The worst part of summer camp? The crash! You squirrel kids away for a week, take away all their technology, and pump them full of nothing but Jesus and they conclude that week connected, hopeful, and holy.

A few weeks later….the camp-drug has been filtered out of their systems and the camp high is crash landing.

Conferences for youth workers can sometimes have the same aftermath. We attend; we spend a week away from ‘normal’. We take the wise counsel offered by Kurt, Josh, and other trusted youth workers to glean the most from our week ‘in the bubble.’ We go home. And after a few weeks of board meetings, parent confrontations, and pastoral smack-downs, our camp high has waned.

How do we make the conference experience more than a camp high?

1. Reflect. Journal. Blog. As God reveals truths to you, write them down. On days when you question His existence, those notes will be important to you!
2. Buy a CD or DVD from the sessions that impacted you most. On dark days, pull those out and revisit what was most inspiring to you.
3. Grab some downloads of sessions you wanted to catch, but had to miss because of scheduling (or napping!) Consider this your ‘nicotine patch’. Schedule some time every month to listen to a new session. Not only do you get continuing education year round, it’s sure to remind you what was best about the conference you attended as it sharpens you personally and professionally.
4. Continue the relationships you built through that week. (Yes, you should be building relationships throughout the week.) We’ve all watched those camp friendships go by the wayside a few weeks after camp has concluded. But with so many ways to stay connected, there’s no longer excuse for that. Maintain those relationships — maintain community.

I’ll confess. I’ve been in youth ministry for 23 years. (Yes….old.) I’ve been to at least 23 conferences. No one — NO ONE — does it like Simply Youth Ministry Conference. They embrace core values that really set them apart from every other educational experience I’ve ever had as a youth worker. That’s probably because they so skillfully intertwine education with relationship. I left that conference feeling valued, known, and understood. I left with ideas, tips, and truths that I am still applying today (3 years later.) I left with friendships that are deep and life-changing for me. I had never known a true connection with other youth workers until SYMC. (I’m going to blog some of those stories over the next two months!) After two decades of bouncing from conference to conference based largely on the quality of the brochure, I left with a commitment to return to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference annually.

Conferences no longer should be solely about playing a better game or building a better Bible study. You can get more than that. You can grab a year-long lifeline that pushes amazing education and training while embracing you, friending you, knowing you, and loving you. Go register….right now!

Darren is a veteran youth pastor (that’s code for old and in it for a long time) and co-founder of Millennial Influence – a resource for parents & youth pastors, including Mi Podcast – a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers. Check out his blog at http://everyonescalledtoyouthministry.com/