I'll readily admit that I was very skeptical about the Ministering 2 Youth Conference in Orlando, Florida. I didn't know who had thought up the idea, who put it into motion, but I did know some of the players and a few members of the board. I was ready to give the conference the benefit of the doubt, and my congregation was gracious enough to sponsor me to go.
I made the decision with my wife that I would not bring our family. Even though Disney was mere miles away, our boys were too small (a 3 year old and a 5 month old) to even remember it, and our second child was being difficult by not sleeping well at night. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't, because I would have wanted to be with them more than be sitting in sessions and my mind would not have been on what I was trying to learn.
So what was I trying to learn? What did I want this conference to help me with?
I wanted a few things:
- Ideas about how to make our ministry more God-centered
- Ideas about how to make our ministry more vibrant (i.e. more involving, engaging)
- Lesson/cirriculum ideas
- Fun activity and game ideas
So what did I find?
Looking at the schedule of talks and keynotes, you may not see a youth-centered cirriculum, but that could be deceptive. EVERYTHING was about kids. EVERYTHING was about focusing on young people. Keynotes by David Shannon and Kirk Brothers were focused on how we can impact young people and get them back in the Bible and back to God. Classes - most were open to discussion - focused on everything from handling crises in youth ministry to ethical and legal concerns.
For the first year of a conference, I was impressed with the quality of speakers and teachers as well as the content. There were over 150 in attendance, which was also impressive for the first year. Childcare was provided (noted by myself even if I didn't use it), and two wonderful meals were provided on Friday and Saturday for lunch.
Thursday morning, registration began at noon and the first session at 1:30. On Friday and Saturday, the sessions began a 8:30. Each session was an hour with a half-hour break in between, and a two hour break for lunch. The last session ended at 4PM to let people have the evening to themselves or with their families.
Sessions I attended:
- Building Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
- Maintaining Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
- Apologetics - Kyle Butt
- Developing a Family Ministry - Tim Frizzel
- Equipping Parents as Spiritual Leaders - Tim Frizzel
- Developing A Vision In Youth Ministry - Craig Evans
- Dealing with Crisis In Youth Ministry - Jerry Elder
- Youth Minister Care for Elders - Jerry Elder
- Exposing Darkness & Evil - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)
- Developing Teens that Shine - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)
Overall, it was an outstanding conference, especially for the first year. The only negative factors were the location - although I think for bringing a family along it was great, and a good start for the conference. The hotel was marvelous and centrally located to all attractions and food. The conference fee was very modest for the quality of speakers and teachers that were there.
I do not say this lightly or for dramatic flair either - but speaking just for myself, the ideas and concepts taught have and will change my ministry and how I minister to teens.
I will definitely be going back to M2Y next year in Chattanooga, and I will be inviting as many people as I can to go with me. What a great start for a much-needed conference.
Audio and notes will be posted to my blog here in the coming days of nearly every session at M2Y, and also at their website. Be sure to check back soon!