conferenceAre you open to growing in community?

In an earlier post on this blog, Leneita Fix shared what she’s teaching this year at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. You totally need to check out her stuff, as well as many of the other bloggers on this site who are all presenting something. I’m not kidding… these folks are brilliant and have such an amazing heart for God, students and youth workers.

For what it’s worth, I’ll also be serving at the conference. Catch up with me on any of these if you want to join into what I’ll be doing or hang out afterward:

symcI know that I’m taking a risk in sharing that with you because it comes across as self-serving. Honestly, I’ll take the risk because I really believe in SYMC is all about… a conference “by youth workers, for youth workers.”

In fact, I’d like to give you some exclusive access (with just a minor edit or two for privacy/context) to a Facebook conversation with a local friend of mine in ministry who I dared to check out the conference.

Hey bro! Thanks for liking my status. It actually prompted me to ask you a question I keep forgetting to ask – wondering if you are interested in attending SYMC in Columbus in March.

Tony, I was not planning on it. I had thought about it for a while. I still am sort of on the fence. I feel like it’s never gonna be so easily accessible again, and I even have a buddy who really wants me to go with him. It just happens to fall probably in my busiest two weeks of the whole spring, and I’m concerned about not getting everything I need to get done, done..

Hmm… I hear that tension. I’m actually doing a trip to Honduras right afterward, so I know what you mean. I would offer that it’s worth it, even if you can pop in for a day. If that’s of interest, I can probe around for you to find a one-day rate. What do you think?

Well, what do you think would be some of the things I would most benefit from experiencing?

screen568x568I’ve been a part of various conferences like these over the year, and each experience is unique. The one thing I can offer about this one (and the largest reason why I like serving with these guys) is the relational atmosphere SYMC creates that’s just rich with the Holy Spirit… not in a weird way, but in a fulfilling way.

There are, of course, a lot of great things to learn from amazing minds in ministry. You can certainly fill up a notebook with new ideas… it’s like a Thanksgiving meal, as well as the unbuckling of your belt after the meal. You take in all of the ingredients life has given you and bring those to take part in a great buffet with other youth workers from all over.

The coolest thing is you can enjoy it without any masks… some people confess their junk, and others share their victories. Everyone finds a moment of genuine laughter, and everyone finds a genuine moment for hot tears… all as appropriate.

To top it off, there’s this vibe of accessibility to everyone. It’s like a weekend student ministry retreat without the students… where you get to be on the receiving end.

Anyway, all of that to say I’m into it… truly. Where I could fall into a funk with other conferences, this one is always growing and adapting. It’s truly for youth workers by youth workers… and Jesus.

Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you’re interested or would want to hang out if you came. I’m speaking in a handful of places, but would really enjoy the chance to share some free time with you.

When all was said and done, my buddy moved some things around in his schedule and signed up. He added, “Thanks for your answers to my questions, I definitely see the value of the conference.” Another couple of friends I spoke to recently are coming, too – mainly because I couldn’t stop yapping about the thing. (It’s like when you’ve eaten pizza all your life, but then find pizza that redefines pizza,,, and you have to tell everyone else about it.)

Why does this matter?

We all have days that leave us feeling like we’re insane. It’s rare to find a ragtag community like this where you suddenly feel like you can waste less time translating what you mean with people who don’t “get it” and more time speaking a common language among other dreamers who do “get it.” .

sackchairAll that to say I hope we can hang out at SYMC this year, too. If it’s not in your budget this round, start saving up for next year. If you can still join in, count this as my official invite for us to grab a meal or smoothie sometime with me a handful of peers among thousands of other youth workers

Or maybe we’ll just hang out in the closest over-sized sack chair we can find.


I’m excited to be a part of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference again this year – took a couple minutes to sit down with Jason Ostrander, the conference director and king of event planning for Simply Youth Ministry.

What has been the funniest moment in planning SYMC?
One thing I know about youth ministry is that you “never cut funny”.  In other words, now matter how serious ministry can become (and it is a serious thing) we have to remember that we still work with students – and students are funny.  So watching you and Jake remind our team how funny things like music videos and crazy announcements can be has been hilarious!  Let’s just say it ensures that we won’t soon forget who we are.

What has been the most difficult part of planning the conference?
Walking that fine line between entertainment and ministry.  One of the distinctions of SYMC is that people know they have been ministered to –that’s its not just been a parade of youth ministry “stuff”.  But at the end of the day SYMC is also a hotbed for resources as well as a place to highlight some of the brightest voices in YM culture.

Just saw that Youth Ministry Architects will be there. What’s the plan/idea there?
YMA is an amazing organization that seeks to partner with the local church in a consultant-like role.  They truly want to partner with youth workers to help them create and grow an impactful ministry –it’s like having a YM expert in your back pocket all the time!  They’ll be on site in Indy with a handful of staff ready to meet one-on-one with youth workers throughout the conference.  I would sign-up as soon as you arrive!

What did you learn about Josh and Jake (the conference emcees for 6 years running) last week at your planning meeting in Colorado?
Two things: 1) that Josh is the smart and sensible one, and 2) I would not want to be Jake during the announcement videos come March 1st-4th.

Tell us the #1 reason someone should attend SYMC?
I wouldn’t have stayed in youth ministry as long as I did if it wasn’t for the greater YM community.  I think the best thing about SYMC is the community that exists year after year –its so interesting to watch as the attendees start to arrive, the conference turns into a family reunion literally overnight.  So whether you already feel connected or this is your first time at SYMC remember -the family is waiting!

Thanks, Jason! You can register for SYMC right here!


Just wondering – are you headed to a youth ministry conference in the next 12 months? Vote in today’s poll! I’m going to be at several of them this year (you can check them out on the Youth Pastor 1st, Speaker Guy 2nd page) including the Simply Youth Ministry Conference – hope to see you there!


Congratulations to Jeremy on winning the contest to score a free registration to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2012. Join us – it is going to be great – details here on the official conference website. Can’t wait!


I’m pumped to be headed to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in just 2 months! I hope you’re coming already and if not you’ll consider it right away – it is one of the most refreshing times of the year. This year they’ve added some great new names to the speaker roster, including Jon Acuff, Craig Gross, Brooklyn Lindsey and many more. Check out the speaker roster right here and figure out now who/what you want to go to when we all get to Louisville in March.

I also love the concept of the SYMC devotionals, designed to help you connect with God between events. Good stuff, free for the taking if you follow the link.

I asked the gang over at SYM if they would give me a registration to giveaway today – they said sure! So here you go: Leave a comment on this post and I’ll pick one at random on Friday!


A few times a year I get a chance to meet/hang/speak at youth worker conferences or leadership events – thought I would post them here in case you were planning on attending too and maybe we could arrange a meet up. I’m a sucker for late-night Steak and Shake. Here’s what’s on tap this next season:

The D6 Conference - I’ve never been to this event and it has been one I’ve wanted to get to check out the last couple of years. Check out their fantastic official trailer here, if you’re in/around Dallas or in town for it this September- I’ll see you there! I’m speaking on a panel about youth ministry and leading a commissioning prayer during the last session of the event. Pumped.

YS National Youth Ministry Convention: San Diego - honored to be invited to speak at YS-San Diego! I’ll be doing a few workshops there in September focusing on teaching calendars, sermon preparation and training small group leaders. I enjoyed this little promo video of their event from Tic Long, too. I’m also on a panel with some legit dudes on the future of youth ministry. Excited and intimidated.

YSPalooza Orlando – This is the first time I’ll be teaching at YSPalooza, too! We’re still working out the details, but it is going to be fun in Orlando this January.

Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2012 - Without a doubt this is the event I’m most heavily involved in again this year. I’ll be doing the general session programming (with the infamous Jake Rutenbar) and there’s even talk of me maybe speaking a little chunk of a creative new general session idea. Who knows … I just know it is going to be awesome and you really, really need to be there, too – Louisville, KY in March. Be there with Francis Chan and Jon Acuff and more.