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.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the student ministry director at a church, located in Western PA. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 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.