Friday, October 4, 2013

Remembering the NYWC

The 2013 edition of the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Conventions (NYWC) is underway in San Diego. I still miss these great events that had a tremendous impact on my life and ministry.  Most of the folks I knew and loved at YS are gone now, but they are still an important part of my past.  Today I want to shout out to some of the people who made my 18 conventions so special.  Some were speakers, some musicians, some artists and some just people I came to know and love. Not included here is the godfather of youth ministry, the late Mike Yaconelli- because he deserves a post of his own. In fact,  he has one!   I miss all these guys so much...
  • Tic Long, who never failed to greet me with a smile; who gave me my chance to lead a seminar; who waived my fee for the the 2005 Pittsburgh convention (since I had already paid for Sacramento); and who gave me a chance to be a seminar speaker at the 2004 convention in Atlanta.
  • Wayne Rice, co-founder of YS with Yac and for many years the guru of all things junior high and middle school related. Plus he did a mean Frank Sinatra impression- "I did it HIS way..."
  • Dennis Benson, who in 1982 opened my eyes to using culture to teach, not to promote fear.  "In it, not of it, wasn't that what I said?" 
  • James Ward, who for so many years was the guy who got the convention singing, and whom I got to hang out with a few times over the years.  "Ain't no rock gonna' shout in my place..."
  • Tony Campolo.  Everything I ever heard him say moved me in some way, and I still listen to his talks and read his books on a regular basis.
  • Laurie Polich Short, who ideas on small groups impacted my ministires in big ways and who is now a friend on Twitter.
  • Dan Kimball, who in a Critical Concerns Course helped me understand what it means to move outside old models and deal with a post-modern world.
  • Noel and Kyle Becchetti, who through their ministry with the Center for Student Missions provided great mission experiences for my groups from 3 different churches to 3 different cities.
  • The great people at Interlinc, who provided me with great music, great videos, and most recently a chance to write Bible studies for youth pastors.  Plus their booth in the exhibit hall was always the most fun!
  • Todd Temple, whom I first met in the late 1980's when he was leading events for YS (Anyone remember Grow For It?) and who later was the founder of MediaShout.  He never failed to greet me warmly and sit and chat, even if I did like to remind him that he used to look like Fabio...
  • General Session speaker Stephen Glenn, who in Chicago in 1988 taught me the 7 questions to ask if I never wanted students to tell me anything meaningful:  "Did ya? Can ya?  Will ya?  Won't ya?  Don't ya?  Can't ya?  Aren't ya?"  The only answers they can give are a hrumph, a grunt, a shrug or a whatever.  I never forgot the lesson.
  • Tiger McLuen, who taught me so much about how to train the Youth Ministry Teams that I worked with...
  • Louie Giglio, whose I AM NOT general session message (Phoenix, 2003- I think?) not only became a theme in my teaching, but inspired me to write a song of the same name.
  • Rich Bundschuh, Jim Hancock, Mike Atkinson, Rich Van Pelt, Jay Delph, Duffy Robbins, Efrem Smith, Doug Fields, Jim Burns, Mark Ostreicher and so many others who always made me feel like family year after year.
  • Debbie Morris, whose general session talk on Forgiving the Dead Man Walking showed me a deeper grace than anything I had ever seen from another human.  When my own life crashed, thinking of her words so often gave me hope that people (I already knew God would) might be able to forgive me too.
  • Andy Stanley, Phil Vischer, Will Willimon, Brennan Manning, Steve Taylor, Philip Yancey, Chris Hill and Mike Yaconelli- general session speakers who were so good that I bought the CD (well, mostly tapes actually.  I'm old...).
  • Curt Cloninger, Lost And FoundThe Skit Guys, Ted & LeeCPR and Geoff MooreNYWC performers who became my friends over the years.  With the exception of the The Skit Guys, I hosted all of them at my churches at least once.
  • Les Christie.  Despite the fact that he led the same 2 seminars- Incredibly Hot Games and Dealing With Obnoxious Students- at every NYWC I ever attended, I never once sat in on one of them.  It was comforting to know he was always there, and we had fun combining the 2 titles into How To Play Games With Incredibly Hot Obnoxious Students...
  • And finally- J. David Stone, without whom I might have never known that student ministry could be a life-long calling, and whose seminar on Creative Movement was the first one I ever attended.  "Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance..."  Thanks Dave!
These folks and so many others touched my life between 1982 and 2006 in ways it is hard to describe. They were not just just speakers and mentors to me- they were heroes! And so many of them continue in student ministry today.  Thanks to all. And God bless the new leadership of the NYWC. Youth ministry is still so important...
Because of Jesus, 

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