Tuesday, February 26, 2008

National Youth Ministry Conference - Day Four / Wrap-up

The NYMC drew to a close on Monday. What a weekend! I have to admit that my brain was officially stuffed with information and ideas over the course of the last several days, but it has all been worth it. The highlight of the day for me was lunch. Yes, lunch. We didn't even have lunch at the convention center or the hotel. My friend Ruth and I had lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant just outside of Cincinnati off of I-74 W. Not only was our service wonderful (if you are ever at that restaurant, ask to be seated in Stephanie's section), but the company turned out to be pretty cool, too.

As we were sitting there munching on hashbrown casserole and country ham, three guys and a seahorse were seated at the table behind us. Yes, you read that correctly... three men and a seahorse. And, as it turns out, they had been at the NYMC, too! We didn't recognize them at first without their yellow name tags... I think it was when I heard one of them tell their server that "We're actually a lot older than we act," that I realized that they were probably youth workers...

Alan, David, Tim, and Nessie came to the NYMC from Wisconsin. (In case you're wondering, Nessie is the adorable seahorse.) These guys were super fun! So to my new Wisconsinite friends, God bless you and your ministries!

Ruth and I made it back to Urbana, IL, but I had to stay over an extra night instead of coming back to my home. Snow and ice is nice to look at, but it isn't such a joy to drive in (especially at night). So, we met up with John and Joan for some shopping and dinner at the Olive Garden. We had the BEST server: Laurie! You know you rocked, Laurie!

And now, the Top Five for Day Four (a Wrap-Up of the NYMC):

  1. Seriously, I will never forget hearing (and seeing) Tony Dungy on the first night of the conference! It was an amazing message from and amazing man of faith.
  2. I loved all of the videos -- the announcements, the road trip with Couch, Overnighter... they all ROCKED! Great job, y'all!
  3. Mark DeVries and his crew were fantastic! I learned a ton! Now, if I can just keep managing my monkeys...
  4. I must give some e-props to all of my Presbyterian friends that I met at the conference. God bless each and every one of you for all of your work in your churches. Jenna, if you read this, please be sure to send me some pics of your purses and jewelry - and I'll be seeing you this summer at GA! Remember, don't ever let anyone tell you that you are too young... (I think there's a scripture about that someplace...)
  5. Finally, I must give thanks to the behind the scenes folks that made the conference possible. God bless the people running the sound boards and all of the AV equipment!

Blogging with Josh -- A Story in Pictures and a Few Words

On Sunday night, I went to a late night session led by Josh Griffin to learn about blogging. It was scheduled to begin at 10:00 PM.
By 10:18 PM, we were all wondering where Josh was. We were all hoping that he was off getting us all a ton of free stuff... Some of us decided that we would just start the session without Josh. Here's what happens when you give youth leaders a podium and a working mic...
We shared a lot of great ideas about blogging and podcasts. We invited those with blogs to share their web addresses on the board we labeled: Got Blog?
And then Josh showed up! Hooray! And he brought some free stuff, too! Double hooray! And all of the free stuff went to people who had showed up after we had texted Josh suggesting that he bring free stuff... Yay for those who won free stuff!
It was really cool to meet Josh - a fellow Star Wars geek and goofball extraordinaire! I'm sure that my blog will never be the same! God bless you, brother!

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Friend Kurt and His Adventure with Rocky Vance

Demonstrating that the resourcefulness of a good youth worker knows no bounds, my new friend Kurt went dumpster diving at the NYMC.

The wacky Presbys from Mark DeVries' learning track decided we would all go to lunch together on Sunday. We got together and agreed that we would see if the Chinese restaurant was open across the street, so we all started walking down the halls of the convention center to make our way to the Skywalk. Kurt was walking just ahead of me, so I saw him when he did this. While waking past one of the trash barrels, Kurt - in one fluid movement - reached in and pulled out a yardstick! "It's a perfectly good yardstick," he said in his defence. The Chinese restaurant was closed; so we went to Champs. The yardstick came along. No, it didn't have its own chair.

After we ordered, Kurt noticed that there was a name on the yardstick: Rocky Vance. And there was also a phone number -- Rocky Vance's phone number.

So Kurt decided to call Mr. Rocky Vance. Rocky didn't answer, so Kurt left a voicemail that went something like this:

"Rocky...hey! This is Kurt. I found something of yours at the convention center, and I think it is pretty important. I'd like to get it back to you today if I can. It looks pretty important. You can reach me at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I'm betting that you really need to get this back. It appears to be a yardstick. It is approximately 36 inches long and made out of wood. There's some lines and numbers on it too. Give me a call, Rocky. Hope I can get this back to you. Bye."

About 30 minutes later, as we were eating our lunch, Rocky called back. I'm not sure if he knew quite what to do with Kurt. Rocky explained that he was at the Car Show that was meeting on the first floor of the convention center and that he was giving the yardsticks away.

Kurt: "So, do you want to meet someplace in the convention center so I can return your yardstick to you?"

Rocky Vance: "Naw, man. It's free! You can keep it!"

Kurt: "Really? Wow, Rocky, that's really nice of you, man! Thanks!"

I thought we were all going to die laughing!

Unfortunately, the yardstick did not survive the whole day... but none of us will forget Kurt and his adventure with Rocky Vance.

National Youth Ministry Conference - Day Three

Day Three of the NYMC, and my brain is getting full. Seriously, if my brain wore a belt, I would be loosening it like it was Turkey Day... But, it has all been worth it!
The Deeper Learning Track that I've been in with Mark DeVries continued to rock my socks off! I'm super excited to be taking this info back to my Christian Education committee so we can get to work. Anyway... at the start of Session #3, Mark challenged some folks to build the highest tower they could with cardboard bricks. The results were hilarious! Some were more creative than others, but none of the towers lasted very long. I got a shot of this one right before all the bricks came crashing down... One of the things that we observed was that there had never been any rules about not working together. How sad but true that is of ministry... if we would only get over ourselves and work together more, just imagine what we could do!

Greg Stier was fantastic at the evening group session! Really... if you weren't there... get the MP3 of that session! I'll post a link on how to get recordings of the various sessions in a later post...

There are a few other things about Day Three that I must share with y'all, but I will give them each their own post...

Here's the Top Five for Day Three:

  1. Those of us in Mark DeVries' learning track tried to engage the rooms next to us in a round of "We've got Spirit, yes we do! We've got Spirit, how 'bout you?". Alas... there were no responses. We figure that all they could here us saying was "wkosidnrj wowiefn wowkndrnf! solwefnseinlfwehfiwk pdeneewliyejhf ijhhfhwuef?" (We weren't exactly "together" on the cheer..)

  2. I did a study on Sabbath when I was in seminary, so it was refreshing to hear Mark DeVries say this regarding taking a day off each week: "If your church is suggesting that you break one of the ten commandments, then it probably isn't a good idea to work there."

  3. "My name is Tim, and I'm a porcupine farmer." Thank you, 321 Improv!

  4. Greg Stier said this about youth: "Why are they deaf to us? Because we are deaf to them!" Wow... let's all chew on that for a while...

  5. The announcement video... yeah... that was great! Check it out at Josh's blog.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

National Youth Ministry Conference - Day Two

What a day! Lots of great workshops, speakers, skits, and music... it was definitely a busy and meaningful day!

The "Deeper Learning Track" that I am attending is being led by Mark DeVries. To put it simply...WOW! I am anxiously looking forward to continuing to learn on Sunday. I realized that I had definitely picked the right workshop when Mark quoted Rabbi Ed Friedman -- a hero to those of us who subscribe to systems thinking. If you are not familiar with Ed Friedman... check him out! I especially loved the analogy that Mark used: If a dancer, while dancing, falls through the floor because the floor boards are rotted and broken, the answer to the problem is not to replace the dancer... you need to replace the floor!

At the evening session, we were treated to one of the best performances of You Give Love A Bad Name. The vocalists were serious rock stars!

Doug Fields was awesome! We made our own "cloud of witnesses" by writing our names, our faith blockers, and the simple prayer of "by faith" on paper, crumpling them up and then tossing them into the air at the same time. Drew... wherever you are... I'm praying for you! Praise the God who amazes us by working with, in, and through us - even in our weaknesses.

And now... The Top 5 for Day Two:

  1. The folks in Deeper Learning Track #11 learned that Mark DeVries had this advice for a youth leader wondering how to get more students to events: "Naked Jello wrestling is always a good idea." (Josh...I know that this isn't a picture, but...!)

  2. The Overnighter video by Leonard T.... FANTASTIC! You can check it out at Josh's blog, MoreThanDodgeball.com. I think Leonard has been to a few of my Lock-Ins...

  3. Hooray for the Skit Guys! They thanked us for what we do to serve youth. We thank them for sharing their gifts with all of us.

  4. We learned from Doug Fields that "God invented Red Bull." Scripture tells us that God never sleeps or slumbers... now we know how God does it!

  5. My friend Ruth and I met Jason, who I would officially like to name as the King of the Gift With Purchase! Jason... you know who you are... You Rock!

As a bonus... we discovered that there are actually a pretty good number of Presbyterians at the conference! Yay Presbys!!! Those Presbys who are attending Mark's class stopped for a picture on Saturday afternoon, and that night there was a group that met at the Elm Street Bistro for more fun and frivolity. Remember the words of 1 Timothy 5:23. Our stomachs and our souls felt better after our evening out... although I'm pretty sure it was the company and not what we may have had to drink!

A big thanks to Ruth, Jeff, Kurt, Al (the Prophet), Theresa, Marilyn, Shannon, and Jonathan for making my evening unforgettable! (Thanks for taking the bistro photo, Marilyn!)

I'm probably not going to get my Day Three and Day Four posts up until Wednesday, since I'll be up late on Sunday (learning more about blogging from Josh), driving back to Illinois all day on Monday, and chillin' at a Presbytery meeting all day on Tuesday. So... keep checking back for updates!

Oh -- and there will be a contest coming your way soon (with a groovy prize and everything)! Details will be out this week...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

National Youth Ministry Conference - Day One

Well... Here I am at the National Youth Ministry Conference in beautiful (and somewhat icy) Cincinnati, Ohio! The weather outside may be a bit frightful, but the conference is warm and delightful! It is pretty cool to have so many people dedicated to youth ministry gathered all in one place.

The opening session last night was really nicely done. Josh Griffin opened things up with some giveaways and wacky antics - but really, would we expect anything less from Josh? I'm praying that they give away more of the Sack Chairs, and that I defy the odds and actually catch the hacky-sack that they toss into the crowd! Those things ROCK! Be sure to check their website, y'all!

The entire evening was really cool, but the highlight had to be hearing from Tony Dungy! What an amazing, Spirit-filled man! If you have never thought of ministry as a kind of coaching... well... it is never too late to start! Key points: 1) Learn your craft; 2) Make connections by being yourself and keeping it personal; and 3) Be sure to recharge your battery (Sabbath keeping, anyone?). In case you ever read my blog, Tony... Thanks for an awesome message of hope and encouragement!

Here's my Top 5 from Day One:

  1. We all learned that Rick Lawrence has a picture of Doug Fields in a Speedo... and we all died a little inside when we saw it...
  2. Thom and Joani Schultz almost shared a passionate kiss in front of us all... but the voters decided that they wanted to hear them answer awkward questions instead (46% to 48%! I was expecting a landslide for the awkward question!). No questions about burping in worship or anything...but perhaps another time...
  3. Tim Timmons led us in a rockin' version of My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand)... Fantabulous!
  4. We watched a piece on The Couch's trip to the conference... I want to officially invite The Couch to my next pool party!
  5. Tony Dungy, Tony Dungy, Tony Dungy!!!

Oh... and the best T-shirt award goes to this guy:

Keep checking back for more updates and pictures!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Long Time, No Blogging...

It has been a while since my last post. Between my vacation and our Session retreat, I've been a tad busy. I have a lot to blog about, so don't be surprised if I have more than one post today...
I went home (back to Ohio) at the beginning of the month. Not exactly the most exotic place to go on vacation, but I can't beat the cost of lodging! Thanks, Mom and Dad! In case you watch the Weather Channel as religiously as my dad, you'll recall that there was some serious rain that went through the Northwest Ohio area at the start of the month. I hadn't banked on going home to a flood, but that's what I got! Thankfully, the fam didn't get the water in the basement like we did this summer.

Besides the flooding, I celebrated a birthday over my vacation! I swear I woke up on my birthday and saw about 100 more gray hairs on my head! I have been going gray since seminary. And at the rate that the gray is coming in, I will have salt and pepper hair well before I turn 40! At least it helps me look a little bit older (although I rarely actually act my age...if I can help it). Anyway... my folks got me a cake (made by our friend and neighbor, Becky). Doesn't it just make your mouth water? YUM!!! I vaguely remember lapsing into a sugar coma sometime that evening... Mmmm... sugar coma.... John took me out for dinner and a movie, too. I had a great time! Overall... it was one of my best birthdays.