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Youth workers are taking over SYMC 2011!

Simply Youth Ministry Conference
There’s a lot changing at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year. Youth leaders are taking ownership of the conference!

I recently talked with Kami Gilmour, the mastermind brain and coordinator behind the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, about this year’s upcoming event. She shared a lot of exciting things that I’m definitely pumped to be a part of this March, but I think what I’m most excited about is how much ownership Simply Youth Ministry is giving over to youth workers. Kind of like what I wrote last month, “Should vision be top-down or grassroots?,” the vision for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference is becoming more and more of a grassroots effort.

There are many areas youth leaders have complete, 100% ownership over at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year. Here’s just 10 of them.

Grassroots Teams at SYMC

1. Prayer. This is a large team of youth workers who do nothing but pray for the conference and for youth workers who contact the conference with prayer requests. This year prayer will be a central part of the conference, beyond the prayer room that’s usually off to the side somewhere.

2. Care: Another team of youth workers are running, “The Shelter,” a safe place where participants can go to talk, get spiritual direction, personal coaching, mentoring, direction, marriage counseling, ministry consulting and a lot more.

3. Connect Groups: Formerly called, “Affinity Groups,” these meeting will be more about friendships and letting God move organically than structured around specific demographics of youth ministry. And based on feedback last year from my wife, these groups will no longer be leader-led groups anymore. There will be multiple facilitators for us to connect with, which is great for people who come alone.

4. Care Team: There are about fifty youth workers on this team who will do nothing but random acts of kindness to show the love of Jesus to the rest of us. They will keep their eyes open for opportunities to be the hands of Jesus to everyone. I can’t wait to see that happening all over the place!

5. Embrace Chicago Team: This is a team of youth workers who are reaching out to the Chicago area to find ways to be reverent to the community and bless them. They’re asking questions like, “Are we loving on the hotel workers? Are we leaving a trace behind us? What local ministries can we support?” So far it looks like Group Workcamps will provide opportunities to pack food bags for a local ministry to distribute to homeless people.

6. Improv Everywhere: This is a really goofy group of youth workers who work with the general session team. They’ll be involved throughout the audience to help spread some interaction and engaging stuff.

7. Lobby Stage: This team of youth workers has a sperate, small stage in the middle of the lobby for doing worship (not concerts) with several bands, showcasing smaller bands from the area, but also including people like Shane and Shane, The Skit Guys, and Doug Fields. Through it they hope to make the “big stage” people more touchable and personable.

8. Worship: These guys are talking about how to create different kinds of worship experiences. They know encountering with God is up to us, not those on a stage, so they’re putting together ways to help us take the message from the night and process through it in worship.

9. Connecting outside the conference: Instead of leaving a conference of so much love and support at the end of the weekend, this team of youth workers is creating regional support for youth workers that continues after we return home. It’s more than just networking — it’s about soul care, accountability and support, especially for those who are hurting.

10. Peer Panels: For youth workers who want to interact, talk, and discuss about what’s newer, cutting edge, and in the future of youth ministry, these peer panels are perfect! I’m looking forward to being a part of several of them myself.

There’s a lot of other changes taking place, too, that I’m really excited about.

Kami said this to me, which I loved! She gave me permission to quote her in this post:

“We’re really not good event people. This conference is not a product and we lose money on this every year because this conference is a ministry more than anything else. We want to know youth workers names and faces and partner with them in ministry. Our vision for the conference’s values are in-depth learning, Jesus-centeredness, authenticity, innovation, and relationships.”
~ Kami Gilmour, SYMC Event Director

Check out the video of me and Kami talking about SYMC 2011!

My book launches at SYMC!

Life In Student Ministry Book Cover
My new YS/Zondervan book is first available at SYMC!

I’m looking forward to being there again this year, especially since my new YS/Zondervan book launches there. Super-sweet!

Would love to connect with you at SYMC

If you’re going to the conference, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to connect with you while we’re there, maybe even shoot a video of your youth ministry advice.

Register before January 15 for a discount!

If you’re not going, you definitely need to check it out. It’s March 4-7, 2011, in Chicago, IL. Register by January 15 and save $20/person or $40/person when registering a team of 5 or more people. Their website is http://conference.youthministry.com for more info. Register soon because it’s almost sold out!

My thoughts on the expense

I can say from experience that it’s really the best use of your budget money because there is no substitute for well-trained, passionate youth leaders. They tend to stay on-board long-term, they feel more confident in their ministry to teenagers, they engage more, and are more effective in their spiritually influential relationships. That goes further than almost anything else you can spend budget money on. If there’s any way you can swing it, the eternal value is definitely worth going to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.


Posted on January 6, 2011

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  • Can't wait! We've made it a priority to get leaders there. Expensive, yes, and we've had to make some tough decisions. But I know it will be well worth it. We've budgeted $1,100 a person (we're bringing 10 across our ministries/campuses), but when I think of how much more committed and equipped those leaders will be, it will be well worth it.

    • Totally! The best thing you guys can do is debrief together as a team each day. We did it over dinner, which seems to be the most natural and easiest time to do it, but whenever it happens, I highly recommend making a team daily debriefing time a requirement for your youth leaders.

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  • Lief Erickson

    Our staff team used to go to Willow Creek Shift. When SYMC came to Chicago last year, we brought a team of staff, leaders, and 7 volunteer youth workers from our Romanian partner church. It went so well we're taking a big team of staff & volunteers (25) from our MS & HS ministries this year. Very excited to attend together. Would love to connect with you Tim. Enjoy your blog! -Lief (Blackhawk E-Free, Madison, WI).

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  • Angela from OH

    My husband and I just stepped in the Youth Ministry Leader role in Sept. When our supervising pastor suggested we attend a conference, I looked at another one, but once I read about SYMC, I knew this was the one we should attend! As new leaders we can't wait to get there to learn, connect and recharge!

    • Sweet! It'll be great to have you there. It'd be fun to meet up, too! Hopefully we'll run into each other.

  • Shelly

    No offense meant to anyone connected with the SYMC–and I need to state upfront that I have never attended the conference–but it sure looks a lot like another NYWC I have attended regularly for the past 10 years. None of the items listed above are new and unique ideas (sorry, but they just aren't), and I have personally served on some of those teams at other conferences. Hats off to ALL of those who minister to those of us in the trenches!

    As a youth worker for a teeny tiny church in a teeny tiny town, I did try to volunteer for the SYMC two years ago, but never even received a reply (and this was after talking to "someone" from SYM at the NYWC, who told me to contact him). I'm sure it's a great conference, but please don't try to make it sound new and unique… ("We want to know youth workers names and faces and partner with them in ministry.") This has been being offered for decades.

    Again, thanks goes to SYM for loving youth ministers.

  • I shall attend.

    • Sweet! Let's connect while we're there!

    • Okay, nix that. Not going to make it now. Rats.

      I was really looking forward to it.

      • Oh really? That's too bad! What happened?

        • It's my wife, blame it on her! ;)

          She got her schedule for next month and it really would be tough on her if I was gone that weekend. These weekends happen about three times a year and one of them happens to fall on SYMC weekend. I was about to book my flights when I thought I should double-check with her and, sure enough, it's not the best time for me to be gone.

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