Preparing for a Student Ministry Conference

SWAMP-blog-movie-seatsI enjoy attending conferences for student pastors and youth workers. They are always a great place to meet new friends, be challenged spiritually, be refreshed, and get a ton of free stuff! One of my favorite conferences student ministry conferences is the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Sadly I will not be attending this year. After four years of attending I’m taking a break because let’s face it, conferences take money to get to and be a part of. I hope next year I will be back and hit up other conferences in the near future.

Getting the most out of a conference begins before you even get there. You must prepare well. Since many of my student ministry friends are probably headed to SYMC this coming weekend, here are a few tips I want to share with you. These are a few things I have picked up on by going to SYMC for four years now. Here are a few thoughts on how to prepare for a student ministry conference.

Prepare yourself spiritually. Even though free resources, new friends, and workshops are important, you need to be ready to hear from your Savior and be ready to be challenged personally in your walk with Him. Take some time to pray and ask God to give you opens ears and an open heart to whatever He wants to do with you at the conference.

Bring your best note-writing device. Your going to hear a ton of information at the conference so have something with you to take good notes with. Whatever is your go to gadget for note taking bring it along. Make sure you take whatever device works best for you. If you still take the best notes with a note pad and pen then bring it! It may be an iPad for others. Whatever is it, bring it and be ready to take good notes. Whatever doesn’t get written down will probably be lost after the conference.

Have the right gear. Bring the right gear. Your going to probably doing a lot of walking and receiving some great resources so wear comfortable shoes and have a decent sized bag to pack full of youth ministry goodies. I usually do a book bag that I have throughout the day and then keep some extra suit case space for received resources. Also, make sure to bring things like chargers for your iPad or laptop and simple stuff like that.

Be ready to communicate to your pastor and volunteers what you have learned. This may not be strictly a “pre-conference” thing, but it needs to happen both before and during the conference. Before you get to the conference remember there is probably a pastor and volunteers that are ready to hear what you will learn at the conference. If anything, take good notes so you can pass the knowledge and ideas along to them.

These are just a few thoughts on preparing well for a conference. Conferences are awesome, but to get the most out of them you need to prepare well. Go, have a blast, and come back ready to point your students to Jesus!

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Josh Griffin over at More Than Dodgeball. Check out that site for more helpful content and resources for your student ministry.

Student Pastors and Student Ministry Conferences

This past week the Lord provided for me to be able to attend the 2012 Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I have attended this conference three times in the past five years and each time it is a blast! The amount of training and resources you receive is unreal! As much as I wanted to go this year, I was not planning on going because of financial reasons. I believe conferences should be a priority for church leaders, but I also believe that we need to be wise with our money when we start to plan for conferences. I prayed and asked God to provide for me financially if it were His will that I go. A few days later He provided!

If a student pastor can afford it, I believe he should attend at least one student ministry conference a year. If you must pick one conference to attend, I would suggest Simply Youth Ministry Conference for a host of reasons. My aim in this blog is not to promote Simply Youth Ministry Conference, but to encourage student pastors to make an effort to attend a student ministry conference of their choice. Here are three reasons why student pastors should attend a student ministry conference:

1. Spiritual Refreshment. Student ministry is tough. Working with a bunch of students, leaders, and parents can take a toll on a student pastor. Because of the stress of ministry, sometimes our spiritual walk with Christ suffers. We start to put ministry over our walk with Christ. We start to spend less and less time in His Word personally. Sometimes we need to get away from it all and be spiritual refreshed (If this is you I would encourage you to read Fresh Start by Doug Fields). This is one reason a student ministry conference such as the SYMC is such a good thing for student pastors. You get to hear messages from God’s Word, worship alongside others in ministry, and your able to get away from the office and focus on your walk with Christ. Every time I walk away from a conference, I feel spiritually refreshed.

2. Training. Other than being spiritually refreshed, training should be the main reason a student pastor attends a conference. This is a time for you to take a “break” from normal ministry and sharpen your student ministry skills, learn more student ministry, and get set under student ministry training from some of the top student ministry voices. Yes, you can sit in your office and read a Duffy Robbins book and learn, but it will not compare to the hours of training you will get by sitting in a workshop with him in person.

3. Connect with other student ministry workers. One of the neat things about a student ministry conference is that you get to spend a few days alongside others who are serving in student ministry just like you. Along with being spiritual refreshed and trained, you get to spend time connecting with others who are serving students. You get to share your stories, struggles, and victories in student ministry with them! Sometimes connecting with others in ministry is the most spiritual and encouraging thing you will get out of a conference.

These are just a few reasons why a student pastor should make an effort to attend a student ministry conference. If you are interested in attending the Simply Youth Ministry Conference go to their website and get more information. This past summer I posted a blog about the Refuel Conference that is held every year at Thomas Road Baptist Church which is a great one day conference to attend.

Refuel Innovate Church Conference 2011

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the first day of the Refuel Innovate Church Conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. I saw this conference online a few months ago and thought it looked real good, but wasn’t planning on attending. I was planning on traveling up to Ohio for a week to visit my girlfriends family with her so we decided that on the way to Ohio we would stop at Refuel for the first day of the conference. I am so glad we did because God used the first day of the conferences yesterday in my life in great ways! I try to enjoy, but also think critically of every conference I go to so I can either encourage or discourage someone to go to the same conference and know enough about the conference to spread the word if it’s a good one. So I will try and cover some important areas here so hopefully this post will help you consider attending Refuel in the years to come.

Speakers: The speakers were great! Because it was put on by Thomas Road and Jonathan Falwell they had a strong pull to probably get any big time speaker they wanted. The speaker line up was John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, Steven Furtick, Jonathan Falwell, Ron Luce, Johnny Hunt, Jud Wilhit, and Tom Mullins. Since I only attended the first day of the conference I only got to hear John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, and Steven Furtick. All three of these speakers did a great job at sharing their hearts about ministry and leadership as well as preach the Word of God faithfully and powerfully. Maxwell spoke about having a “life list” where you put various things down on a list that you focus on doing, or being, daily. Ed Stetzer spoke on ministry idolatry which was extremely convicting as he spoke on how ministry becomes an idol many times. Steven Furtick, with all his passion and heart, spoke about believing God to accomplish the dream and vision He has given you. As far as the conference goes, the speakers where the best I have heard in a long time. If your looking for a conference with great speakers this conference is for you. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for speakers.

Schedule: This is the only part of the conference I did not enjoy. Refuel was scheduled like this: two main sessions, roundtable lunch workshops, then two more main sessions. The second day was going to scheduled the same way except for the lunch workshops. I would have liked to have one main session in the morning then throughout the day have various workshops on different topics or issues in ministry. This is how most of the conferences I have been to have been set up and I enjoyed it very much. The Simply Youth Ministry Conference, which I would suggest for all youth pastors and youth workers, that I have attended for three years is like this. The day starts with a main sessions then you have fifty plus workshops and tracks to choose from to enjoy throughout the day and then the day closes with another main sessions. Now I understand of the smaller size and less speakers at Refuel, that keeps them from scheduling it this way, but more workshops would have been better than just main session after main session. Because of the world class speakers the main sessions back to back was not that bad and it was still enjoyable. I give this conference a 8 out of 10 for the scheduling.

Location and Facilities: You could have not asked for a better place for this conference. The campus of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University has been one of the best places I have ever seen for a big conference like this one. The main sessions were held in the worship center of Thomas Road and the that place is extremely comfortable. The seats have to be the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in within a worship center. Main street is what Thomas Road calls the area outside the worship center and that holds their coffee shop, book store, bathrooms, kids area, and more. Each speaker had their books out on main street at a booth for sale as well as different organizations such as Liberty University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, World Help, and more had their booths set up. The facilities of Thomas Road are top notch and made it a perfect place to hold this conference. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for location and facilities.

Price: The price of this conference was perfect for all that it included. If you registered before April 19th you only had to pay $49 and then if you waited until conference you was paying $59. For the speakers, free conference materials, and lunch this is pretty good. Since I am a college student I was able to go for the college student rate of $15! I give this conference a 9 out of 10 for the price.

Overall I would highly suggest this conference for all church leaders both full-time and lay leaders. I hope I can attend this conference again in the future and I’m sure it will only get better and better each year. I hope this short review of the conference might help you decided if you would attend in a future year or not.