Thoughts on NYWC Conference in LA

I was truly humbled and honoured that several of my twitter and facebook friends, as well as ICONZ and BBNZ (My employers) responded to a request for some sponsorship to get to a fantastic training event in Los Angeles called the National Youth Workers Convention (put on by Youth Specialties). I had very high expectations for this event as I felt there was a real CLEAR sense that I NEEDED to make this happen! To have many people support you, believe in you and really encourage you to chase the dreams in your heart, is honestly the most humbling and inspirational part of being a follower of Jesus.

I HONESTLY don’t know how to express what this weekend has meant in my life and in the dreams I have for Youth Ministry in New Zealand. There has been so much to process and so much to think through. There have been challenges issued that make me really excited, but also somewhat apprehensive. The need to change the way we think and talk about Youth Ministry is particularly pressing for New Zealand and I TRULY HOPE that we can continue to be the progressive, creative and courageous Youth Workers that we have always needed to be in this country. If there is nothing else to take away from this week, I would have to say the most pressing concern for me in both my work with BB/ICONZ and for Youth Ministry as a whole in NZ, is the need to build change and adaptability into the work that we do!!!


I went to several seminars and big room sessions on different subjects but the MAIN highlights for me were:

  • a great seminar presented by a guy called Les Christie on Finding, Equipping, Retaining and dismissing volunteers that provided a few little nuggets on making sure that Volunteers are well looked-after and more likely to have an enduring relationship with our ministries… as well as how to find them in the first place! 🙂
  • BIG ROOM 1 with Shane Hipps – I was really challenged about how we are to be PRESENT in the worlds of the people we minister to, particularly when faced with a generation that has no ability or inclination to speak face-to-face about the things in life that really matter. I particularly liked this quote:

If our ability to impact the world is tied in with presence – then we are facing unprecedented challenges in the digital age… This age is a tide – we can’t resist it or change it so much – so we need to adapt to it and learn to swim

  • BIG ROOM 2 with Perry Noble – Perry is one of those guys… he says what he thinks… and I can assure you, what he thinks is pretty much bang on the money and VERY CHALLENGING! Perry had 4 prayers for the future of ministry to Young People based around some experiences Paul went through in Acts 20… They were:
    • For attention – That the church would be aware of the needs in Youth Ministry and of what we are passionate about. That resources in churches would reflect the fact that 95% of people come into a relationship with Jesus before the age of 18!!!
    • For Submission – That we would have the maturity to place the needs of the immature ahead of our own needs!
    • For a Biblical Foundation – that we would spend less time reflecting culture and more time directing culture. We need to “TEACH THEM WHO JESUS IS AND WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAYS”, as this is what makes us distinctive from everyone else.
    • For Stewardship – That we would be happy with what we have, and not always looking elsewhere for inspiration. Chasing revelation rather than imitation!
  • BIG ROOM 3 with Reggie Joiner – Any time a man can get up with a Mac classic from the 1980s and then talk about the need to have change and adaptability built into our “operating system” is a time when I am totally captured by an illustration!!! His basic premise was that Mac didn’t know that eventually the Internet would come, and that Photography would be digital and that we would programme computers to capture TV and all that – but the machine they built, had the DNA that would one day support these new technologies! There is no way that a classic machine could support the programmes we run on our computers today, but the fact that it was never intended to be the final manifestation of what a computer could be… meant that as the product changed, the shape of computers and how we use them was changed as well! We need to have CHANGE and ADAPTABILITY built in to the systems of our ministries – if we think we have the final product, we will too easily be over-run by newer and exciting technologies!
  • BIG ROOM 4 with Donald Miller – The power of STORY in connecting our faith to the REAL world is absolutely and TOTALLY non-negotiable in today’s world. We can have all the bells and whistles this world has to offer, but at the end of the day, it is the gentle rhythm of our everyday lives that people connect to the reality of the gospel in our life.
  • Ministry in a Culture of Narcisism – Walt Mueller lead a very eye-opening session on the dominant culture of celebriphilia – the love of all things flashy, showy, public and egocentric. I have seen in my own ministry in NZ and the UK the desire for their 15 minutes of fame in young people – hence the numbers flocking to make fools of themselves on “reality” tv shows… Ministry MUST look different in this context – taking young people on a journey toward “other-centredness” is imperative to confront this self-centred culture.
  • Youth Ministry 3.o with Mark Oestreicher – I had read this book before heading to NYWC and couldn’t wait to wrestle through the future of Youth Ministry. Marko has put into words what my heart has been churning through over the last 5 years. For a long time I felt almost guilty that I was so restless in my Youth Ministry roles – like I was bucking the status-quo and that I was wrong to do so. However, in a long-term Kingdom sense, I think I was RIGHT to be wrestling. The future of Youth Ministry will not look like it EVER HAS before – this is both exciting and scary at the same time. The major cultural shift that we expect to see is messy ministry with lots of activity in different “tribes” of young people. It is a no-brainer to think that ministry to one All-inclusive bunch of people just doesn’t hit the target in today’s world – so I am excited to find out how we are going to walk this journey in New Zealand.
  • BIG ROOM 6 with Liz Murray – Liz’ life was made into a movie… of course, this was a conference in the USA, so she is not alone in that respect! What stood out to me from Liz, was her attitude towards her story being so public. There was almost a guarded hesitancy in her mannerisms, but the power of her story and its’… ummm… SCALE was an inspiration. In brief, Liz told us of her journey from being on the streets of New York (as a result of having 2 struggling parents that eventually passed away through contracting HIV and AIDS) to being accepted into Harvard University! Rags to Riches just doesn’t quite capture the tone of what was a truly tear-jerking narrative of grace and choices. Life truly is a simple choice of great achievements, versus eating Pizza.

My Favourite Part

The best thing about this conference in my opinion was not just the amazing teaching, input, worship, production values or scale of this event, but TRULY was the PEOPLE that I met along the way. Every person that I got to chat to or hang out with made me feel not just an attender at an event, but a PART of SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT! There were some people that were so super-friendly that I wanted to mention them here!

YS STAFFMandy (and John), Adam, Mark M, Brittany, Marko (and Family) and my good mate Tash McGill… I had travelled a long way to come to NYWC and the YS team enabled me to feel like I was a long-lost friend and not just a consumer of information at a conference. To be able to hang out and chat at the end of a long day was a blessing and something that I didn’t take for granted.

Kelly and Mark from Imago Community – So nice to chat with genuine people that are interested in your world!

Scott and HollyScott is a HUGELY talented Artist who was painting during each of the Big Room sessions – make sure you check out his Website! 🙂

All the other Conference Goers who I chatted with on occasion and shared a bit of life – each of the people I met were really interested in NZ, in Me and in why the heck I would travel so far to go to their Convention!

Closing Thoughts:

I still find it hard to think all this through due to the scale of the dreams that this has instilled within me… I have always been someone with a healthy dissatisfaction for the status-quo… but going somewhere that was challenging Youth Workers to continually examine their hearts, goals and passions in ministry – just ignites a flame that is already burning, into an inferno.

I am scared that in New Zealand we are not dreaming big enough dreams. I am scared that the dominant desire in our ministry will continue to be examined through a “they can come to us” mindset. I am scared that we will never seek to train ourselves further, as the pain of change seems far less desirable than the comfort of staying where we are.

My fears aside, I am actually quite confident that we will be ok – New Zealand has always been a “go-get-em” kind of a place and I know that God has big plans for us to be world leaders in so many different areas. I see it as my personal responsibility to play my part in being a change agent… I know that my co-kiwis in LA at NYWC are both people that are thinking ahead about Ministry in a multi-cultural, secularised, messy and chaotic culture – but more than just thinking, each of us wants to make it happen in the areas God has given us passion. We don’t want the same-ole same-ole stuff – because we want NEW outcomes to be chased after and new visions to be planted in our churches… I say bring it on, I hope there are many Kiwi Youth Pastors in many Kiwi Churches out there wanting to join us!!!


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on NYWC Conference in LA

  1. Glad you were challenged and injected with lots of new ideas and a freshness for your ministry. It'll keep you from DIY disasters for a while

  2. Awesome bro- I'm glad you made it there and got a massive kick out of it. I pray that this fire burning in you would consume not only you but those around you, share it, spread it.<br><br>Dream dreams, dream BIG, if we dream God can fill a mug, He'll overfill it, if we dream He can fill a warehouse, he can overfill it – we can NEVER out dream God!!

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