Shift – Day Two

The second day of  the Shift conference consists of three break-out sessions followed with a large group worship and teaching tonight.  I’m signed up for three break-outs and decided last night to skip the first one today.  Mike Yanconelli gave me permission.Mike and Karla Yaconelli

Several years ago at Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention,  Mike greeted us the very first day.  In Mike’s unique way, he told us that we had permission to make the conference what we needed it to be.  If that meant not attending a single thing, then don’t.  If we needed refreshing time alone, stay away.  (As an introvert, I really appreciated that.) If you needed to work on your marriage, stay in the hotel room. (As a single, I was envious.)   He then introduced a guy and brought him up on stage.  The youth minister shared the story of how he attended the National Youth Worker’s Convention the year before and how his marriage was strained under the toil of ministry.  When Mike told them to get a room, he and his wife did that.

At this point, a picture of a baby was displayed on the screens and the youth minister shared that this is what he took home from NYWC last year.  Everyone applauded.

So, today I’m taking Mike’s advice – I’m making a baby.  Not literally, of course.  But I more than a breakout session, I need some time to process, to think, to dream. I’m breaking out.  Just for awhile.

Thank you, Mike.  As always, you still continue to teach, inspire and convict us youth ministers. We miss you.

Shift

I’m in Chicago for the week attending the Shift conference at Willow Creek Community Church.  My first time at Shift and at Willow Creek.  I’ve wanted to visit the campus for quite awhile and I must say it is impressive. It is huge and overwhelming but they have a lot of friendly, helpful volunteers around.  Nothing but great help so far.  You just have to ask.

Flew in yesterday evening.  Driving a Toyota Yaris.  Good way to narrow down what type of car I might want.  I definitely don’t like the tiny, compact car.  Especially after 13 years in my jeep.  Check.

Opening conference featured Francis Chan speaking on complacency.  He was outstanding and it was definitely what I was needing.  One of the reasons I chose this youth ministry conference over others was the sense I picked up from their speakers and breakout sessions that they were really focusing on the need for spiritual transformation in leaders and youth.  We put too much hope in programs, books, knowledge, personality, etc. to build a great youth ministry.  There is so much pressure to have the biggest and the best youth group and to build it out of your own resources.

Even when I know this isn’t true and when I fight against the traditional models, there are still so many times when I am self-critical and grasping for the latest and greatest youth ministry trick.  I know the dangers of a youth ministry built around personalities or program styles rather than a love for God but the temptation and struggle is still there.

Chan gave such an incredible message this morning about how the church (and we) are complacent and not living out of the power and the courage of the Holy Spirit.  As youth pastors, our fiercest and most powerful “tool” is the Holy Spirit.  If we are praying and begging for the Spirit to be alive and at work in our own lives, first and foremost, than we don’t stand a chance.  If we don’t make our biggest commitment to be that of praying for the Spirit to be alive and at work in the lives of our youth and our volunteers, then we don’t stand a chance.  Chan spoke of how noticeably different the church now is from the early church in Acts in believing in and living out of the power of the Spirit.  We know more than the apostles yet we don’t believe that the same Spirit 2000 years ago can do the same things in 2009.  What’s the problem?  What’s different?

One of the many things Chan said that really spoke to me was about how easily the church would fall apart today.   Get a bad speaker.  Get a crappy band.  Move the worship times.  Any of these, Chan said, and people would leave.  If we aren’t coming out of love and thirst for God, then we are tossed around by the waves of preferences.