It’s been almost two weeks now since traveling to Chicago for my first (and the first) ever Progressive Youth Ministry Conference. I went in with a lot of expectations and came away with great insights, great conversations, and a LOT to ponder. It’s been two weeks and I’m just now figuring out what to say about the whole thing. And there is a LOT to say about it. The things I heard and conversed about will certainly be examining and pondering practices in my own ministry. This post could potentially be one of my longest, but I’ll save the blogosphere space.
Each of the “plenary sessions” we sat in on involved 3 speakers – each on one of the following 3 topics: sexuality, theology, faith formation. Of course there are a vast number of themes they could have chosen from but for this year the focus was here. And I think it was needed. I realized this most when Jeff Chu took to the podium and told us what he wished his youth pastor would have known growing up. Check out his talk below. It was, hands down, my favorite (and the best) session of the conference. We were reminded about all of the things we, as youth workers, do or don’t do, which marginalizes LBGT youth. I think he reminded us that before people read the Bible, they read the church. Listen to Jeff’s story below…
The topic of Confirmation came up during this conference way more than I ever expected it to. I actually wasn’t expecting it to come up at all. I counted four times over the course of 2.5 days that either a speaker touched on or it was brought up in a group conversation. And I think the most interesting approach Confirmation came from John Vest who gave a talk about confirmation in a post-christian world. It gave us a lot to ponder on how we need to be a little more “de-centering” in our ministries – engaging the youth who are on the fringes of our youth ministries.
Wish I could say that the live 3D Homebrewed Christianity event was the best of the week (and it was quite awesome), but that award would have to go to the sharing of the Eucharist together to kickoff the following 2.5 days. Over the last couple years I’ve come to really like Communion. That might sound shocking considering I’m a pastor’s kid who has been working in the church for 3 years now. But there is something that has come alive like never before. Something about remembering Jesus. Something about eating meals together. Something about sharing life together. Something about unity despite differences. Even though this was an admittedly progressive crowd, there was still differences. There were still people from evangelical worldviews present. There were different definitions of what progressive actually means. I’m probably not nearly as progressive as some who attended and some were not as progressive as me. This all came together at the table.
If I Could Change One Thing
Though there was a lot of great stuff at this gathering, I would say that there was too much great stuff. Many of the speakers had some great things to say, but not enough time to say it. Or maybe needed to find ways to be more concise. When someone was having either to cut chunks out of their talk or speed read through it, it was difficult to track. If I had to pick one thing to work on for next year, that would be my beef.
In all, I would most definitely recommend this to those in family, youth, children’s ministry…heck even senior pastors! The reason I opted for PYMC is because the voices and worldviews are unique in this tribe within the wide arms of orthodoxy. I’m glad I attended. I look forward to how this influences my ministry. And I look forward to attending again sometime in the future.