Last weekend, I was at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Indianapolis for the very first time. That in itself may not be so shocking, but if you consider that I flew in from Germany especially, that’s saying something. It’s quite a lot of money and time to invest in just one conference. But I’ll do you one better: I already registered for next year’s SYMC (which will be in Columbus). That’s how good it was.
There were many things that really made this conference a deep experience for me:
Great variety in tracks and workshops
There were dozens of workshops and tracks to choose from and even though that made it hard at times (so much good stuff, which one to choose?), it also ensured there was something for everyone. The quality was also very high, I’ve done different workshops throughout the conference and with one exception, they were all awesome. I mean, I’ve been in youth ministry a while but I really learned a lot of new things.
You’d think that this would be a given amongst youth pastors, but it’s not always the case. I’ve been at conferences where the main goal was to shut up, listen and learn. At SYMC, there was a lot of fun and humor in the workshops, the general sessions and in the informal moments and I loved it. It wasn’t all about giving info or teaching or cramming as much as possible into a two-hour workshop, it was also about community and sharing.
Since I’m not based in the US, I’d never met a lot of people I ‘know’ online. It was so great to meet a whole bunch of them at the conference and each and every one of them was just as happy as I was to meet in person. It was this fellowship that made me feel welcome and ‘known’ at the conference, even though I came alone.
I’ve been to many conferences and sadly the worship is too often more show and entertainment than real worship. That was not the case here. Even though we were with many, many people, the worship was real and touched me deeply.
There were some ‘big names’ at the conference, but most people were accessible throughout the conference. There was plenty of opportunity for questions after workshops or for a quick chat in the hallways. I loved that!
Seeing my own book being sold
I cannot explain the incredible feeling you get when you see your own book being sold. I’m sure more ‘experienced’ authors are used to that, but for me it was such a high to see people buy my book.
Throughout the conference, there were many, many volunteers that helped in every way imaginable. They were ‘room hosts’, helped set up things, helped with registration, answered questions, explained stuff, you name it. And they were so friendly and welcoming! They contributed to the overall informal and friendly atmosphere at the conference.
I could go on and on, but the heart of the matter is this: I came back encouraged, affirmed and equipped from the SYM Conference and that made it worth every penny and every minute spent.
In the next weeks, I’ll be blogging about the conference. Not literal reports about workshops, but posts inspired by stuff I heard and experienced and saw. I hope after reading all those posts, you’ll be registering for next year as well!
If you were at SYMC as well, what was your experience? What made the conference ‘work’ for you?