What Thousands of Youth Workers Have in Common
At the end of November, close to 3,500 youth workers descended on Tampa Florida’s Convention Center for the annual National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC). Christian Endeavor had the joy of being an exhibitor this year. Our team spent three days interacting with youth workers from all over the place! By our count we talked with people from 39 states, as well as Canada, Norway and the Bahamas!
In addition to sharing about C.E. we spent time observing, listening and building relationships with the hundreds of youth workers we talked with. As we did this, some common traits, ideas & struggles appeared. For instance, we once again saw many great beards and mustaches! Go facial hair! We also talked with many youth workers who were excited about the ministry applications of Tik-Tok. We love that kind of creativity in using tech to point teens toward Jesus! And of course everyone was trying to meet Carll from Sunday Cool to learn some more Gen-Z lingo!
Beyond these surface-level observations, it was also clear that these youth workers were wrestling with deeper realities. Realities they shared openly with us after hearing the heartbeat of C.E. Realities that we think most youth workers face (in America and around the world).
The Pressures of Ministry
One of the most powerful talks during the entire convention was focused on how the job of a youth leader is to work WITH God, not FOR God. Many, many youth workers were deeply impacted by this statement. They shared with us that, as a result of expectations and pressures, they often fell into the trap of seeing God as a task master, and they sought to do things simply to ‘check them off the list’. The reality that we’re invited by God into a living and growing relationship, that includes our work, was refreshing and encouraging!
The Need to Belong
One of the anthems we heard youth workers recounting about NYWC was that these are “my people”. There was a deep sense of belonging that so many of the attendees shared. It reinforced to us that finding belonging is one of the central needs of every youth leader. Being with people who understand your work, your struggles and your passion, and who are able to offer insight, encouragement and constructive criticism makes all the difference.
The Desire to Disciple Deeply
As we shared the heartbeat of C.E., we were blown away by how many youth workers said, “you’re putting into words what we’ve been trying to do!” This groundswell of depth and intentionality in discipleship is so encouraging.
The Hunger to Learn
We got the chance to teach a mini-session on discipleship. The classroom space we were given had seats for 30 people. We ended up jamming close to 75 people into the room (you could no longer see the carpeted floor!) and had another 75 people who couldn’t get in! Pointing young people toward Jesus is an often-humbling and ever-changing calling. Youth workers are hungry to learn and continue to grow, and are seeking resources and training which will inspire, equip and encourage them to be most effective.
Which of these are you wrestling with? Which is your greatest reality? We’re willing to bet that one (or all!) of the realities we observed at NYWC ’19 are mirrored in your life. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re tackling (or feeling overwhelmed by) the realities you’re facing. So much so that we’re willing to send a $5 Starbucks Gift Card to the first 10 people that reach out to us about this blog. This isn’t meant to be a gimmick or bait-and-switch, just an acknowledgement that the pressures youth workers face can feel enormous. And, there’s power in taking time to slow down & process these ministry tensions with someone who gets it. And coffee always helps.