This past Monday and Tuesday, Adam and I went to the Youth Pastor Summit in Dallas, TX. The Youth Pastor Summit (YPS) is a free conference sponsored by Lifeway for youth pastors and their volunteers. Adam and I decided to go by ourselves this year since we had never been before and wanted to make sure it was worth it (after all we still had all the travel expenses). However, it was definitely a worthwhile conference that we hope to attend again. I thought that, in the rest of this blog, I would share some of my big takeaways from our time there.
Before I do that, though, if you are like me you’ve thought something along the lines of “Well, it might have been free, but if it’s sponsored by Lifeway, I’m sure they were pushing their products on you every two seconds”. I was pleasantly surprised that they did not do this any more so than any other conference. At most, speakers would mention their products in passing and say that we could stop by their booth to find out more…that was it. Also, while most of these thoughts are coming from a youth ministry perspective, I believe they can be applied to ministry in general.
Freedom – Danielle Strickland
Most of the speakers at this conference were new to me, and this was true for Danielle Strickland. She was the opening speaker, and they definitely chose the right speaker to kick things off. She does a lot of work towards ending human trafficking, so her message was about freedom, which she obviously has a lot of experience with. I think this message was so powerful for me because of my struggles with anxiety, and man, there have been so many times I have longed for freedom from it. There were a few powerpoints for me within her message. First, she stated that freedom begins in your mind. In other words, you have to believe you can be free. Additionally, she stated that if you want to drive out fear, you need to invite Jesus into the fear, rather than trying to run or hide from it. I’ve always thought of my anxiety and fear as something for which I needed to apologize to God. I’ve never considered inviting Him into it.
Embracing a Transforming Culture – Ed Newton
Again, a new to me speaker, Ed closed out the conference. Before I get into what he talked about, I will just say that I so appreciated his transparency. He was a very engaging and professional speaker, but he didn’t pretend to have it all together. He admitted some of his struggles while with us, and it put everyone at ease. I think that alone is a lesson for those in ministry. We don’t have to have it all together. Yes, we are held to a higher standard, but we are not Jesus, and we shouldn’t pretend to be. We are human, so it’s okay to struggle. In fact, it makes us more relatable to those to whom we are ministering. Anyway, moving on to Ed’s message. He gave us seven principles for embracing a transforming culture. There were a few that stood out to me. Probably most prominently was that we need to seek to understand before being understood. So many times we have our message, and we simply don’t care where anyone else is coming from, or at least that is how we come off. He also said that we needed to love without limits, but be sure that love is tethered to the truth. I think that is so important to pair those two together. I will always err on the side of love, and I truly believe we should love everyone always, no matter their background, choices, or lifestyle. However, that doesn’t mean we negate the truth of the Gospel.
10 Keys to Keeping the Dream Alive – Jeff Wallace
This message centered on race relations in the church. He began by giving eight quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and then concluded with the ten keys to keeping the dream alive. I’m not going to say a lot about this session/message, because honestly I’m still processing most of it. I will say that it was an unplanned message that Jeff shared because another speaker had an emergency and could not be there, so it was raw and from the heart. It was also the most powerful message of the entire conference, in my opinion. I wish everyone could have heard this message, but it was too …powerful, too sincere to try to summarize. There’s more work to be done and the church should be at the forefront.
If you’ve never been to a conference like this, and you are in ministry, I would encourage you to make it happen. It’s no secret that ministry is draining. You need a time to refuel and reenergize, a time when you are being ministered to. It will never be convenient or easy, but it is worth it. For this conference, Adam and I flew out Monday morning at 8:30, the conference started at 2:30, the conference ended at 3:00 on Tuesday, and we headed straight to the airport to fly back home. It was exhausting and not at all convenient, but we came back renewed, and that made it worth it.