The David Crowder Band. Free swag. The Skit Guys. Chris Tomlin. Lights. Smoke. That was my first experience of a youth ministry event. I was right out of college, it was 2002, and I was in Sacramento for the National Youth Workers Convention. I went some of these during the first couple years of being involved in youth ministry, but over the years, it always felt like an odd fit for me.
I didn’t really connect theologically with much of what was happening, and I began to wonder what else might be out there.
A couple of years ago, I tried out a new youth ministry event, but found that it was much of the same, even though they promised that it would be “new.”
And then my friend and colleague in Chicago, John Vest, started talking to my friends Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt (JoPa Productions), and good stuff started to happen. It all culminated in the first Progressive Youth Ministry event two weeks ago at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago.
So for me, and I know for many others, this was, hands down, the best youth ministry event I’ve been to. It was a place where folks who self-identify as progressives (and that can mean different things to different people) could have the conversations that we want to have, could think theologically about youth ministry with others in our tribe, and feel like we weren’t constantly having to explain to someone why we weren’t going to do See You At the Pole this year, or take our kids to Acquire the Fire, or debate Romans 1:26-27.
This was an event in which we heard presentations on queer theory, death of God radical theology, sex and others that were asking thoughtful and challenging questions. Below are just a few of the highlights for me of the week:
- Getting to see and meet so many wonderful folks that I’ve only known online. There were good people there!
- An open space conversation I hosted on how to create an effective and meaningful youth ministry program and offer it to kids who are absolutely over-programmed (we’ll let you know when we find the answer)
- Hearing Tripp Fuller PREACH on why process theology doesn’t suck. Seriously good stuff – would love to have a video recording of that.
- Hearing the amazingly vulnerable and powerful testimony of Jeff Chu, an editor for Fast Company. It was recorded and it’s seriously worth 26 minutes of your time. You can watch it here.
- Daniel White Hodge gave a really engaging and thought-provoking talk on the theology of hip-hop and how it has caused young black men and women to be portrayed in the media.
- Also – getting a chance to see Tripp Fuller and the Homebrewed Christianity folks doing their thing, LIVE, was great.
The music was good, meaningful conversations were had, and I just think it was one of the best youth events I’ve been to. I’m glad it will be offered again next year, March 18-20, 2015, also at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.
If you’d like to read a few other recaps of the event, check these out:
- Tony Jones: Youth Workers Are Still My People
- John Vest: Progressive Youth Ministry Recap
- Chris Clark: Progressive Youth Ministry Conference (in review)
Below are some of the sketchnotes that I drew during the conference. If you want to see and download all of my sketchnotes, you can do so here.