I was not sure what to expect heading out to Minneapolis for the First Third conference at Luther Seminary.
JoPa productions hosted this event and did an excellent job in the planning, organization, structure, and purpose.
For starters, this conference was numerically limited intentionally, in order to foster closer community and nurture more intimate discussions.
It was also based around a fairly specific idea/purpose of theological dialogue in youth ministry.
To say it was an academic gathering would be a bit misleading, but there was certainly more focus on theology and higher education than other conferences I have been to.
The attendees were invited and encouraged to participate in the life of the seminary and interact with those students which made for a richer experience.
There were opportunities to embrace the surrounding community of the Twin Cities.
There were plenty of varied learning style included dialogue, group discussion, Q &A sessions, lecture series, worship experience, dinner groups, film study, and ministry presentations.
One could participate as much or as little as he or she choose, but additionally could actively participate via live blogging and tweets and other social media avenues.
The cost was inexpensive and covered most of the meals.
The leadership was down to earth and very approachable and accessible.
Unlike other conferences (names will not be included) there was not even a hint of superiority or celebrity status.
I was able to connect with some bloggers and like-minded youth workers and really spend quality time developing friendships.
I was also able to reconnect with mentors and inspirations such as Mike King, Andy Root, Tony Jones and feel supported and encouraged as I head back to the northeast.
Here is what I hope.
I hope that more affinity gatherings like this develop, focussed around various interests.
JoPo productions is an excellent resource for hosting an event, although I am not sure if they are limited to the Twin Cities.
I hope that similar regional mini-conferences will emerge across the country. Something like this would be perfect for the good folk in the northeast.
I hope that the big national youth ministry conferences will focus less on name appeal and attractions and more on community.
I know some have experimented and now offer break out sessions, workshops and even “affinity” groups…and these are all good starts!
First Third was an opportunity for like-minded youth workers to intentionally meet to learn, support, encourage, converse, network, etc…
I enjoyed simply meeting up with youth pastors and thinkers in unscripted, unguided, brutally honesty and risky conversations about faith, theology, life, and the interplay of those things with our youth ministry.
*Side thought as I sit here in Starbucks at the airport.
It would be great to have some form of national gathering of emerging youth workers to meet up for a few days to connect, read, reflect, converse, smoke a cigar or two, share meals, laugh, recreate, and help guide and shape the future of youth ministry.
We don’t need a conference, we simply need to get together. We are attempting to have very small regional meeting times here in the metro NY area, but I would love to see one day it expand to difference regions and contexts as well.
I know what Jeremy Zach and I have been conversing on attempting this informal connection via the great World Wide Web, but perhaps one day it may lead to face to face encounters and a deepened sense of connectivity and support.
First Third was a great experience that I highly recommend attending if it is held again.
If not, talk with the fine people at JoPa productions about doing something where you are at and remember there is beauty and power and support in the intentionality of relationships.