Ministry can sometimes be lonely, draining, and confusing. For people who are not yet into their ministry, this statement could turn you away. For the rest of us, though, we know it to be true. Every day isn’t like that, but there certainly are times when it get hard. In the middle of the highlights of teenagers giving their lives to Christ, families loving their neighbors, and people serving those around them, you will have days of hardship. I think Jesus even said something about this (hint… it’s in John 16:33).
Knowing those days will happen, it’s so important for those of us in ministry to do what we can to anticipate them and prepare as much as we can. This is one of the reasons I go to youth ministry conferences, have a monthly networking breakfast with other youth ministers, and belong to several youth ministry groups online. Not only am I able to learn more through these events and groups, but I can find friendship, accountability, and encouragement.
This past week, I had the privilege to attend DYM100 with Doug Fields, Josh Griffin, and 99 other youth workers from all over the United States and Canada. As many of you know, Doug and Josh have resigned from traditional youth ministry, but they now run Download Youth Ministry, a resource site designed to provide lessons, games, and more to youth ministers. If you’ve never checked out their site, do so right after you finish reading this blog!
Doug has been one of my youth ministry mentors over the years. While I’ve only had the opportunity to meet him a couple times, I’ve read almost all of his books, heard him speak at numerous events, and regularly listen to his podcast. So, when he and the rest of DYM announced they were going to have 100 youth workers come for a private event, I jumped at the opportunity! I immediately applied, and to my surprise, I was chosen!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some further thoughts from the awesome speakers that poured into us over the two and a half days (I’ll also be posting some from the Orange Tour I’m attending later this week). But for now, I just want to talk about the overall experience.
For me, DYM100 can be summarized in three words — connection, wisdom, and refreshment.
From the moment I arrived at the airport, I was already connecting with other youth workers. The guy who volunteered to drive our group of three throughout the week was actually on a recent podcast episode (check it out here)! We immediately started talking life and ministry. It didn’t stop when we went to pick up my “roommate” for the week. Once we arrived at Mariners Church in Irvine, we met up with the other 100, and the connections kept happening for the next 60 hours. It was great to meet others who are in a similar boat as me, talk about what is working and what isn’t, and share God-stories! And with only 100 people there, I felt like I got to meet the vast majority of them and really make some connections that I could not make in a giant conference.
Over the course of the event, we had 20 incredibly wise leaders share with us. They covered topics ranging from strategy to priorities to sexuality to marketing to grief and mental illness. Not every topic was exactly what I needed to hear, but the majority were. I have been to many conferences over the years, but there was something different about this lineup. Many times, the thought crossed my mind that they just get it. They know what ministry is like, and they have gained true wisdom through the years. They were also not acting like they knew it all, which was awesome to hear. They shared their struggles, but they also shared what they do know. Like I said, I’ll share more on these sessions at a later date, so stay tuned!
One of the things that set this event apart from almost every other event I have been to was the amount of refreshment I received. The first night, we had a game night. The second night, we went to a trampoline park and had a dodgeball tournament. The final night was a backyard party at Doug’s house. It seemed like just when I was ready to tap out from all the content the speakers were sharing, we had a refreshing game or other event that was incredibly fun. Youth ministers rarely get to have fun, because we are always organizing the fun. This time, we got to play, and it was great!
In the middle of all this, my wife got word that her last two grandparents passed away. To be honest, this has been an incredibly difficult year for us with death (just a couple months ago, she lost her mom, and earlier this year, I lost my last great-grandmother). Sure, I wanted to be back with my wife to comfort and help her, but God had me where He wanted me. These youth workers, whom I had just met a couple days ago, came around me, prayed for me, and encouraged me in the name of Jesus.
Many people said that the final night felt like we were saying goodbye at the end of a week of camp, and I have to agree. It’s a feeling I have not felt since high school, but I remember it well. It’s a bitter-sweet moment when you realize that the last few days were special, and that you have to say goodbye. I don’t know if our paths will ever cross again here on this earth, but I am grateful we were able to share a few days together, and I am grateful for their friendship and prayers!
Thanks Doug, Josh, and the DYM team for putting this event together and for letting us all be a part of it!