As most things go, re-entry is difficult. For a youth minister who has just returned from her favorite youth ministry conference back into the day-to-day of local church ministry work, this statement is more than true.
They say that if you return from a conference with one good idea it was a great conference. For me, returning not only with a handful of great ideas, but also with a suitcase-full of impressions, thoughts, motivations, and reminders of why I do what I do, makes this conference an essential part of my ministry.
This was my 3rd Progressive Youth Ministry Conference (pym.thejopagroup.com) , and I was reminded again why I love it so much. Honestly, it’s not about all of the content and the speakers—and they are good mind you. (I never expected to be blown away by an astrophysicist turned theologian and his perspective on humans, the cosmos, and a guy named Job. Paul Wallace is supreme.) Instead, it is the relationships and connections made that make this place holy.
See, I’ve been to a number of youth ministry conferences, and it wasn’t until PYM that I ever felt I could just be myself—no filter, no translating the theology, no need to explain why I see things the way I see them. And I could be pushed—pushed to see things differently, to understand the perspective of those different than me, to be inspired by people I never expected to move me, all in a place that values difference, values the need to belong & matter, values safe space—values the things that our youth are looking for in their lives.
This year at PYM embodied the idea of the Kin-dom of God—the place where relational power is available to the world, where we effect people through relationships, not through power structures, but where God’s love is shown to us through the friendship of Jesus, and the power of that relationship and the relationships that we have with each other is what changes the world.
I experienced this through the witness of Rev. Yolanda, our worship leader, who told her story in the most beautiful ways and challenged all of us to live our lives with authenticity, grace, and most importantly love. I experienced this through Rob Bell who reminded me of why I do youth ministry in the first place and that yes, we can change the world through the ways that we open our lives and hearts to love others. And finally, I experienced the kin-dom through the many people I connected with along the way—sharing experiences, listening to stories, and creating the kind of space that allows Christ’s relational power to emerge. I have a good feeling that I will be walking alongside some of these folks for many years to come.
So to say PYM is great is an understatement and doesn’t even scratch the surface of the subtlety and depth of this community and what it means to youth ministry. It is more than a place to find resources, it is more than a place to hear about the latest and greatest, it is even more than a place to find inspiration. To me, it is a place to discover koinonia, kin-dom, and the power of togetherness.
So, as I wait for #PYM17, I will be here in the trenches, working to help students see that God is here in the midst of all of their lives, and hearing the beauty of Rev. Yolanda’s songs in my head… ‘We are angels… we are angels… and we’re struggling… to be human.’ I pray that we can struggle along this road together.
Until next year friends,
(Oh, and a special shout-out to Suzanne Stabile. The enneagram has broken me—in the best way possible.)