Yesterday I participated in the webinar with Youth Specialties president Mark Ostreicher about the significant changes happening at the National Youth Workers Convention this year, all of which get me pretty excited. If you missed the conversation you can watch the video by clicking here. Apparently there are going to be more of these types of conversations to discuss more specific topics about the upcoming conventions. The next one will be in a month or so, so be on the lookout if you are interested. Here’s a rundown on some of the changes that are coming:
- Open Space Seminars – This is something that really excites me. From the NYWC website: “We’re going to utilize Open Space Technology (it’s real – check it on wikipedia) to set up spaces for you, our peers in youth ministry, to determine what it is you want to work on, discuss, and deliver solutions to take back home and implement right away.” If you’ve always wanted to lead or organize a discussion about a particular topic, it looks like this year is your opportunity to do it. This will either be a massive success or a huge failure, and it might be quite different depending on which groups you participate it. I think this is a great, risky leap that will eventually pay off. The Open Space seminars are going to be the subject of next month’s webinar.
- Less Variety Show Feel – The general sessions almost always had a variety show feel: watch some cool video, listen to a testimony, give away a prize, do a little magic, watch an artist, sing some songs, and listen to a speaker. Thus was the typical feel of the large group gatherings. Supposedly they are moving away from some of this, which is fine by me.
- More Youth Ministry and Leadership in General Sessions – The last couple of years YS has tried to stir the proverbial pot by addressing some cutting edge or controversial issues. All that did was make sure everyone got upset at least once while they were at the conference. So, the general sessions this year are going to focus more on things pertaining directly to youth ministry and leadership, things that we should all share in common. If you want to debate, it will have to happen in labs or seminars.
- Fishbowls – This is another smaller group format that will allow for some interactivity and discussion. I missed the explanation in yesterday’s webinar, so I’m not sure exactly how these work (if someone watches the video, leave a comment here where the explanation takes place in the video).
- Less focus on personality – One of my gripes about the NYWC is that it has become really heavy on celebrity worship. I almost got trampled waiting for the doors to open at the 2004 NWYC when David Crowder was about to lead worship. It was pretty sad how many people were pushing and cutting in front of people and jockeying for position. It was like being with a bunch of junior high girls at a Jonas Brothers concert. It’s pretty much the same when you have someone like Rob Bell or Donald Miller speaking or leading a workshop. In order to combat this, Marko said they are only going to publish who is speaking in what cities, but they will not publish at what session they will speak at. If you want to come to a General Session (called “Big Rooms” this year), then come; if not, then don’t come. I think this is a great approach. It will be interesting to see if people become obsessed with trying to figure out who is speaking when by monitoring Twitter and the blogosphere. Lord, have mercy.
- No labyrinth – There won’t be a labyrinth this year. Not a whole lot of explanation was given other than it won’t be around.
- Less bands – This is probably a part of trying to focus less on personalities. Another reason for this is that there is really just less time for concerts because of the changes being made with things like the Open Space seminars all day Saturday. I’m totally fine with this, but I know some people love the concerts and the bands.
As the NYWC pursues some pretty radical changes to their traditional format, I would like to remind my fellow progressive, cutting-edge, change-things-up youth ministers that we often complain of people’s lack of willingness to change in our churches. Let’s not be “those people” at this year’s NYWC. Let’s go into this with an open mind, be willing to contribute to the discussions that will take place, and help Youth Specialties make the NYWC even better for the future. I’m thinking about going to Atlanta, maybe I’ll see you there.