This week’s NYWC in Cincinnati will be the 9th convention I’ve attended. And as I think back to the past 8, I realize just how much each convention is unique.
I went to my first NYWC while I was a student at Cincinnati Christian University. (This year will mark my third time going to Cincinnati.) At this point, I had no idea what the next 10 years would hold, but I was encouraged and challenged to minister to students. I gained insight from the classes and enjoyed hanging out with a friend from school. Oh, and I first experienced hearing Mike Yaconelli speak. His ministry was such a blessing to me those first few years.
Shortly after starting my first full-time ministry, I attended convention in FL. Somehow I had managed to become overwhelmed with youth ministry within the first few months. (something about me being naive to what would really happen…) I attended this convention with my wife and a few other couples from college. It was a breath of fresh air in my youth ministry lungs. I still remember a few of the talks (first time I ever heard Rob Bell), seminars and resources I picked up during this week. A great way to encourage my first year in ministry.
The next convention I went to as a volunteer. This is the year I truly learned that YS is not about “business” as much as it is about ministry and people. I experienced the convention in a whole new way: behind the scenes. This new perspective allowed me to experience the people behind YS. (And it is these people that make YS what it is!!) I also learned to juggle, thanks to Glenn. Sadly, the biggest memory from this convention actually happened a few days afterward. This was the last convention Mike Yaconelli was ever at, as he was killed in a car accident a few days later.
How would the convention ever be the same? Simple answer – it wouldn’t.
The next year was tough. It was strange to be at a NYWC and not see/hear Yac in the halls and on the stage. But Yac’s absence did not mean the convention was not encouraging and uplifting. YS is so much more than just one person, even if that person is the co-founder/president. The convention was not the same, but God showed Himself in a mighty way – at least to me.
Always Something New
I’ve been to convention in various stages of ministry. Like I said, I started going while I was still in college. I attended as a full-time minister. And I’ve attended while I was out of ministry. And each year I’ve learned a ton and benefited more than I thought I would. Each year I leave the convention blessed and grateful that I went.
Going into this year’s convention, I was already planning for it to be different. When I signed up to volunteer a few months ago, I was really looking forward to some of the new changes – like the Open Space Saturday, and the modified “Big Room.” Plus, I always look forward to hearing God and talking with others who are passionate about students. But I was not looking forward to a few other changes, mainly the absence of some of my YS friends. Over the past year (like in previous years) some of my friends are no longer working for YS. I miss not seeing my friends when I go to a convention like NYWC.
On top of this, last week, a new change was added. Marko is no longer president of YS and at this point, the future is unsure. This change will be one seen by more people (unlike some of the other friends I will miss seeing), as Marko was the face of YS and a constant stage presence during the conventions. Even though I, nor you, do not know details about the situation I am confident that God is in control and that the convention will still be a place of rest, encouragement, challenge and safety.
Changes are inevitable – as I have found out attending the NYWC’s over the years. But change is not always bad.
I am a different person this year than I was last.
YS is a different company this year than it was last.
You are a different person this year than you were last.
But God is still the same this year as He was last – and that is what we put our trust in, isn’t it?
See you in Cincy!