Odds are, you aren’t on staff at a mega-church that puts on mega-conferences on a yearly basis.
Odds are you aren’t on the speaking circuit, traveling from city to city speaking to other Youth Pastors on how they can improve their Youth Ministries.
And odds are that you don’t go to conferences just for the free stuff, because you don’t need to learn anything in the sessions and workshops.
Because of that, going to a Youth Ministry conference usually instills one of two mindsets within us.
Two years ago, when I went to the Orange Conference for the first time, I was 3/4 of the way out the door at a church, and the worship, the sermons, the ideas being talking about in every workshop, they did nothing but brew within me resentment towards my ministry. Our church could NEVER do worship like that, our pastor would NEVER go for this idea for the church. I left that year with some great ideas, but mainly a heart full of bitterness at where God had placed me, because I felt stuck.
Last year, I was in a completely different position, and full of enthusiasm for where God had led me over the last year, to a new church, a new state, a new ministry. Every Session, every speaker, every workshop cultivated in me the thoughts “if we really wanted to, we could do that, but we’d have to be called to do it for it to succeed.” I left last year’s conference on a higher note than I arrived, filled with anticipation to get home and begin to build our strategy to incorporate some of these ideas.
It would be easy to say that because I was happier in a better ministry, of course I had a different experience these two years. But I believe there are things we can do to ensure that have a positive experience at conferences opposed to leaving dejected.
1. Understand the work behind the idea.
For every good idea that is presented at a conference, I bet those leaders and ministries went through 100 bad ones. The most basic, simple, “why didn’t I think of that” ideas come after exhausting other options , and though these might be what we get, we’re missing out on the countless hours in brainstorming meetings, “come to Jesus” you screwed up meetings, and many other things that led to the discovery of this Amazing concept being presented.
2. Understand your calling in ministry is different than every other church.
You just sat through a presentation on how to use motion graphics to engage the audience during worship, but you’re youth group has 5 students and you don’t even have worship because no one plays guitar. It’s easy to get jealous of how professional it looks with motion backgrounds, but don’t lose sight of the fact that God has called you to a specific set of students in a specific community. Live into that, not what the church putting on the conference is called to do.
3. Forget the unrealistic expectation of “right now ideas”
I don’t care how simple or basic of an idea you hear, there are hardly any ideas that you can hear and immediately put into practice in your Youth Ministry. If it’s something like “make sure you do your own devotional time” then sure, but for the most part, you’ll need time to plan for this idea to actually work in your ministry.
4. Spend at least a day of debrief after the conference.
Debrief after the conference. Make a list of everything you learned that you want to use to change the way you do ministry and spend some time working through each idea, how would this look if we put it into practice, how would it benefit the ministry to put this into practice, would we have to force it or is it something that others would easily buy into. Let your brain cool off and settle down, and then start figuring out how your ministry is going to look when you come up with a plan and stick with it.