First of all, thank you so much to those of you that reached out to me and Gavin on behalf of YWM last week at Faith Forward – it’s easy to feel at times that we’re just yelling into the Interhole of the webbernets and it was extremely gratifying to meet some of you in person.
The conversation about what next year looks like for Faith Forward is still in progress, but you can bet we’ll be involved again, provided you can find a venue to place such a wager. Here’s what we loved and what we hope will draw you into the next gathering:
1. I kept forgetting that I was at a children & youth ministry event.
Like a crazy magic trick, the content embraced the heart and direction of children & youth ministry without bogging down in the day-to-day tick-list of things that already distract us from the heart of ministry: No games. No best practices for checking in your kids. Just big picture conversation around the theology, story, & rhythm of doing ministry with kids. Even the understated exhibitor hall felt in sync with the spirit of the event; most of what was available there was aimed either at feeding the souls of the participants or providing content for our ministries back home. And no damnable air cannon in the hands of whoever-that-is from the other youth min events.
2. There was room to breathe.
At the end of each main session speaker’s presentation, there was a silent minute of reflection guided by a prompt from the screen. Not a huge deal, but it was refreshing to not instantly be yammered at about what was next (not to say that Danielle’s emceeing style was anywhere in the neighborhood of “yammering” when she did finally come to the mic). There was a full 45 minute break between the end of the session and the breakouts that followed, creating some natural, unhurried opportunities for conversation and networking with people from across the country.
3. It was large enough to create a sense of community, but small enough that we didn’t feel like cattle (or an over-planted plot of vegetable garden, if that’s your thing).
This point will probably bring some growing-pains challenges as this event progresses, but you’re in a wonderful window to jump in on an event that feels like a crowd in the main sessions but doesn’t feel like a crowd in the street, if that makes any sense. You won’t feel like a dollar gained, you won’t feel like a commercial target, and you will feel like it’s worth sticking around to try to catch the keynote speaker. Because they’re fairly easily caught. You will also feel as though you’ve found your people. If you’re listening to us, this is for you.
4. At no point did I feel entertained.
This one meant the most to me, honestly. There were no stunts. Nothing flashy. Nothing packaged, really. Most of the presenters were bringing new material, specific to this event (or at least modified for this event), rather than glad-handing for something that could be purchased in the bookstore – a refreshing change of pace. Anyone “known” seemed to be making an effort to work “unknown” for the sake of the conversation. And worship was worship, in a way that didn’t feel “popular.” I felt engaged as an individual, regardless of my background, regardless of what I might or might not know of whatever is going on in Christian radio at the moment. If there was a chance it was unfamiliar, it was repeated that we might know it. If it was from hymnody, it was carefully chosen to reflect the progress of our relationship to the divine, not simply setting upon familiar standards. It was worship, for crying out loud. Thanks be to God.
Whatever form Faith Forward takes in 2015, be sure that we’ll be there, and be sure that we’ll be telling you to come with us.