I had the opportunity to preach the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 25, 2018). My scripture text was Philippians 3:1-11. Take a few minutes to give a listen!
It's hard to believe it's all over. You wait for it all year, then it's here and gone and all you have left are the memories and the wait for next year. I just got home from my week in St. Louis, serving 4500 youth workers who attended the 2018 National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC). It was an amazing week of breakout seminars, general session speakers, worship, exhibitors, conversations, and reconnection.
This was my 10th year serving on the volunteer staff, 18th year over all attending NYWC. And, while I could list probably a dozen or more favorite moments, this years convention may end up being one of my all-time most favorite.
New ideas. New leadership. New life. New schedule. More accessibility. More laughter. More rest. More space. More of the old YS favorite moments. More of everything you love. More of what you need.
The youth ministry world was rocked earlier this year when it was announced that Download Youth Ministry and Orange had teamed together to take ownership of the Youth Specialties and NYWC. You can read the press release here: A New Future For Youth Specialties. And you can read my response here: YS Under New Management?
With the announcement came the promise of, "New ideas. New leadership. New life. New schedule. More accessibility. More laughter. More rest. More space. More of the old YS favorite moments. More of everything you love. More of what you need. There will be some familiar faces, some old, some new. We’ll honor the past, converse about the present, and dream about the future." (Quote taken from the NYWC2018.com webpage.) Big, bold statement from the leadership of a convention that has seen better days.
The question is, did they deliver? My answer is a resounding, YES! And then some!
From start to finish, there was an energy, a sense that this year was going to be different.
I worked really hard to come into this years convention with as few expectations as possible. Watching Youth Specialties and NYWC navigate the oceans of transition, I know some of the difficulties and struggles these friends have faced. And while I cheered them on, I also wondered if NYWC would ever be the same? But the truth is, it isn't and it can't be. In fact, I'm not sure it should be.
Without question, our friends at DYM and Orange delivered; the convention was truly amazing. From start to finish, there was an energy, a sense that this year was going to be different. And it was. The leadership breathed new life into the convention bringing back some of the beloved traditions while stepping out to introduce some new ideas, new faces, and new formatting. It was like the leadership team went back to the roots of NYWC and engrafted themselves into the heart and purpose of the convention. The result, new life!
The theme of the weekend was WELCOME, and in dramatic fashion Tommy Woodard, of The Skit Guys, along with a cast of familiar youth ministry faces did just that and WELCOMED us back to NYWC. It set the tone for what was to come, leaving us with a sense that we had returned to something we once remembered; something that we had been missing. Doug Fields then addressed the massive gathering confirming what we had been wanting to hear...NYWC was back and we were home.
The phrase, "people who love what we love and do what we do" resonated as Doug acknowledged that NYWC was a place for youth workers. This sentiment was echoed throughout the weekend with a t-shirt that read, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. NYWC. We were a tribe, a family, and this weekend was the biggest family reunion this side of heaven.
And resources? We had them. Over 150 exhibitors, the most on recent years, filled the exhibitors hall with everything and anything that might help you do what you do better. New to the exhibit hall was the opportunity for exhibitors to share their resources through 20 minute classes that allowed them to talk about materials. This was a brilliant idea that many took advantage of.
But it wasn't just hype. NYWC offered one of the best line-ups of seminars and presenter, general session speakers, worship teams, artists, and of course the return of The Skit Guys. Attendees packed the seminar space soaking up the wisdom from researchers, culture-gurus, and in-the-trenches youth workers. The teaching was practical and real, from men and women who love students as much as we do.
NYWC got back to doing what NYWC does best...loving on youth workers. I was super excited to see the return of NYWC's heart. Youth workers were loved on. Youth workers were honored. Youth workers were reminded that our work matters, that THEY mattered. And, in an emotional Sunday morning Big Room, youth workers were reminded that they were chosen, called, equipped, and sent out to do what God had called them to do. It was the perfect ending to what was a perfect weekend!
Youth workers were reminded that they were chosen, called, equipped, and sent out to do what God had called them to do. It was the perfect ending to what was a perfect weekend!
Over the last couple of years I have written about the need for NYWC to come back to it's roots and remember the youth worker. This year, all I can write and say is, Thank You! Thank you NYWC for being NYWC. It looks like the convention I fell in love with in 1999 has returned. But it has also changed, and that change has been for the better. To Doug, Josh, Ashley, Kryn, Chef and everyone who poured themselves into this years convention, thank you. Thank you for loving youth workers.
And to you, the 4500 youth workers who attended, selling out the convention, thank you! Thank you for taking a chance with NYWC. Thank you for trusting us with your time and resources. Thank you for making this one of the best NYWCs in a very long time!
To those of you who missed out, don't miss out on next year. NYWC is heading to Tampa, Florida, November 21 through the 24th, 2019. I invite you to come and join us for a weekend of learning, growing, resting, renewing, and reconnecting as we gather in Tampa for another amazing family reunion.
There is a special, pre-convention registration opportunity for 2019. You can attend NYWC2019 in Tampa, for the low rate of just $139.00 per person.* That's right, $139.00 per person! Click on the link below and register for NYWC2019, and join us in Tampa!
*$139 per person available to the first 500 registration. $179 after that. Does not include travel, hotel, or food. At the publishing of this blog post, there were still 12 hours left in the campaign. When time runs out, the campaign and special pricing goes away.
This is a non-sponsored promotional post for the Pittsburgh Youth Workers Conference.
So, I am all about youth workers and great training opportunities that help them do what they do better. I personally have had a long time relationship with another youth workers convention that has helped to shape me as a youth worker. As a youth worker, I have treasured opportunities to learn, grow, and develop my skills in administration, planning, and proclaiming the truth of God's word.
I have also written a number of blog posts encouraging youth workers to seek out opportunities for training, equipping, resourcing, and rest. We minister to a culture who is constantly growing and changing; I believe we need to be always working to grow and adapt so we can remain effective.
This Friday, October 26th, I will join with youth workers from around the Western PA area for the Pittsburgh Youth Workers Conference. Now in it's fifth year, PYWC is expecting to welcome over 200 youth workers, along with featured speakers Josh McDowell, Bob Lenz and Duffy Robbins.
This one day conference will include 3 general sessions with worship, led by local worship band, Red Letter Hymnal, 15 breakout session led by local, in the trenches youth workers, lunch, and the opportunity to visit with this year's sponsoring organizations.
Here's the deal, this will be my first PYWC. Really! Over the last couple of years, PYWC had fallen on weekends where I have had a conflict, so I haven't been able to go. But, now that I am going, I am really looking forward to seeing PYWC for myself! I love that PYWC includes both nationally recognized speakers and local youth workers.
"We love bringing in nationally-known speakers because of the excellent content they bring but we really get excited because doing that provides a platform for local youth pastors who are doing an incredible job to share some area of expertise that they have with their fellow youth pastors." Travis Deans.
Travis Deans and Doug Raraigh, along with Jayson Samuels got the ball rolling in 2014. That year, 100 youth workers gathered to hear from Duffy Robbins and Terry Thomas. Today, Travis and Doug welcome Duffy Robbins to their team and look forward to welcoming this year's attendees.
The 2018 PYWC will take place on Friday, October 28, at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Sewickley, PA. Organizers are looking to welcome between 200 and 250 youth workers, and I will be among them. From talking with Travis Deans, there is still room if you have not already registered.
The cost for the conference is $40 per person. That comes with 10 free tickets to the evening session with Duffy Robins. A Chick-fil-A lunch is part of the registration, and who doesn't like Chick-fil-A?
Let me encourage you to join me and a couple hundred fellow youth workers for the Pittsburgh Youth Workers Conference. It will be a day of training, networking, equipping, worship, and fellowship! Click on the link below and register for PYWC, check out the days schedule, and take a look at this year breakout session speakers.
And, look for me, I'll be there.