  We have some junk we need to cut out, stuff we need to remove that are NOT reflecting our values.  Thinking through some changes in our structure, in how we do worship, etc.
  • Loved what Andy Stanley had to say about leadership.  “Uncertainty is a permanent part of leadership,” he said.  He also said that any situation that is predictable and certain is a situation that does NOT need a leader.  Leaders are needed when things are uncertain.  Leaders don’t have all the answers.  But they are honest about that fact, they seek counsel from others, they pray for wisdom, and they protect the vision and mission of the church.  In fact, according to Stanley, plans can and will fail, but that doesn’t mean the vision or mission is wrong.  Plans change, but vision remains.  Leaders must be stubborn with the vision, and flexible with the plans.  And they must help their people understand that difference.  This ties in with the Intensive Lab…learning styles are changing, and our models for teaching students must also change.  But our values do not.  What does our student ministry value?  Do our people know?  Can I state with clarity our values and what kind of community God is calling us to be?

There was so much to absorb today.  I definitely have plenty to chew on and possibly blog about in the future.  My prayer is that I’m not so overwhelmed with these questions, thoughts, and ideas that I can’t begin to implement them in our student ministry.  And praying for wisdom in how and when, in God’s timing, to begin bringing some minor changes and some seismic shifts.  Any thoughts or pearls of wisdom?

Thursday Intensive Lab @ NYWC

20 Nov

I consider myself a pretty outgoing person.  But eating dinner spur of the moment at a restaurant in downtown Atlanta with 15 perfect strangers isn’t exactly something I imagine myself doing. But that is what I did tonight, and I absolutely loved it!

Of course it helps that we’re all youth ministry types!  I’m attending the pre-conference Intensive Lab Story, Experience and Collaboration: New Approaches to Youth Ministry led by brothers Michael and Mark Novelli and Kelly Dolan.   You can find out more about Michael at Echo and Mark and Kelly at Imago.

Tonight’s session was both a great refresher for me (having attended Michael’s seminar at last year’s NYWC, which was the inspiration for our own student ministry’s adventure in Bible Storying), but it was also helpful as a mid-course check-up of sorts.  Our youth are almost half-way through the story set for this year, so with that experience under my belt I was able to think critically about how we’re doing.  And I’ve come away with several ideas and helpful tips.

Here are some of the ideas shared tonight that captured my imagination:

  • Have an end-of-the-year party and invite students’ parents.  Let the youth share some of the stories, display their artwork, and share what the stories have meant to them and how their stories connect with God’s story.
  • On a review night, put each story’s symbol on a sheet and have students put them in their correct order.  Then allow students to pick symbols and tell that story–not just name facts from the story, but to TELL the STORY!
  • Help students discover their “identifying story” and compare it to God’s story.  Our goal in Bible Storying is to see students make His story THEIR “identifying story.”

But the highlight of the evening was when Kelly, Michael and Mark invited everyone to join them for dinner across the street at Dantanna’s in the CNN Center.  And that’s how I found myself eating dinner with 15 or so of my newest friends.  And I thought afterward…THAT;s part of the power of Storying!  It helps create community.  It fosters friendships.  Because our lives are all part of the same Story, even though we began the evening as total strangers, we are now friends fellow pilgrims in the way of Jesus.  If storying can do that for strangers…how much more can it do with our youth?!

And finally, I just want to give props to Michael, Mark, and Kelly.  Their humility and openness to learn from others as well as teach is so refreshing and meaningful to youth workers in the trenches.  Their approach to this conference has been so open and collaborative.  And that they would spend their evening hanging out with us, eating out with us, and discussing matters of faith and ministry is so cool.  Thank you, guys!

Tragedy or Watershed Moment for the cause of Youth Ministry?

23 Oct

Let me post a few links for you to read.  Then I’ll share my thoughts.

Take a moment and allow the weight of this to sink in.

Let me first say that there are far more questions than answers at this point in time, and I don’t want to speak out of ignorance.  I WANT to give Zondervan the benefit of the doubt here.  And I know there are always two sides to every story.

However, I can’t begin to imagine why in the world Zondervan would let go of (in my opinion) THE leader in the area of youth ministry thinking and visioning!  Marko is more than just the president of a company.  He is a prophet in the realm of youth ministry.  He is lightyears ahead of many people in terms of the future of youth ministry, youth culture, and the trends that shape both.

I agree with the blog I linked to above, that I’m afraid Zondervan has shot themselves in the foot…and the youth ministry world is being hit by the ricochete.

My prayers go out to Marko and his family, the entire YS staff, and all those who trully love the wonderfully messy world of youth ministry.

Maybe in the world of Youth Ministry 3.0, big name publishing houses like Zondervan will be irrelevant, and a new way of educating, inspiring, and equipping will rise up…one that involves networks of ministers, blogs, open space training, and other yet-to-be-seen methods. 

Are the events of this week a tragedy for youth ministry, or is this possibly a watershed moment that will shape the future of the youth ministry conversation much like Yac and co. did in the early days of YS?  I wait with prayerful anticipation for the latter to be true.