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Why I Like Conferences

Like many (over 3,000) of my youth ministry cohorts, I spent last weekend at the SYMC conference in Chicago.  Because I flew in late on Monday night, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday in back-to-back full day meetings at church, I am just now taking a few minutes to reflect on my time at SYMC.  Here’s a partial, and random, list of things I love about getting away to conferences occassionaly.

I See Old Friends:  The youth ministry world truly is a fraternity (a trendy word right now is “tribe”…which I totally don’t get), and anual conferences like SYMC serve as a sort of annual reunion.  There are a whole lot of men and women whom I consider friends that I rarely get the joy of spending time with. Conferences ensure that I reconnect with my “Tribal Fraternity” at least once a year.

– I Meet Wonderful People:  Every year at SYMC, I meet a whole bunch of new people…from all sorts of ministry demographics.  An example from this year would be Scott, a middle-aged junior high youth pastor at a very small, rural(ish) church.  Scott sat on a panel I moderated and had some AMAZING input to share from his ministry context.  Scott pops out as just one of dozens upon dozens (maybe hundreds upon hundreds!) of new people I had the joy of interacting with this year.

– I Hear Stuff I Disagree With:  If everything at a conference was stuff I already know, or easily agree with….why would I want to go?  I love the diversity of thinking, theology, methodology etc. that is evident at conferences like SYMC.  It stretches my thinking, challenges my assumptions and forces me to “new places”.

– I Get Time Alone: Okay…it didn’t happen this year because I literally taught all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as moderated a couple of panel discussions.  Add that to lunch, dinner and movie dates with youth workers and this year proved to be fairly chaotic.  But NORMALLY I enjoy the habit of ditching a session or two to escape all by myself to walk around the city, take in a movie, journal, etc.

I worked hard all week last week, had an incredibly busy weekend at SYMC and then spent two grueling days in executive team meetings. Tomorrow I rest.

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Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.