Statement of the obvious post title, right? I mean… Open Paris was kind of my baby. So of course I loved it.
But I mean that from a bigger perspective, too. I mean that I literally loved Open Paris. In so many ways its exactly what is needed in youth ministry. Risky, collaborative, relational, vision-casting, and informative.
Every single person who was part of Open Paris took a risk. Dan and the host church. All of the presenters. All the attendees. All of the sponsors. A first-time event is inherently risky. But the level of risk was a little higher because very few people knew what to expect.
The result of all of that risk was a sense of anticipation and dependency on God to make it work.
At times, it felt like organizing Open Paris was a wild animal. For me there were simple barriers like time zones. But there were cultural complexities that made it hard to know what was and what wasn’t going to work. About 2 weeks away from it I just gave up trying to tame it. We just let it roll and enjoyed the ride.
One thing that is working really well about all of the Open events is that it’s highly collaborative. It has to be. When we are planning, my role isn’t to dictate how it all goes down, instead I keep pushing the vision that it’ll work best when we all work together.
This was on full display with our panel discussion on ministering to LGBT youth. (Not the theology, the practical realities.) I knew Chris Curtis would be masterful in moderating it. And after meeting Gemma Dunning on Thursday night I had a great feeling that her practical experience would mean a ton. But there were two people that Dan arranged to have attend that I knew nothing about and only hoped would add greatly to the conversation. And, in the end, it was an amazing time. (I’ll post the audio soon.)
For the first time we added a 2nd day to an Open event. We had intensives all afternoon on Friday, a dinner for everyone, and a time of worship. Together with a full-day on Saturday, meals, and an evening activity, and we all got to know one another really well. Friday evening I went on a walk with some folks before dinner… and it was 15 youth workers from 5 different countries all sharing so many of the same experiences and heartaches. So cool and uniquely relational.
Open, by nature, is flat. You could say this of our other Cartel events… but it’s even more flat at Open than the Campference or The Summit. Over and over again I’m challenged by the simple upside down vision of Open. When practitioners share with practitioners, new stuff is born.
One byproduct of that, for me, is how much I learn. Another is that the vision spreads.
Youth ministry is highly contextual. Something that works in one part of a community won’t necessarily work in another. I think one of the “meta” things people experience at Open is the importance of studying your own community (ethnography) and then looking for ideas/solutions/programs to adapt. Long gone are models of ministry that you can attempt to implement without much contextualization.
One of my favorite sessions in Paris was with Markus Eichler talking about the Youth Church movement in Germany. To me, the idea that the church could decide that a solution to disinterested youth and young adults could be a church just-for-them felt foreign to me. (Even though we have youth ministry ghettos all over the United States.) But to look at the data and see that it worked a little bit better than what they’d done in the past, that was really interesting to me. Another part of that presentation which peaked my interest was that it was intentionally temporary. So they tried Youth Church for a few years, systematically, but didn’t continue it after the experiment was over. That was interesting, as well.
Of course, you can’t go to Paris without sightseeing. I think it’s impossible to do so as everywhere you look is something you’ve seen in a movie or read about in a book. But to intersperse the sightseeing at night and during breaks with the relational parts of exploring with new friends as well as the unique content… all of that combines in my mind to a single phrase: I loved Open Paris.