This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Mark Matlock. Mark is the executive director (head hauncho) of Youth Specialties. He’s the author of several books, he’s the designer and creator of Planet Wisdom, and a leader in the global youth ministry conversation. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkMatlock.

A big thanks to Doug for inviting me to be a guest blogger today. Working with Doug has been a blast, it’s a relationship I never could have imagined when I accepted the task to take the helm at Youth Specialties (YS) as the executive director. I’ve been part of producing events for more than two decades, and while some people think there isn’t a place for big events anymore, I’d beg to differ. Big or small, there is always something great about the special event. At YS, events come in many flavors NYWC, YS Palooza, PlanetWisdom, YS Listens, or one of our Youth Ministry Unconferences, you just can’t match being physically present with people who are like-minded.

So, I’m going to jump on the “list-making” bandwagon and offer 5 reasons I love special events:

1. Play. Let’s own it and not be ashamed. It’s always a lot of fun to travel and hanging-out with other youth workers. Even though I work hard at conventions and sleep very little, I receive so much joy playing and socializing with others (and that’s saying a lot for an extreme introvert like myself!). I used to be one of those people who thought fun was a bad word, a “lesser” value, but I was wrong. Play is healthy. Play leads to innovation. Play enhances community.

2. Humility. When I started attending the National Youth Workers Convention, I always made time to stand in the exhibit hall… to stop and realize that I wasn’t the only person who thought they were doing great things for Jesus. Real quickly you come to realize how small you are apart from the work of God. You begin to value others. For this reason I still walk the exhibit hall to this day.

3. New Perspectives. While I love just about any gathering of youth workers, I crave gatherings that are diverse. One goal I have at every National Youth Workers Convention is to attend a seminar or meet someone who doesn’t think like me. I learn a lot from people I disagree with or don’t normally travel in their circles. This year I enjoyed sitting in our theological forums–we had people who think much differently than I do wrestling with theology and practice of youth ministry. I learned a lot about myself even if I didn’t fully embrace the view of another. NYWC has the most diverse gathering of youth workers, we can do better, but we do work hard to represent the breadth of our community.

4. Getting Unstuck. It seems most of the counseling and coaching I do centers around one reality: Getting a person I care about “unstuck”. It is amazing how quickly we can settle into a rhythm that destroys our creativity and overall health. Events help us get unstuck, they may be the most effective ways to have that happen. At NYWC in 2005 I was stuck, a freak 10 minute encounter with Doug got me moving again, in fact, it was the first action that led to a series of other important events that led me to my current positions. I got unstuck and I know it can happen for you too.

5. Returning Home. I never fully realize the value an event has had on my life until I return to my everyday life. Every time I return from NYWC or another event I see life and ministry differently. I spend time sharing with others what happened to me and I approach the tasks that face me with new energy, passion and vision. Based on the many emails I receive after an event, I know the same is true for others. Events are meant to be a profound contrast to our everyday routine.
You know, it’s hard to take care of ourselves. It feels selfish, and it’s not why we do what we do, but we need to take care of ourselves or our marriages and ministries quickly fall apart. Doug, Kara, Tic myself and the YS team (including nearly 40 youth workers that work 15 hourdays as volunteers) hope you’ll join us at NYWC this fall or YS Palooza next spring. It may just be the boost you’re needing, and we are excited to serve you. Join us and prepared to be surprised by what God may do in your life!

Question: What do you like about events? Share your input here.