A week ago I was recovering from a flying across the country for the Conference Youth Coordinators gathering in Pacific Palisades outside of Los Angeles, California. The yearly gathering was planned this time by the Western Jurisdiction and they pulled off an amazing event at Aldersgate Retreat Center. We both began and ended with worship, and in between there was amazing opportunities for fellowship, networking and learning from the great presenters they had gotten to come along for the adventure.
After worship and time for Jurisdictions to dialogue and meet, the event began with a presentation from Steve Schneeberger, Executive Director of the Youth Ministry Institute, who shared about the innovative work he has been doing to train and equip youth leaders for fruitful and sustainable ministry. A great dialogue followed his presentation as participants dreamed about how they might see something like that take place in their own area.
The presentation the next morning was from Stephanie Caro, author of “Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches” and “99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker,” as well as a lead consultant for Mark DeVries’ Youth Ministry Architects (and mostly importantly, my super fun/funny roommate for the week!). Stephanie’s presentation was a mixture of vital information with the potential to transform small church ministry and engaging humor; she was also able to expose the group to new materials that they may not have had the chance of encountering before.
After a brief break for folks to stretch their legs… in some cases all the way to the Hollywood sign… the afternoon was filled with a presentation by Andrew Zirschky, the Academic Director for the Center for Youth Ministry Training, Timothy Scholar in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and PhD candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary. Andrew shared some paradigm shifting insights about the ways that adolescents experience intimacy. Young people notice, he shared, that you can be present without being present; and sometimes they experience greater intimacy through technology when the person on the other end of the line is actually engaged and focused on them. The way that we can be present to youth both in person and through technology is a challenge worth engaging.
Finally, the next morning we were able to here from a California practicioner, the Rev. Nicole Reilley, the director of the UMC House Church Network, who shared about her ministry with house churches and the shifting dynamics of how people engage with the Christian movement. Her insights were a challenge to all of us to think not only of where the church is, but also of where it is headed.
Throughout the event the worship was led by the Young People’s Ministries staff with the assistance of Jason Woodell, Associate Pastor of Family Life Ministries & Contemporary Worship at Lancaster UMC (Lancaster, CA), and the participation of everyone present.
It was a remarkably spiritual and positive event, and one that will stay in my memory for a long time.