The National Youth Conference of US Mennonite Brethren Churches (YouthCon) has been happening since 1975. YouthCon has been an incredible experience for thousands of youth over its 44-year history. We know at least 48 youth have accepted Jesus at YouthCon since 2003, as far back as we’ve found records. Countless pastors, missionaries, and church and community leaders can share life-changing moments, and God callings that happened when they themselves attended a YouthCon during their high school years. The USMB Youth’s leadership, past and present, has dedicated many hours to provide opportunities for youth to experience God, be equipped for service, and be inspired to live a life with and for God. Hundreds of volunteers have served through the years. Many churches, parents, leaders, staff, speakers, etc. have sacrificed to make 12 of these events a reality.
YouthCon has a long and rich history. While we celebrate that history, the past 12 years we are seeing a sharp decline in attendance and the decision has been made to discontinue the national youth conference as we have come to know it. This decision follows many hours of prayer, discussion, and data analysis. As a denomination, we cannot continue to support an “every-four-years” youth conference.
Here are the eight (of the many) of the reasons we have discovered:
You can read more in the Christian Leader Magazine by clicking here.
The Bottom Line:
There are many more reasons but the bottom line is the numbers just aren’t supporting it. Declining attendance + rising costs of hosting conferences like this + having it only once every-four-years which means we start from scratch every time = not worth the cost. We must be good stewards of the time, money, and resources that God has given to each of us and USMB Youth believes more effective ministry opportunities are available with a higher return on investment.
The loss of a national youth conference is difficult to swallow. So many people have experienced life change and have very deep ties to our national youth conference. We didn’t just want to end YouthCon without at least offering something different. With God’s guidance, a new opportunity presented itself. YouthCon is finished, as sad as that maybe, but something new is coming and it’s called ASCENT.
The idea of ascent is a very simple one. In terms of camping adventures, the idea suggests a climb or walk of some sort to the summit of a mountain or hill. Have you ever hiked up a mountain? Usually, it’s a struggle. There are many obstacles that come into play that make the journey difficult. Yet, at the top of the ascent, there is always some kind of payout. At the peak, you will find a view or a treasure that made the whole journey worthwhile. We see camp through a similar lens. Many variables come into play to make the journey to camp a tough one. Our desire is that a couple of things make the ascent valuable. First, gathering together as a family of believers is and always will be a special aspect of the camp experience. Second, and most importantly, we hope the ascent to camp leads to a very special place of intimacy with Jesus. We hope teenagers from all over the nation experience a deep place of peace and rest found in Christ that makes the journey meaningful. We believe the pinnacle of the camp experience is worshiping our creator together in community, while personally stepping into deeper places of God’s unique callings, plans, and purposes for our lives. We believe gathering together and leaning into the presence of God to enjoy a special place of rest make the various struggles to camp especially beneficial.
How It Works:
Ascent is an annual national camp experience for High School Youth. USMB Youth has partnered with the Southern District Youth Commission to replace their annual high school camp. It will be held at Glorieta, NM (the same place as YouthCon 2019, 1987, and 1975), and all USMB churches are invited!
Is ASCENT held annually?
Yes! It will be held in mid-June each year. All churches are invited every year. The beauty of this new annual format is you can decide on your own if every year, every other year, or every four years works best for your ministry. An open invitation will be available every year.
Is this only for the Southern District?
No, it is a national camp. Open to all churches and all districts. Whether you attend on the national level (like YouthCon), the district level like a summer camp, or never participated this camp is open to you and your youth ministry. The Southern District has graciously agreed to partner with USMB Youth to host a national camp.
What will the cost be?
The price has not been finalized yet, but early estimates suggest it will be cheaper than YouthCon! We hope to make this event as affordable as possible.
What can we expect for ASCENT 2021?
The same big and exciting atmosphere as a YouthCon but with a more laid back summer camp feel. There will be challenging messages, engaging worship, and custom workshops plus tons of activities. And since it will be warmer weather all 55+ activities (including water ones) will be available and most with no extra cost!
What will be the exact dates?
It will be June 16-20 (Wednesday – Sunday), 2021. Registration will open in January 2021.
We will release more information this fall. Stay tuned!
In this episode, DJ and Kyle tell the tragic, painful, fry-tip filled story of how they met. Pranks are integral to youth ministry. Check out the funny story of how the Embrace the Awkward Podcast got started! The picture symbolizes a lasting memory that will forever link these two youth workers. If you have ever dealt with pranks, and basically everyone in ministry has, thank you can relate to this week’s episode.
To listen CLICK HERE.
Looking for a podcast to deal with those awkward moments of ministry? I (Kyle) has partnered with another youth worker DJ Toelle (also a contributor to this blog) to bring about some helpful hints and tips each week so we all can HANDLE AWKWARD BETTER. It’s a brand new adventure for both of us so we are pretty excited to see what God has in store for this. If you have an awkward topic that you would like to discuss just contact us on Instagram @theetapodcast, join our Facebook Group or email us at email@example.com
Find the podcast on all the major services or CLICK HERE.
Your leaders are the lifeblood of your ministry. Caring well for your leaders, physically and spiritually, can only impact your ministry positively. In this episode, Kyle and DJ give some practical tips and advice that can be integrated in to your ministry easily!
Kyle and DJ talk about programming, why it’s important to your ministry, and give some practical ideas to keep things weird!
In this episode, Kyle and DJ discuss one of the most awkward things in youth ministry. Dating as Youth Worker. Your relationship is an example for your students, and they are watching.
How this whole thing got started…
COVID-19 has completely changed the ministry landscape, and more and more churches and ministries are moving to online programming. It’s a new day and you are probably feeling like the rest of us – completely overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start and you see that some ministries are moving to the “live model” using Facebook and Instagram live features to do their teaching and games. Others decided to use something like google hangouts or the Zoom app. In fact, the Zoom company reported over 2.5 million new users in the past two weeks. And since most are unaware of what the Zoom app offers, here at USMB Youth decided to give you some tips and tricks of using the Zoom app.
The Gospel can be preached almost anywhere. But with this new reality comes a whole new need for a new type of games, digital games. Dodgeball no longer can really work with digital programming. So we started collecting the best games to use with the Zoom app. We will be updating and adding to this list as we go. If you have any ideas or would like to add different versions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are looking for pre-made games or using the sidekick app with zoom we recommend going to downloadyouthministry.com. There is also some other great game ideas at stuffyoucanuse.org.
Why we choose using ZOOM over a social media “live model”:
Other Tips You Should be aware of:
There are many other options that you can use so feel free to experiment before you go live with your ministry.
If you need help learning the zoom app we recommend you CLICK HERE.
|Game Idea||How to Play||From||Supplies|
|Digital Charades||Send a private message to the person to act out the action without using words. First-person to guess it gets a point. First to 5 points wins!||AXIS student ministry||List of things to act out|
|Reverse Charades||Send the clue in the chat to everyone and then everyone acts out without talking. The leader on-screen (should not see the chat) has to guess the clue in 10 seconds or less. Have 2-3 leaders try to guess at the same time.||AXIS student ministry||List of clues to act out.|
|Bring It!||Share an object people can find around the house. They are to leave their phone and bring the item to their phone. First-person to do so gets a point. (example items: toothpaste, sibling, stuff animal, pet, something yellow,, etc.) Alternative versions: “boggle” style of saying a letter and find an object that starts with that letter||AXIS student ministry||List of items to collect|
|Wheel Unfortunate||Using the voting feature. Come up with questions everyone has to answer opinion based (like do you bite your nails). Before revealing the answer have 1-2 leaders write what they think the majority would vote for on a whiteboard. THen reveal both answers. If the leader gets it wrong they have to spin a wheel with “punishments” the leader has to do. Or they can just have a list of punishments they do. (examples: spoon full of mustard, pie in the face, 30-second karaoke, put makeup on, clothespin face, cell phone awkward text, lick afoot, redo hairdo, draw a mustache on your face, etc.)||AXIS student ministry||Wheel of punishments and supplies for it | questions for the poll feature|
|Pictionary||Using the whiteboard feature. Send a private message to the contestant they then draw the object while everyone else or in teams guess what it is for a point. Give them 30 seconds to do it.||AXIS student ministry||each person needs some paper and a pen|
|Leader’s Pictionary||Have your participants send private to another leader Pictionary ideas (can be with categories or just random) then one at a timeshare that to another leader who will draw on a whiteboard the guess. First-person to yell out the right answer gets a point. (You cannot guess the task you sent in).||AXIS student ministry||whiteboard and markers|
|Speak Out||Using the board game SPEAK OUT board game has leaders try to say words that the rest of the people have to guess. The first one to get it right gets a point.||AXIS student ministry||speak outboard game|
|Strike a Pose||(using screen share) Find 4-6 poses that students have to act out. Show all of them on the screen at the same time. Then each person has 3 seconds to pick a pose and do it. Then show one of the poses on the screen. if anyone matches that pose they are eliminated. (after a few turns show less poses available until you only have 2 shown until there is a winner). Alternative: use emojis or just faces they have to make||AXIS student ministry||Find 4-6 poses or faces | Powerpoint|
|Last on the Shelf||Blindfold 2 leaders. Then have one of them eat an object (hidden from the view of everyone, like have them turn backward to the camera) then that leader has to describe what they are eating in 30 seconds or less to the other leader who has to guess it. People watching can also use the chat feature to guess what it is. First-person to do so gets a point.||High School Ministry (Saddleback)||Food objects on a spoon on in a cup. About 5 in total.|
|Whisper Challenge||Have one leader wear headphones with loud music. The other leader has to whisper a phrase that the leader wearing the headphones has to guess out loud.||From late Night with Jimmy Fallen||headphones with music playing|
|Box of Lies||Have one leader take a box of objects you put together and only that leader can see what is in the box. That leader has to either lie and describe something else or tell the truth and describe what is in the box. The other leader and the people watching will guess if he/she is telling the truth. Feel free to use the poll feature.||From late Night with Jimmy Fallen||2-4 boxes of funny weird objects|
|Jeopardy||use the free website to create or find a game of jeopardy and then play taking turns. Keep track of points off-screen||choose the game on jeopardylabs.com|
|Masked Singer||Just like the tv show. Do a karaoke competition with one of the well-known leaders or adults in your church, the reveal them at the end of the song. Have students guess who it is in the chat during the song.||Masked Singer TV show||mask/costume and song|
|Trivia night||Use HQ Live or come up with your own trivia questions and then have students either use the chat OR write on paper and show the camera their answers.||Trivia questions and prizes|
|Build a story||Pick an order and then each student adds one sentence to the story. Either verbally or using the chat feature.||Orange Student Ministry||pick a theme for the story|
|Tour My Room||Give students 5 minutes to go around their room and give everyone a tour. Have students use the chat to ask questions.||Orange Student Ministry||Pick a student beforehand so they have time to clean|
|Costume or theme party||Have everyone dress up for the camera and play games with that theme (like PJ’s, Halloween, tv character, etc.)||AXIS student ministry||costumes|
|Guess Where I am||Use the virtual background feature with one leader in front of the camera and the other leader asking leading but not direct questions (like the scene in who’s line is it anyways tv show). The leader on camera has to guess what the location is on the background.||AXIS student ministry||Requires the leader NOT to see their own screen so a camera facing them without a screen is required. and choose 5-6 funny backgrounds beforehand (try picking locations like office space, zoo, moon, etc.)|
|Virtual tours||Find a zoo, aquarium, or park that gives virtual tours. Then use the screen share feature to experience it together and discuss your experience.||Orange Student Ministry||a free virtual tour online|
|jackbox.tv games||Use the games that come with 1-5 packages either from amazon.com or steam.com||jackbox.tv||purchase several jackbox.tv games|
|zoom extreme bingo||Email everyone a bingo card. Then play a normal game of bingo but then add a task for every 4th ball called. (things like doing jumping jacks until your next ball, have to hold your pen in your mouth until your next ball, etc.)||AXIS student ministry||Bingo cards and a bingo machine|
|kahoot!||design a Kahoot and then do a screen share for trivia questions. (the only downside is people using their phone for both)||Kahoot||kahoot.com|