Tomorrow morning, Tracy and I will head off to the National Conference on Youth Ministries. This year, it's in Atlanta, Georgia... a place I've never visited!
NCYM is always refreshing to me. Sometimes it's the classes. We learn about teens and what makes them tick, current trends, counseling skills, and we get practical ideas on the "how-to's" of youth ministry.
Sometimes (like last year) it is the periods of worship that are refreshing to me. Chris Seidman has the ability to make you see something in scripture (which you have read thousands of times) that you never saw before. The singing is always fantastic, and it's so liberating to worship with other free-spirited folks.
Sometimes it's the networking. There have been a few of these things where I've met SO many youth ministers that I did not know! Sadly, there are also times when I meet people, only to miss them a year or two later because they got out of youth ministry. But it is always good to meet the new guys, young and idealistic, and still able to relate to the kids (since they are only a few years older than their youth groups!) And it's good to meet other old pros that are out there as well.
But the family aspect is ALWAYS refreshing for me. These guys and gals KNOW youth ministry! They know about the joys and the difficulties; the moments of clarity as well as the times of questioning; the successes as well as personal failures. They know what it means to doubt yourself, and also how to defend yourself. They know how it feels when they support so many families and kids, but sometimes don't feel supported. They give high-fives and smile when you talk about the baptisms and spiritual growth of your teens, but they can also throw an arm around you when you discuss the suicide attempts, runaways, rebellious, smart alecs, difficult parents, apathy, and other things that sometimes pop up.
I go to NCYM for all these things, but I also pray that God uses me for someone else while I'm there. God filled my life with support during some difficult years. Now I am in a good place (not perfect, but good!) and maybe I can be an encouragement for someone who has been walking through dark places this past year.