Dear YouthCon Students,
First, I want to thank you all from the deepest part of my heart, for allowing me space and time to be with you and share my story. When I say I was deeply humbled to be in your presence, it is, by far, a true understatement.
Secondly, I have been to several youth events in my time of ministry, and never once have I witnessed such an outstanding group of young adults as I did at YouthCon. You are all so very special, and I feel the hand of God strongly on each of you. Also, I realize my story was heavy, and my Say It – Slay It Challenge may have been trying for some of you – I understand that believe me, I do. I want you to know that my husband and I prayed over it a lot, and after watching you from the sidelines Thursday and Friday, I knew that if any group could crush that challenge… YOU COULD. And you did.
So many of you shared your stories with me, and you inspired me significantly!
I am so proud of each of you.
Know that God sees you, hears you, loves you beyond measure, and He is proud to call you his sons and daughters.
I hope to meet you again someday. Please feel free to find me online – I would love to stay updated on your lives.
God bless each of you richly and guard and guide every step you take.
With love, Tam.
INCREDIBLE. That is the only word that can even come close to what I feel after YouthCon 2019. It is now three days after YouthCon and I am still overwhelmed with emotion; joy, exhaustion, and more. It has taken this long just to start to process my experience but God is refueling me through it.
During YouthCon and afterwards my social media feeds were filled with pictures, thank yous and hashtags that it was too overwhelming for me to process. After reading and seeing all the posts I wanted to share my experience but it was difficult to into words. But now that some time has passed here are my thoughts.
A pastor friend of mine shared a devotional. He said, “All of us need ‘remember when’ moments.” He talked about how in the Old Testament when God did something amazing, an altar was built. A physical marker to help people remember what God did for them. So now we are living in a digital age and I can see how our social media pages will be a “remember when” alter on what God did at YouthCon. And this post is my “remember when moment.”
For those of you who might not know, I was part of the planning team that brought YouthCon 2019 to life. I was part of a handful of other people with my co-director Neil Bontrager who prayed, planned, and prepared to make YouthCon a reality. Neil has a unique ability to dream and plan events exactly like YouthCon. His optimism is infectious and that helps is natural recruiting ability. Then we have Byron Funk, who is the hidden gem of the planning team. He was always behind the scenes making sure kept moving forward. His servant heart and love for the M.B. world was crucial. Below is a list of names (mostly pictured above) of everyone who served at YouthCon.
I have served on what is now called USMB Youth since 2008 and have been the director since 2012. A lot has changed over the years and our dreams and plans have gotten bigger. But so has our faith in God. I remember sitting down with Neil and the planning team processing where and when we should even have the next convention–which eventually came to be YouthCon 2019 in Glorieta, New Mexico. The planning started on the ride home from NAMED2015. I remember contemplating over so many details: the length of YouthCon, the time of year we held it, the location we held it at, the cost it would take to pull it off and everything else. Very few decisions came easy or without discussion. Except for one… The importance of being together. The importance of having a shared experience; of being inspired by God with youth ministries from all over the country. That was at the forefront of every decision we made.
It is a surreal moment when you see something come to life that only months or even years ago, was just ideas scribbled on a page. Planning a big event like this where hundreds of people rely on your planning takes tons of prayer, hours of planning, and some faith that it will all come together. And every time I plan an event like this, I am surprised by God. And God surprised me every day at YouthCon 2019. So here are some of my “Remember When” Moments:
INCREDIBLE. As I said before. This experience was simply incredible. When you are on a team planning for an event like this it’s not always easy, but I can tell you it’s fulfilling. And now I understand why events like YouthCon and the stress, the work, the blood, sweat, and tears of it all is worth it…
Because being together matters. Youth conventions remind everyone who attends that they are part of something bigger than themselves. YouthCon and other events like it remind the adult youth workers and the youth themselves that they are not alone. We need to be reminded of that because too easily we can fall into the trap of thinking that we are the only one who have these struggles, doubts, or fears. And when you get to connect to other people who are pursuing God like you, it’s easier because you get to bear each other’s burdens.
Events like YouthCon matter because it builds momentum like very few things we as youth workers provide. By having students leave the comfort of their daily routine and thrusted into an environment where every minute was designed to have them connect with God and others, positive change occurs. They start to see the world differently because they have put down the blinders of life. They start to get inspired hearing stories of how others are impacting the world for God and they start to believe they can do that too.
When older Christians look back on their life and map out their spiritual journeys I have heard countless stories of how events like YouthCon became a spiritual marker in their lives. This is something we must never take for granted, never question if it’s worth it, never regret what it costs, because the stories are too great, the impact too big, and the change too wide to ignore.
I want to finish by saying thank you. An event like YouthCon cannot be planned or run by any one individual or even a small group. It takes an army of willing volunteers just to make it happen! Below (and most of them are pictured) is a list of names of everyone who helped out in some way. The impact these people below made will never be measured and will ripple on like waves on a pond. Thank you to everyone who prayed, supported, gave, or served before, during, or after YouthCon. You have blessed me and countless others more than you will ever know.
We want each youth ministry to get the most out of YouthCon so we created a “heart prep” curriculum to help your ministry prepare and debrief for YouthCon. And of course, it’s completely customizable so you can use it however that works best for you and your ministry.
YouthCon Heart Prep:
The YouthCon organizers are confident that everyone is going to have a blast at YouthCon! It’s going to be a fun, enjoyable experience. And, of course, God is going to be present with us as we meet in Glorieta. He wants to speak to us and give us good gifts!
We want to be able to receive those gifts!
One thing we can do for students on the front end is make sure they are focused and paying attention and aren’t clinging to other things that would prevent them from receiving those gifts. (Even if we know we have been forgiven for our sins, we need to have a clean heart before God as we come into His Presence there.) Then on the back end have a chance to debrief and digest what each person experienced at YouthCon.
These three pre-sessions are designed to help the students (and leaders!) slow down and think; to be aware of themselves and God…to take an inventory of sorts. And then we have one debrief session after YouthCon.
Help your students and leaders be prayerful about what God reveals in the weeks that lead up to YouthCon. The best thing you can do for your students to get the most out of YouthCon with this material is encourage them to participate in these lessons and be completely honest with themselves about “where they are” spiritually and what might be going on below the surface.
These lessons are completely customizable. You can edit however you want based on your needs for your group. Each lesson can stand alone each week, combine them for all one week, or anything in between.
For any questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-YouthCon2019 Heart Prep (PDF version)
Pre-YouthCon2019 Heart Prep (Word Doc)
(Logo – Powerpoint Size)