Next week I’m heading to Chicago to the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference. A fellow coworker heard about it and mentioned it to me. My initial thoughts for a while were full of hesitation. Naming a conference with the word “progressive” felt like saying what we’re against (aka. we’re not like those conservatives). I’d feel the same exact way if it was named Conservative Youth Ministry Conference. But after thinking and talking with a few people, I decided it would be a great chance to learn and grow. And there are some great and interesting people who are going to be speaking! So here are 4 things I’m looking forward to in my first Progressive Youth Ministry Conference experience:
1. Unheard Voices and Different Perspectives
When it comes to youth ministry there tends to be some major names in this tribe. Not inherently a bad thing, but it sometimes leaves out the voices of others who have something of value to share with the church. And most of the major YM conferences (National Youth Workers Convention, YS Palooza, Simply Youth Ministry) tend to be rooted in/leaning toward a more conservative theology, philosophy, and praxis. Again, not inherently bad, but it leaves out the voices of theology, philosophy, and praxis that aren’t so conservative – that would be characterized as more progressive (hence the conference name). Some might think these voices heretical or dangerous, but I think Orthodoxy is broader than we often think.
2. Conversations on Sexuality
Sexuality has been the hot button issue all over the place – in the church, on blogs, in the news. But what PYM is offering is conversations not just about the LGBT community but with people in the LGBT community. I’m looking forward to how this furthers not only the conversation, but also the work to build bridges between the church and LGBT communities. I’m looking forward to hearing the wisdom of those who are doing ministry with gay teens and how our youth ministries can best walk with them in discipleship.
3. Understanding Hip Hop
A little treat I just found out about – Daniel White Hodge, author of The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology will be one of the breakout speakers. Thanks to several friends in college, I’ve grown to love Hip Hop and Rap music. As a Youth Pastor, let alone someone who works in the church, my love for this music has felt a little bit like a guilty pleasure – every time I’m playing Kendrick Lamar or Talib Kweli in my office I feel like that kid who quickly has to turn the music off for fear of his parents hearing. Hodge’s book helped me better understand and appreciate Hip Hop culture and really is (I believe) a great starting place for anyone with questions or concerns about what their kids are listening to when they hear the heavy beats and rhymes coming from their car or bedrooms.
4. Church Setting
Huge conferences like NYWC are so large that it’s necessary to have them in large convention centers. PYM will be held at 4th Presbyterian Church in Chicago. I think it’s kind of cool that a conference like this, full of potential lively conversations, is happening in a church that’s been around since the 1800’s in one of the coolest cities in the country.