Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Youth Specialties San Diego reflections

Here are some of the highlights from my experience this past weekend at the Youth Specialties conference.

Worship There's nothing like screaming out praises to God with 3000 other people, led by some awesome worship bands (my favorites: David Crowder* Band). This is probably a very very small taste of what heaven will be like.

Phil Vischer Phil is the creator and producer of Veggie Tales, and his story is powerful. He shared about how successful Veggie Tales was, how he could have been the next Walt Disney, and how much of an impact he was making in the world for God...and then how it all came crashing down around him. He spoke of how he had a vision, how he was going to do some awesome things for the kingdom, but allowed his vision and ministry (both great things) to get in the way of his relationship with Jesus. As a young youth pastor, filled with idealism and visions for how I am going to change the world, it was a convicting reminder that I can't change the world. But Jesus can. And does. And He invites me along for the ride as His kingdom is revealed.

Francis Chan I already blogged about Francis Chan recently when I was reflecting on his idea for creating a park instead of a building, then using the money to help people in need. This guy rocked my world. Here's a few important ideas from his talk on Saturday morning (not exact quotes, but the general ideas):

You can't make anyone love Jesus. Only Jesus can make people love Him by drawing them to Himself.

What would our churches and ministries look like if we genuinely took the Bible seriously? What if we actually did exactly what it said?

I can be a successful pastor but not be in love with Jesus. I don't want to stand before God and present the people I led as a pastor, and have God say, "Here's a lot of people who kinda liked Jesus." I want to be a pastor who leads people who passionately loved Jesus.

These are some profound insights that I kind of already knew, but hadn't allowed them to deeply influence my heart. It was both convicting and refreshing.

Seminars I went to Marko's seminar on A New Vision for Middle School Ministry. It was encouraging to hear someone articulating what I've already been thinking about for a few years now. He spoke of focusing on the process, that middle school is a time of critical transition for everyone's development, and a call to be realistic about where middle school students can and should be in their faith. Much of the fruit of middle school/junior high ministry is only seen much later in life. It's about building a solid foundation and forming an identity around a relationship with Jesus, creating a healthy spiritual environment for students to freely wrestle with their faith in community, and showing them just how valuable they truly are. I attended this seminar with one of my junior high staff--Dustin--and was really encouraged by his eagerness to learn how to serve the students better.

Also went to Doug Fields' seminar on small groups. We currently have a small group model at Red Mountain that is good...but not great. It was good to be given some basic tools for making our small groups healthier.

Spending time with people I love One of my good friends from Multnomah, Andy Pullen, was at the conference with his wife, Jill. Andy is a youth pastor in Yreka, CA. I had no idea he would be at the conference until he texted me and said he was in San Diego. We had coffee together, caught up on life, and talked about ministry. Very refreshing.

I also spent a lot of time with Mark (pastor of student ministries), Gus (jr. high intern), and Dustin (jr. high staff) just watching football, making fun of each other, and talking about what God was teaching us. These conferences are great times to just connect with people and dialogue about where God is leading us. God created us for relationship, and I cannot imagine going to one of these things alone. I got to know Gus and Dustin so much better through this shared experience. This helps me as a new leader to be building friendships with my staff, as well as be united in where God is leading us in our jr. high ministry.

I highly recommend checking this conference out at least once if you are involved in youth ministry in any form. It could rock your world.

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