As I arrived at the National Youth Worker Convention 2019, I was greeted by a ton of friends. I felt at home. And as I spoke with one of those friends, we brainstormed about what it’d be like to approach my daily blog with an ongoing narrative. So I’m going to try that. Below, you’ll find a story about a fictitious young youth worker, who just so happens to attend all the same workshops as me at NYWC. I will still post my usual summaries and recaps, but I thought it’d be fun to try this too.
Note: This is my first attempt at something like this, so please be patient and gracious. My wife is a much better storyteller than I am. (You’ll see when she sells her first book).
Filled with both fear and excitement, Sam stepped into the convention center. Even though he had been serving as a youth worker for a couple years, this was the first time he attended an event on his own. This time, he didn’t have to worry about medical forms, teenagers running away from the group, or parents forgetting to drop off their kids. This was an event for him.
Sam had heard about Youth Specialties and had friends recommend he attend the National Youth Worker Convention, but this was the first time he could make it happen. He saved up enough money and convinced his new church to give him some time off. He even signed up for the Deep Dive pre-conference workshops. He wanted to be the best youth worker he could be.
As soon as he found the line to check in, he felt something he couldn’t quite explain. He had been through this many times before as a leader, but it wasn’t the lack of teenagers in tow that made this time feel so different. No, it was something else, but he couldn’t yet put his finger on it.
The check-in procedure was smooth as the nice lady found Sam’s name tag and provided him with a bag of advertisements and magazines. “Oh,” he thought, “this is what people call the ‘swag bag.'” As he looked through the bag, he found the program and where he needed to go for his first workshop.
Stepping into the room, he was greeted by several other familiar faces. But they weren’t faces he recognized. They just had the same expression as him, anxious and excited. The workshop, led by Josh Griffin and Karl Romeus, was entitled, “First Two Years in Youth Ministry,” which was exactly where Sam was.
For the next four hours, he not only got a crash course on what it means to start a ministry well, he also got a chance to meet many of the other new youth workers in the room. He was able to hear their struggles and their excitement, and he quickly realized he was not alone. Even though the presenters were now veterans, they made everyone feel like they mattered and could make a difference in the lives of teenagers.
Sam left the workshop energized with lots of notes and a reminder on his phone to buy the books Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry and Purpose Driven Life. The first several pages of his notebook were filled with things that are required for a healthy youth ministry—things like a dependance on God’s power, time, structure, skills, and teamwork. He wrote down a few commitments he was going to make, like, moving slowly with change, regularly checking his motives, not criticizing the past, and avoiding the comparison game. He was going to start working on his new students’ names and try to keep better eye contact. Sam had so much to think about already, and it was only beginning.
He also left the room with more than knowledge and wisdom. He left with a couple new friends. They went to dinner together and continued to talk about their ministry and how God had worked in their lives, calling them to serve in student ministry. They even had several things in common. Julie had lived near the town where Sam went to college, and she even knew some of the same people. John also grew up in the church and had a great relationship with his youth pastor.
Following a quick walk around the exhibitors’ booths, Sam and his new friends headed off to the NYWC comedy night. They laughed with comedians Kristin Weber and Andrew Stanley. They were amazed at the illusions of John Michael Hinton. And they were crying for both heartfelt and joyous moment with The Skit Guys.
As Sam drifted off to sleep, he began to process the day and started to realize what he was feeling earlier. It was much stronger now. Sam thanked God for a great day at NYWC, for his new friends, and for a renewed sense of who God was creating him to be.
I hope you enjoyed this little story of Sam. Click here to read part 2 of Sam’s Story at NYWC 2019!