The past 7 days have been a bit of whirlwind for me.
Last weekend, I spoke at a high school winter retreat in Massachusetts on “The Main Event: Finding yourself in God’s Story”.
We had a fun and fascinating time journeying through the Story of God in light of God’s redemptive and restorative plan of history. The four “teaching times” in sessions looked at four particular “event” in the lives of God followers that set them apart towards partnering with God in his mission.
Abraham. Moses. Jesus. Paul.
This was a fun weekend interacting, teaching, and hanging out with students and creating space for them to share their stories and also creating environments for them to experience, encounter, and embrace the divine presence of the Trinity.
On Wednesday I flew down to Texas to meet up with youth pastor Neil Christopher Neil on Twitter in Fort Worth. Neil has pioneered and organized a youth ministry conference called Evo for progressive type youth workers from all different walks of life and church backgrounds.
We had 3 great days of interaction, dialog, exploring, seeking, and dreaming together. I spoke on Thursday night about the importance of Authenticity: The importance of ministering out of who you truly are. This idea sparked nurturing and caring conversations among the attendees. I made some wonderful friends and truly felt loved and supported in my identity and calling as both a youth worker and follower of Christ.
Friday evening I drove from Dallas to Oklahoma City to participate in a youth conference called Vintage 2011. A good friend and brilliant young theologian/thinker/networker Zac Workun Zac on Twitter was a major catalyst for this event and bringing me down. This was a unique collaboration of 10 youth ministries from the northern section of OKC, all coming together in a spirit of humility and partnership, rather than competition (which seems to occur down in the south often).
The theme for the weekend was Reconciliation, with a primary focus on the story of the Prodigal. That evening I spoke to about 350 middle school and high school students to kick things off. The following morning I had the privilege of speaking at their youth worker brunch and we had around 75 volunteer youth workers in attendance. My hope was to affirm, encourage, and support the importance of volunteers in youth ministry and to see themselves as truly relational and “incarnational”. Our topic and conversation revolved around changing role of the youth worker from influence to place-sharing. Later that evening, 150 parents showed up for a similar dinner and presentation/Q &A with me about the necessity of parental involvement, exemplary faith, congregational involvement and integration, and reaffirming their role as spiritual guides to their children.
The evening concluded with large combined worship service of students, parents, and youth workers and I spoke about God’s heart for redemption, restoration, and reconciliation and our responsibilities to take the initiative towards that dream.
Sunday morning I was honored to be able to preach at local church, First Baptist of Bethany, on the Power of Reconciliation, using the narrative of the story of Jacob and his sons as primary example.
Busy week. I am eager to return home to my family (both at home and church)
I spoke and taught more in a span of 7 days than every before and while it was exhausting, it was fun to participate in God’s activity in different contexts. Each was vastly different, and I hope to reflect and write further on each opportunity in the next week. In many ways, my experience has been an eye opener pertaining to the cultural and religious differences between the Northeast and the South.
This has been my first opportunity to sit down and process for a few minutes before heading back home to NY tomorrow.
Wonderful hospitality, generosity, and friendship has been offered to me in these past 7-10 days, for which I am eternally grateful.
Thank you to everyone who was involved in the vision and organization of these gatherings and those of you who participated.
And thank you to the ones who offered and extended an invitation to me to come and be involved. I hope in some way that the ideas presented and conversations were helpful.