Thoughts on Last Weekend’s YSPalooza

Two weekends ago, I took our youth leaders to YSPalooza in Philadelphia and we really liked it. So for those of you in the Dallas, TX area (and for those of thinking of 2012 already), I wanted to suggest you go too. This is ideal for youth min teams who are in somewhat normal churches. What I mean is that I have a fantastic volunteer leader team, a limited budget, and in a traditional/blended church model with a facility that does not draw in outside students (although we have a cool youth room). So, attending the National Youth Workers Conference in Nashville as a team is not going to happen for us – YSPalooza is a terrific solution.

The Challenges For Us
Even with the cost being affordable ($100 bucks now, but early bird group  was $79), to bring 10 people and find hotels still takes a bite out of the budget.
Without exception, all of our volunteers work real jobs for a living. So the 1pm Friday start time was a challenge.

Our Solutions
We started talking about this possibility back in the Fall when it was announced (thanks YS for the heads up – we needed it). Even so, for some it still came down to a last minute decision.
Though our leaders are extremely busy (which isn’t conducive to the most time and energy draining ministry of the church), our leaders are committed to this and they sacrificed the time for it.
We are taking a bite out of the budget that is reduced each year because we believe in leader training. (And if the trustees have a problem with that, they can host the next Jr. High Lock-In at their house :) By the way, an All Night Lock-In Tour at trustee houses would be a great idea).
For the leaders whose jobs made it impossible for them to miss Friday, they left at 5am Saturday morning to meet up with us for the first Saturday am session. (I told you, they were dedicated, well except for one because well you know, there’s always one :)

What I Liked:
For years, I have been a fan of YS but with the owner transitions going on the past couple years, I admit, there was a hesitation on having too high of expectations. So the first thing I want to say about the YSPalooza was that it seemed to be very YS.

The second thing I liked was the same schedule, same seminars, and same workshops for everyone. No options, no extra stuff, no one running around looking for room 303 and wondering which seminar to attend.  This format for this type of event significantly helped our conversations.

I liked that it was pretty stripped down in terms of set and signage. The bands played through the house speakers (though it was a bit loud and I found the color lights distracting but I’m not used to worshipping that way but again, it looked like it was all part of the church).

Duffy Robbins and Jim Burns still got it.

I really liked the schedule and the way it all flowed. Liked that it all ended before dinner on Saturday too. I know that it will never be perfect but I think this format works quite well.

Though not a tremendous amount, I liked the racial diversity that I saw. Also liked that Harvey Carey was a speaker there (though I think he was a bit too hard on white people. But it was funny and I can laugh because I am an Egyptian serving in a predominantly North European church).

I liked the free coffee/tea, water, soda, snacks, and professional, non-shady, body massages in between sessions.

Appreciated Mike Harder’s and Branchcreek’s hospitality. They also opened up their renovated barn that is their youth space and gave tours – it’s pretty awesome.

Wasn’t Crazy About:
I think I’m Starfielded Out. Great bunch of guys, great hearts, great music, for YS regulars though, it may be time for a change. We really liked Audrey Assad though.
The commercials for some of the sponsors were umm, well, uhh, well, they weren’t great. I did like (UthStuph’s idea of providing a meal for every shirt you buy though).

Dear Harleysville and Hatfield, PA,  You need restaurants and roads.

What I Loved
I especially loved the Learning Labs. Mark Matlock’s message on our generational trends and differences was fantastic Youth ministry needs some good doses of sociology.
Tic’s thoughts on the “10 Essential Values for a Thriving YM” was excellent, especially for newbies (and veterans who need a reminder :-)
Kara Powell’s “Sticky Faith” was great to listen to, she is an incredible presenter and the content was great.
Marv Penner’s “Helping Hurting Kids” was saddening, eye opening, and energizing. (although I always feel they should rename that to “Helping Kids Who Are Hurting”. If you didn’t know any better, it sounds like it’s a seminar on how to hurt kids further but besides that, the words and stories are powerful).

So much could be said about each presentation, they really did a great job.

I also really loved the moments of personal reflection and group discussions following many of the sessions and workshops. Some of the weekend’s best thoughts and conversations happened right there.

Again, our church is blessed with great youth leaders and as we have been going through our church-wide vision process, we have been emphasizing the need to equip our volunteers. Further, there is just something powerful and validating when a speaker echoes something that you have said to your leaders. When Mark mentioned “moral theistic deism”, one leader looked at me and thought, “Hey, I heard that before.” Another looked at me and thought, “We are so blessed to have Tim as our youth pastor” and then the other thought, “He may be an idiot, but at least he’s saying the right things sometimes.” Satisfied, I stopped reading their minds and tuned back in.

It will be interesting to see what they do next year but it’s definitely on our radar. If you can get to Dallas, the next one is this weekend. Here’s the link that has registration, schedule, and line-up and check out Tic’s message.

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