A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending one of the UK’s main youth work conferences, the Youth Work Summit, which this year was held in Manchester. This, I think, was my 3rd time at the Summit, and year by year I just get more and more inspired, blessed and encouraged. This year was definitely no exception. I would whole heartedly recommend the summit to anyone who works with young people, voluntary or paid, in a church or not, get along to this event, I highly doubt you can come away from the event without your mind racing with thoughts from the day, and your heart breaking in compassion for the young people you know, that you work with. Plus the Summit is fantastic for people with short attention spans, like me, as each speaker has around 10 minutes to speak on a very specialist subject. The variety is incredible! (https://www.youthworksummit.com/inspire)
I thought I’d share with you some personal highlights from the whole Summit experience.
1. Meg Cannon’s ‘Come and find me’ – a spoken word piece about life as a 15 year old girl. This one blew me away. You won’t find any notes in my notebook for this one because Meg just rocked it so much, I won’t forget it! Meg gave us a real lift insight of being a 15 year old girl in 2014, insight gained through her regular work with girls and through her project: koko (http://thekokostory.com/about-koko/) I cannot do this justice but will link the talk in another post later on so you can be inspired too. This was one of the one’s which had my heart in shatters. Spend time with people, get to know them, be there.
2. The train journey home – This might sound a strange one especially as the train was delayed by 2 hours which mean arrived home at 3am, however I was able to make new friends, catch up with old friends, walk up and down the train and know someone in nearly every carriage, have a dance on the train, play games, chat with Shane Claiborne and some of the other speakers and give prophetic words to some of the ‘new’ friends I’d made (I’ve never given prophetic words on the train before!) The fellowship, friendship and the ability to change stress into fun was what made this a highlight.
3. Shane Claiborne – I was inspired by the glimpses Shane gave of what love can look like, the fact that the Gospel spreads most by fascination and that we are re-presenting Jesus to people. That we’ve made the Gospel too easy, that our lifestyles NEED to change as we encounter God and continue to encounter him through our walk.
4. Kenda Creasy Dean – Was able to spend the pre-day with a smaller group of youth workers listening to this awesome lady as well as during the main day of the Summit – Kenda was able to bring insight to why young people leave the church, what needs to happen to help them stay and managed to work both Doctor Who and Downton Abbey as representations of the church! ‘God sized visions but the churches canvas is too small’ and this is part of why young people are leaving.
5. LGBT discussions – I liked the fact this was not just a debate that could have got really heated and dramatic but a look at pastorally how we approach situations with LGBT young people. We were privileged to hear the testimonies of two Christian young adults, one transgender and one who is gay – this made it more real for people – especially for those that have never had this come up in their ministry. I salute the organisers of the Summit for putting in the subjects that can be tricky, that can often be avoided but are SO SO important, and for doing this so well.
6. Seth Pinnock – I loved Seth’s portrayal of the passage of the 5 loaves and 2 fish; feeding of the 5000, found in John 6: 1 – 13. His main points really encouraged me, and when I shared them with my young people the following day, were a blessing them to them too. The boy was in the crowd; you have to be present to be used by God. The boy gave what he had to Jesus; it wasn’t enough, he didn’t think it was good enough but we need to give what we have. It took an “Andrew” to see what he had encourage him to give that to Jesus; this puts us in prime positions as youth workers, to notice that in our young people and encourage them to give that to Jesus so they can see this multiply and grow and made enough because of Jesus.
7. Catching up with old friends – It was just a blessing to catch up with old friends over the weekend, one’s I hadn’t seen in a long time, seeing many other friends and as I mentioned before, making new friendships, which I know that weekend will not be the end of.
8. Sarah Percival – Sarah’s talk really challenged me and is definite food for thought. She talked of how for young people rest CAN be found through their phones, through the right ways, and when we are encouraging our young people to rest we need to stop telling them to turn their phones off but instead be encouraging them to find rest through appropriate ways. Technology doesn’t have to stand in the way of rest.
9. Chris Russell – Chris challenged us in whether we are preaching the ‘happiness’ gospel to our young people, but actually that Jesus didn’t come to give us happiness but to give us LIFE. The happiness gospel is one that put ourselves first, not God, it’s all focussed on self-fulfilment and it’s very dangerous if we sell the gospel as daily satisfaction. Chris made me a lot more aware of how I communicating the gospel to the young people I work with.
Apologies this was such a long post, I think what you can take from that is that it was a great time from which I gained a lot. Was inspired a lot. Was encouraged a lot. Was challenged a lot. My heart was broken a lot, and my drive to work with young people was rekindled again and again throughout the day.