I am currently on my way to Atlanta, Georgia for the Youth Ministry Summit put on by the Youth Cartel
To be completely honest, I have completely opposite emotions tugging at my heart, mind, and soul right now. One the one hand I am excitedly anxious about what is ahead this weekend, and on the other hand I am fearfully nervous. I realize that may sound confusing, so hopefully as I share what is behind those feelings it will become clear.
First of all, I have to state how incredibly blessed I am to be attending this conference! I had attended at least one youth ministry conference per year for 16-years straight from 1995 through 2010. Last year, in 2011, was the first year that I did not attend a youth ministry conference at all. Even that, alone, was cause for mixed emotions. It felt strange, almost wrong, to not be attending one. It felt like the “end” in many ways – the end of an era, the end of my career, the end of my calling to church youth ministry, and many other little “ends.” But there was just no way that I could attend one in 2011. I was no longer employed by a church working in paid, church youth ministry. I moved in June of 2011 from Texas to Northern, California. My wife started working full time. I was searching for work. We were living with family. Expenses were still pouring in, but the income was not. I no longer had a youth ministry budget (continuing education budget) to offset (if not pay completely) the expenses of a Youth Ministry Conference. So, given everything, there really wasn’t even any possibility of me attending one. And then 2012 rolled around. Basically everything listed above remained the same other than the fact that I was working 2-3 part-time jobs to try and make some extra income for our family. But expenses were still high and income was not. So I entered into 2012 with the mindset and understanding that I would not attend a youth ministry conference again this year.
In the summer of 2012 I received an email from Adam McLane asking me if I was planning on attending the Summit in Atlanta in November of 2012. I replied to him and told him that as much as I would LOVE to be there, I just could not afford it. I was given the very generous offer of a scholarship for the conference itself. This was extremely generous and I was very thankful for it, but the truth of the matter remained that I was not in a position to be able to afford the flight from Quincy, CA to Atlanta, GA, the cost of the hotel room, or some of the other expenses that I would incur. So, I thanked Adam for his generous offer, and shared with him a bit more detailed information regarding why, even with this great offer, I still could not afford to come to the Summit – as much as I wanted to. He said he understood, and I assumed that was the final conclusion to this opportunity.
However, the very next day I received an email from Adam letting me know that there was a possibility of my being able to attend. To make a fairly long (and probably boring for everyone else) story short, Adam informed me that there was someone who was a supporter of the Youth Ministry Cartel and wanted to support the Summit, but was not able to attend personally, and so this individual wanted to scholarship someone else to be able to attend. This included the airfare, hotel, conference fee, and anything left over could be used to help cover some costs of meals. Adam shared my information with this individual and he wanted to offer me this scholarship to be able to attend. So, within about a month I was given the finances to buy my plane ticket, reserve my hotel room, Adam and Marko comped my registration fees… and here I am on my way to the Summit!!! So, that is by far the first reason I am so excited to be going to the Summit.
Why else am I excited?
- I’m looking forward to being together again with so many of my Youth Ministry colleagues whom I have known for many years now.
- I’m excited to see what God has to teach me during this conference and what He has to speak into my heart.
- I’m looking forward to learning, and sharing, and learning some more.
- I’m looking forward to attending a Youth Ministry conference unlike any others I’ve attended before – with a different format, different focus, and different expectations.
- I, personally, LOVE conferences. So I am looking forward to going, period!
However, there is the flip side of this coin for me which has me also feeling fearfully nervous. I’ve been trying to figure out how to put into words the reasons for this feeling, and they all seem to come out wrong, but I’m going to try.
What makes me fearfully nervous?
- Well, the first thing isn’t really something that makes me feel fear or nervousness, but I am sad to be away from my wife and daughters for a four days! I already miss them terribly. The truth is I do struggle at times with feeling guilty for being away and having a blast at something like this when Christi is back at home having to take care of everything. However, she is so incredibly supportive about my attending, which helps out tremendously.
- I think the biggest fearfully nervous feeling I have is that of “what next God?” I am so thankful for this opportunity to attend the Summit, but am wondering also what God has in store for me personally from it (which I plan to blog about through the conference, and hopefully after as well). Where I am currently living, there is not the opportunity to be in paid, full-time church youth ministry. So one of my fears of this conference is that my calling and passion to be doing Youth Ministry (in the most commonly assumed understanding of that term) will be re-ignited and I will be yearning to get back into that position – however our family life, situation and circumstances do not currently allow for this to happen.
- Following from this fear is the fear of, “then what?” If I’m not able to be back in paid, church youth ministry, then what is God calling me to do with my life now? Ever since my freshman year of college I have felt the clear call on my life from God to be in church youth ministry. I did that for 21 years straight, until 2011. Now, for the first time in my life, I am struggling to know what is God’s calling on my life. I do realize that Youth Ministry can, and does, happen in other contexts than within the church. But I still find the challenge of where we live in this regard because opportunities are very limited.
So, I’m headed to Atlanta with pendulum-edge emotions about what to expect and what is ahead. So, I guess with that… stay tuned...