Recently I was asked what the worst part of summer in youth ministry is. I told them I thought it was coming home after camp or a mission trip. On these trips, students experience authentic community, convicting messages, and the power of God in their lives. They go back home to the noise, the patterns, and the life that drowned out God’s presence from them in the first place. Oh, we try to keep the momentum going, but at times it feels like a losing battle… until we get them to the next retreat that is. Now, I am not a pessimist at all. In fact I’ve been called a delusional optimist at times.
But after 24 plus years of doing this routine, it has pushed me to wonder if we could come up with a new strategy around camps, retreats, mission trips, and conferences.
About a year ago my wife and I, with some of our friends, started dreaming. We began by asking some questions. What if a student conference began a journey, a conversation, a theme, a lifestyle instead of just being a one-off experience? What are the stumbling blocks that keep students from thriving, and could we address those and scheme together for a better way? What about the good news is actually good news for daily life today? Do we even understand what the good news is? How can we strengthen a student’s faith for the week, but also empower them in their faith for a lifetime? How could we begin the process of giving them skills to navigate this very complex and confusing world? Could there be a conference that is deeply intellectual (not afraid of the big questions or the answers students land on) but also deeply spiritual and rooted in the work of God’s Spirit? Could a conference or camp be the instigator of beautiful change for youth ministries as a whole, not just in the students’ lives?
Some of these thoughts and questions are a bit audacious I know, but we kind of liked that about this conversation. We know that there are other camps and organizations doing really good things. Some are highly intellectual, others are highly spiritual, and others that are very inspiring.
But that conversation led us to this idea:
A conference that creates an environment of grace, where students are not told what to think, but given the tools that help them grapple with the tough questions. A place where we reengage with the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study, pray, discuss, and worship. Students leave this event empowered with the knowledge that God did not give them a spirit of fear, but of Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.
This conference is not just intellectual OR spiritual OR inspirational – It is all three.
And finally, youth leaders leave with a game plan in place that continues the conversation as they live the way of Jesus with students in a very complex world.
If you’d like to find out more about The Amazing Next Conference, check it out here. We are looking for partnerships and for regions to bring it to. Let us know if you’re interested and if you have any questions at all.