That's the quick aim of this post, actually - I'd like for you to understand what happens behind-the-scenes of this particular event. While you can find some great highlight videos or digital images taken on high-grade cameras, I'd like to give you a quick camera-phone glimpse from my experience last year:
The Group/Simply Youth Ministry team has this crazy idea that right in the hub of chaos, just before everyone arrives, that they should pause to encourage everyone speaking or serving and give them a catered meal. It really sets the tone for what's ahead by placing the focus on Jesus and relationships. Even if you don't know all the inside jokes, no one is an outsider.
Disclaimer: SYMC gave me some shelf space for some of my books.
Disclaimer: Even if they didn't, I'd still write this post.
Granted, this is merely a shot of the restaurant area near the convention center in last year's location. What I like about what it represents is every time I'd head down to it I never knew who I'd bump into and spontaneously share a meal with. Everyone is so approachable - I had some amazing chats with some now-great friends who were strangers only moments before we shook hands.
In addition to speaking a teaching track last year, I was able to serve Francis Chan and Rachel Chan by picking them up at the airport and caring for their needs throughout the night. They were a bit airsick and their plane arrived late, but we made the night work in their favor with a lot of behind-the-scenes touches that honored their investment to come and share their gifts.
Note - Francis Chan, award-winning author and internationally known speaker... is carrying his daughter's guitar. This is one of my favorite shots, because the "big names on the big stage" are real people who are the real deal. When they came off the plane, in fact, Rachel said (with pure tongue-in-cheek sass), "Hi, I'm Rachel Chan. This is my father, Francis."
Speaking of the real deal, this is an intentionally blurry-action shot of some of the family members of those serving just loving on one another. Seriously, how cool is that? Every person's kid is "every person's kid."
Another behind-the-scenes shot... instead of yapping on the phone or drifting into their own world in the "green room," the speakers and musicians sit behind the curtain as they get ready to go on stage... and actually pay attention to the message being shared on stage. I love this kind of unnoticed honoring one another - which I thankfully noticed.
One of my favorite shots - while walking Francis Chan to a speaking opportunity, we passed by his face on a stick. I egged him on to take a picture with it, and several camera phones (including mine) captured this intentionally ridiculous shot.
Yes... confessionally, another personal highlight is SYMC lets a shmoe named Tony Myles share from his heart. Just another example of how they look beyond the usual faces and names to unearth new perspectives. I really enjoyed the opportunity this gave me to listen and love on those in my seminar track.
Another unnoticed moment - Jon Acuff delivered a penetrating message about how we can let one voice spoil the applause of thousands. He then came off the stage to thunderous applause, sitting in his chair as composed and completely professional as you'd expect. He seemed to be doing the usual thing speakers do as they leave the stage - mentally unpacking the past few moments as he honors what's next with his attention. He stayed in that mode for moments, until his young daughter climbed onto his lap and told him he did a good job. Then... he melted.
Apparently the math works both ways - the whisper of a loving voice can drown out the thunderous applause of thousands... just as it should.
Party in the suite - a special moment for the SYMC "in the trenches" volunteer team as they love on one another mid-conference.Goofy awards and more fueled this fun time of community.
Spontaneous prayer for one another in the name of Jesus. This is what it's all about, isn't it? Yet another example of this conference being from youth workers, for youth workers.
I hope you'll join me and 3,000 other youth workers as we make some new memories together this year at SYMC in Indianapolis. I'll be doing some more speaking, but I hope be doing even more listening, watching and learning. Let's hang out!
Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2012: Louisville, KY