– It was awesome. Seriously, CIY is a great organization, the conference was great, and if you’re involved in youth ministry, you should look into what they do.
– We were fortunate. Mark Moore spoke for each of the morning sessions, setting the tone for the day and setting the bar high for the students. I love speakers who unapologetically challenge students instead of talking at them like they’re six and completely incapable of anything that really matters. These morning sessions led us to some great discussions during our morning group time.
– Speaking of those discussions: our students have some great ideas! They want to be the church, not just attend a cool youth group – that really excites me. I love seeing young people become more passionate about working to bring God’s Kingdom into people’s lives – and actually taking steps to do it. After one particularly good discussion, one of my students asked “These are all good ideas and stuff, but what are we actually going to DO?” I LOVE THAT QUESTION! That moment was a hinge point for the week. No longer were we discussing the theoretical – they wanted assignments.
– During the very last night, students received cards in an envelope that they were instructed not to open until our group time later that night. Each card contained a different challenge. No one was allowed to open the envelope unless they first committed to do what the card said, “no matter what” that may be. Every one of our students made that commitment, and as we opened each card and shared with the group what it said, the sense that this was anything but random grew. Almost every single one of us had on our cards a challenge that directly (and I mean explicitly direct) challenged us in an area that we’d personally talked about that week. It will be awesome to see how our students come together to help each other fulfill their challenges over the next year.
– Here’s an example of what I mean by explicitly direct. During our D-group time one day I was talking about the need for mentors… encouraging students to be mentors for younger students as well as to find a mentor to help them navigate. I shared with my students some of my experiences mentoring a group of guys. Most of my most rewarding experiences in youth ministry came directly out of that purposeful mentoring relationship. I shared with them how I’ve been frustrated lately because I haven’t been very diligent in mentoring others (and how I intended to do better for/with them). I also shared that one of my greatest disappointments in my adult life has been the lack of a long-term, personal mentor. Now, I’ve been mentored from a distance by watching others in ministry and through the books and online teachings of several pastor/authors… I’ve been sharpened by peers in ministry… Several of my college professors and staff stand out as momentary mentors… and I am immensely grateful to those that I’ve gleaned from, but (outside of my very beneficial and appreciated relationship with my own dad) I’ve never had an ongoing personal mentor/mentee relationship. I’ve always regretted that, and been a little saddened by that – I’ve even tried to do something about it a few times, but I’ve missed out on having a “Paul” to my “Timothy”. I shared this with my students to encourage them to seek a mentor and learn everything they can from them. Fast Forward a couple days to the cards. Mine says, “Find someone to mentor you and find someone to mentor.” What else would it say?
– We all had a great week. God moved in our group, drawing us together to serve Him and reveal Him to the people around us. My kids are excited to be the church! But I have a problem. I’m finding something within me wanting to temper their excitement and quell expectations. That faithless part of me that says, “The leaders aren’t going to like that idea…let’s slow down a bit…” needs to be taken to the woodshed. Timothy had that part, too, so Paul offered him this: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline.” Which reminds me, I need to go check in with some of my fire starters!