a simple thought about the simply youth ministry conference

I used to be a conference junkie.

You know the drill – discover your favorite superhero speakers, and then search the Web and every oversized postcard that came in the mail for the last names Hybels, Chan, Webster, Giglio, Ortberg, Bell, Tomlin, Crowder, and so on. If you don’t yet identify, substitute one of my names with your personal larger-than-life speakers.

Maybe that’s why I found myself compelled to move from the back row to the front row. After a while, I was even backstage… at times it was even officially asked for. Over the years I’ve been everything from a conference blogger, convention pastor, seminar speaker and an official-yet-unofficial encourager. When the national economy tanked a few years ago, I even became thankful for the ability to see a conference via streaming video... I couldn't get enough.

Perhaps it was too much all at once. Maybe I ended up hearing the same speakers give the same messages in different venues. It’s possible that the seminar topics actually did recycle year after year.

All I know is that I hit a wall. I somehow shifted from enjoying conferences to predicting them. I’d see friends every year through these events, but we all seemed to be busied with a task or taking notes from the next speaker that even our time hanging out seemed “offline” from the official schedule. It was as if I was cheating on the investment I’d made with the conference, like dining at Outback Steakhouse but taking a break to grab an ice cream cone in between the appetizer and the main course.

Then there’s this year – I’m a part of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, taking place in Louisville, Kentucky on March 2-5. Honestly, I’m drooling as I wait for what’s ahead because for the first time in a long time I’m completely excited for a ministry convention. There are some incredible speakers and worship leaders who are headlining, but what geeks me even more is the way relationships are weaved into this weekend. Instead of having to generate connections on the side, they’re happening at the core of all that’s going on. Somehow this makes sense, because while taking great notes is helpful we all need people who “get” us to bounce such insights off of even after the conference.

Make no mistake, this is a conference for student ministry. There will be hilarious fun and celebrations, as well as powerful insights into youth culture. Jesus Christ will get the spotlight, and His people who serve in the trenches will get refreshed with a fresh breath while being taught how to "breathe" again.

For me, though, it’s simply a chance to grow in my relationship with God and my relationships with others. I could be wrong, but I think those may be the top two things Jesus said I need to be doing anyway.

I hope you’ll join me at the conference… I could always appreciate another friend, and perhaps you can, too.

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