Reflections on the conference

Posted on November 26, 2008 by Amy Tolmie

Well, the theme this year was Deepen, refreshing the soul of the youthworker. It was the first in a series of three themes for the youthwork conferences. The next year's conference will be called 'Transform' focusing on society, and then the 2010 conference will look at service.

The weekend began with a 24 hour retreat that gave youthworkers much needed space to reflect and breathe deeply before the start of the main conference. Although I wasn't personally there for this bit, I've heard that the analogy used of the tree was really helpful, thinking through the need to deepen roots and in thinking about the structure of the tree, how we can learn from the way it grows and thrives. All in all a great way to start both weekends...only downside was the cold pews?! I think one year we need a Youthwork event near a beach in the summer!

While the early day was going on, the exhibition hall was being set up, and this year featured a stand made by some local sixth formers. Showcasing their creative talent, they designed for us a steady hand game made out of copper tubes and mdf. This proved to be one of those games that you just had to keep having a go at, and here's one successful delegate after completing the game (it wasn't staged at all!)...

The main conference was a brilliant mixture of challenge, encouragement, questions and connections. Let me explain...

challenge: the main session talks looked at the life of David, the depth of his love for God, lessons learnt from his life and the call to perseverance. I heard two talks, the first was Mike Pilavachi on the first night encouraging us to look within ourselves, to long for and seek after God (Psalm 63:1), and the message he ended with: 'just because you are broken, doesn't mean I can't love you.' In the midst of our brokenness, God embraces us and meets us in our need.
The second talk I heard was on the Saturday night. Chris Curtis introduced us to David's dark side, looking at the issues David struggled with, and how we need to be real and honest with ourselves before we can ask the same of young people. God is calling us to holiness, and we must be full of integrity and be willing to be held accountable in every area of our lives. Psalm 51. In order to go deeper with God, we have to allow Him to go deeper with us. A powerful evening.

encouragement: meeting up with old colleagues and friends is always a high point at conferences like these. Conversations over coffee or curry were just brilliant and you share the opportunity to remind each other that the work you are doing is worthwhile and having an impact even if you don't realise it yourself.

questions: I try to remember to ask myself questions as I listen to talks and hear about different experiences at conferences...from what I am hearing and learning, are there ways I could be working more effectively? Am I spending my time in schools and in the office and on the road wisely? Can I take this experience and use it to impact my day to day? I don't have neatly wrapped up answers to these questions just yet, but what has stood out to me from these conferences is a big reminder to make my time with God an absolute priority. Above the programming and assembly prep and one to one sessions, as essential as they all are, I need to be giving space to hear God and to be reminded of who He is asking me to be, before worrying about the doing...

connections: I really enjoyed deep connections with both people and God...spontaneous conversation at the lunch table, or probably my favourite moment was on the beach in Eastbourne on Saturday morning, and although it was very cold, the sun was shining strongly and I just sat listening to the waves for about half an hour. I had no agenda, wasn't even consciously praying, it just felt great and refreshing to sit and be. which I guess was the aim of the weekend.

here's some photos from the exhibition...
and some from the dancefloor...
team youthwork DJs

Finally in answer to Ian's question about the youthwork charter, and to give a brief intro for those of you who haven't heard...

Early in 2009, Youthwork the Partnership and Amaze will be launching a brand new project called 'we love our youthworker'. simply brilliant! It's a campaign to encourage churches to think about the way they employ a full-time worker. It's based on a set of seven promises that churches commit to follow:

1. we will pray and support
2. we will give space for retreat and reflection
3. we will provide ongoing training and development
4. we will give a full day of rest each week
5. we will share responsibility
6. we will strive to be an excellent employer
7. we will celebrate and appreciate

Each of the promises has a little card with a purpose drawn cartoon from Dave Walker of Cartoon Church. Very funny. The reason for the project comes from the belief that keeping full time workers positive, productive and living balanced lives makes for great youthwork. And that's an important step towards building God's kingdom among young people. more details here.