We're two months away for one of my most favorite and most necessary events for student ministry, the 2017 National Youth Workers Convention. It's time to start talking about the convention and what I'm looking forward to most!
One of the things that you have to know about me is that I am a huge supporter of the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC), hosted by Youth Specialties. I attended my first convention in 1999. I had just accepted my first, full-time position as a Youth Director, for a church in the Pittsburgh, PA area. I had heard about NYWC, but hadn't yet had the opportunity to attend as I was just a kid getting started in student ministry.
The convention that year was held in two locations, the first on the west coast, the second in Cincinnati, OH. I attended the convention in Cincinnati.So I, along with my wife and our newborn son (Nate was our second son, by the way. Our first born who was already a year old stayed with some friends.) made our way to Cincinnati not sure what to expect, but excited nonetheless.
It didn't take me long to realize that NWYC was going to become a very important part of my ministry and my life. 18 years laters, NYWC is still an important part of both my ministry and my life.
Each year, as the convention approaches, I share a few things about the convention that I love, recommend, and look forward to the most. So in keeping with my tradition, let me share three things that I absolutely love about the National Youth Workers Convention.
Get More With Intensives...
I sat through my first Intensive in 2000. It was awesome. Then, I believe, the Intensives were 6 hours, and spanned two days. An extra fee, Intensives are designed to give attendees a long, deeper, more detailed look into various aspects of student ministry. Topics vary from year to year, but help to train up the youth worker by providing specific, helpful and practical information that really works when applied to your ministry. Led by experts, real youth workers with real experience, Intensives offer not just information, but the opportunities to ask questions, get help and really process the material so that it's something that you can use.
Over the years I have taken Intensives for worship and worship leader, culture, message prep and writing, and speaking/teaching. They have been some of the most important parts of understanding student ministry, youth culture and the role of the youth worker.
If you have not taken advantage of the NYWC Intensives, I would highly recommend that you consider registering for one of this years offerings.
Here is a quick list of topics and presenters for 2017...
Take Time to Rest and Reconnect...
Rest is a good thing. It's a necessity. A biblical mandate. The problem is, youth workers don't rest enough. There is always something that needs to be completed, a student that needs to ministered to, and a technical issue with the VCR in one of the Sunday school classrooms. When all is said and done, we don't rest well, if we rest at all.
I loved Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of YS and NYWC. I never really had the opportunity to talk or know Mike, but every year at the first general session (now called Big Room) Mike would address and welcome the convention. It was the same speech every year. But it was one of the first times someone told me that it was okay to slow down, even stop and rest.
The convention is a placed filled with resources, exhibits, training opportunities, and possibilities for networking. But, NYWC is also a place to rest and be renewed. It's a place where you can choose to sleep in, go to bed early, or just sleep all day. It's a place to disconnect and relax, to do something fun, explore, or just be. NYWC, in wanting to give you access to some of the best resources, speakers, trainers, coaches, and entertainment, also cares about your spiritual well-being. You are encouraged to take a step back and evaluate your faith journey. We work all year to disciple and serve and teach and lead our students, too often at the cost of care for our own hearts, our own growth, our own relationship with our Savior. NYWC is a place where we can reconnect with the Lover of our souls.
NYWC offers youth workers an opportunity to visit the Sanctuary and Prayer Chapel to pray, sit, be quiet, and to be renewed. You can visit with one of a number of spiritual directors who are there to care for your soul. If you're married, NYWC is an opportunity for you and your spouse to enjoy some time alone. Take advantage of your hotel stay. Have a date night with dinner and explore a new city. Sit up late and watch a movie. Order room service and have breakfast in bed.
Rest. It's important. It's a necessity. It's good for you.
Get on the Right Track...
Sit in on any of the 90+ seminars and you will walk away with valuable information, tips, tools, and resources. But if you want some specific help in a particular area of ministry, you might want to consider taking one of the NYWC Tracks.
Tracks, like the Intensives, are designed to offer youth workers specific information on a given topic. These tracks are led by our youth experts who know and serve in the related areas. Go a little deeper. Ask questions. Hear practical, hands-on and effective tips that will help you in your ministry.
This year, NYWC is offering 3 Track topics;
Be sure to look these Tracks up in the schedule and think about how they might help you and your ministry.
Whether you are a long-time NYWC attendee or maybe thinking about attending for the first time, let me invite you to join us this November in Memphis, TN for the Nation Youth Workers Convention! Early-bird pricing ends on October 5th, 2017.
Visit the NYWC website today for more details and to register for the convention.
This year, I will be helping out as a volunteer, serving at the HUB. If you have any questions about the convention or needs while in Memphis come by and see us. If you found this article helpful, please stop by and introduce yourself to me, I'd love to meet you.
If you have something you love and look forward to at NYWC, please share it in the comments below. What you love could be the very thing that someone else needs to hear to help them make the decision to join us this fall!
The National Youth Workers Convention
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 25 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently the Student Ministry Director at Hickory Church, located in Western PA. Jay has been married to Amy for over 20 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.