I am reflecting on my two weeks as Conference Pastor at MOVE (Christ in Youth) in Carbondale. John Luzadder, Director of High School Ministries at CIY, asked me to serve in this experimental capacity. It was a great 2 weeks of loving, listening, encouraging, blessing, praying for, and challenging youth leaders.
I was able to connect with about 60-70% of the youth leaders in some way. Some of the leaders may have thought that I was there to counsel them. However, they were doing great and didn’t need it. It didn’t bother me. If there was a need, then I was able to connect. I often sat down in the middle of the Café or outside Starbucks and the ones who needed to talk came up. Other times I approached them at their tables. Many of the times, there wasn’t room just to sit down because of the kids. For those times, I just waved or chatted briefly. I spent a lot of time walking the hallways and just being available. There were many conversations, short and long, with youth ministers, youth coaches, and even the students who were sitting next to them.
The first week was very valuable for two young youth ministers who just found out that they had been fired and that they were spending the last few weeks with their kids at CIY. Wow, that was tough. I listened to their stories. They were confused and hurt. Neither know where they are going next. Both have families. Both situations revolved around conflict with senior leadership and/or elders.
Another young couple was struggling with the conflict they were facing in their church. She said to me, “I didn’t expect this much conflict from church people.” She is moving into the defense mode for her husband. We had a great and very needed conversation about how to handle and face the conflict. I talked with a seasoned leader, Larry, several times covering several issues, from conflict in his church to what direction to take in his studies. We had a great time.
I spoke with several great youth coaches who were doing great but just enjoyed the encouragement. Their response to me at the end of week convinced me that needs were met. I had a great conversation with Matt Lohman, who is a former principal, but is relatively new to the youth ministry position. He is in a part time position. Despite his expertise from being a principal, he greatly appreciated our conversations. We talked about wood working and cabinet making, also which is his normal job, so we had a great time on that topic. I loved talking with guys and gals who are doing great in their ministries and in their personal lives. They were in the majority.
The second week started off much better than the first week. I believe this was due to the fact that I was in front of the adults at the adult leader meeting on Day 1. We were able to establish a rapport right away. I also knew what I was doing during registration.
I had intense conversations with a dozen or so leaders, much more this week than last. The conversations were deeper, more transparent, and more effective, I believe.
I was supposed to facilitate an adult leader meeting with C4, an upstart organization helping schools to start church connected Christian clubs like FCA. However, the leader had to cancel for the second week. The 10 leaders who were there stayed for a round table discussion on the question: “What are you intentionally doing to be sure your students are prepared for the University?” Wow, it was great. I shared many YM Images that help develop first hand faith and independence in the lives of the students. It was very positive.
I met with John and Hannah for over an hour about their needs and struggles. They were very encouraged. We connected all week, ate together several times, talked in the hallway, etc. John came up after Friday night to talk with me and tell me how much he appreciated our time together. (He and Hannah prayed for me on Saturday while I sat in the street with my truck running). They were very blessed by having a conference pastor.
I met with Beau and Joel, and we talked for an hour and a half. It was what they needed. Joel is in his first year; he just graduated in May. He had a ton of questions, and Beau and I helped him work through some of his questions. He has about 6 kids that can’t seem to want to be serious at all (interestingly, one of those guys stood to make a decision for full time ministry in the evening. Joel came up and told me. I said, “Yea, I know I saw him. He was the one I took the air horn from!! He was doing well.”) Joel is a more serious dude. He wants to teach, but right now is loving on his kids. Beau was asking more questions about vision casting, or recasting, and team development. It was fantastic. I let them each other work through their stuff and directed them to discover the directions they need to talk. I gave some suggestions, but I tried to facilitate and interject. I wanted them to discover what I know they already know. They just have to make the connection.
Right at the end of Mark Moore’s evening message, Justin grabbed me for some advice. We went out on the front steps to talk about what he was going to do during youth group that night. He has a girl and a guy on the trip who had been sexually active. The girl’s mom was on the trip but didn’t know about it. Her dad did. The YM was afraid it was going to come out during YM group time and didn’t know what to do about the mom. I gave him several options to have as “audibles.” The dad was on the phone with his wife as we were speaking. We talked for about 10 minutes, prayed, and he went back in. He talked with me later and said everything went so very well. He was very appreciative of our conversation.
After going to DQ on Wed night, I was walking back to the dorms and was grabbed by a mom whose daughter just found out that her really good friend was killed in a car accident that night. She was upset. She didn’t know what to do. She could have connected with anyone, but I was there. I listened and talked and helped her walk through some stuff and prayed.
On one of the nights, I went out on security because the natives were really restless, I was tracking down some kids who wouldn’t go to bed. I stopped on the 6th floor with Epperson, Evan Stone, and the gang from FCC in Champaign. We laughed and had a good chat. They had some wild stories of their kids.
On Friday I had several youth leaders (coaches and YMs) who came up and told me how much they appreciated me being there. Some of these leaders, I never talked with for much longer than a “hey, how are things going?” passing comment.
There were times where I didn’t feel that I was doing anything. I kept looking for things to do and help out with so that I wasn’t just sitting around. But I never wanted to do too much so as to appear too busy. There were a bunch of times when whoever I was talking with asked, “Do you have to go?” To which I responded, “Nope. I’m here for you.” And we would keep talking. That was great, kingdom plus.
I had a great time getting to know the Bible College Reps, the other CIY staff and interns (Jon, Adam, Tyler, Kim, Rachel, Will, and Brandon), and the Matt Bayless Band. What a joy it was. I was glad to be on the journey with them.