The Bishop was calling me in the middle of the Conference Sr. High Youth Event and I was shocked. She said, “Amy, I received a phone call from a pastor attending the event and he was concerned about the message the young people were hearing.” WHAT!??!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, especially since this was my first Conference Sr. High Youth Event. I was embarrassed, frustrated and surprised by the whole experience. Yes, the message he had been conveying to the kids did make me cringe at times, because it was often contradictory to the messages that I had heard growing up in The United Methodist Church, but being the new kid on the block,
I thought this was a part of this Conference’s culture. After all, it was a team of leaders who had been in place before that selected the speaker, the band, and the workshop leaders for the event. However, what I did not know was how diverse the opinions and attitudes were on types of speakers and the theology of speakers. When they presented the speaker to me, he seemed harmless, an “illusionist” with a Christian message, but his background and understanding of the Gospel flew in opposition of our fundamentally grace-based faith.
The following years I searched far and wide for speakers/preachers who had a gift for captivating the attention of young people, while still delivering a message that fit with our Wesleyan understanding of Christianity. When I spoke to colleagues in Conference Youth Ministry doing the same types of things, I discovered they, too, were challenged by the pursuit of good speakers/preachers for their events. That is when my friend, Amanda Wrigley and I dreamed about a network of Speakers who could capture the heart and attention of young people and still deliver a message filled with God’s grace, love and mercy for all of God’s children. It was our dream to start a Speakers Connexion of Wesleyan Speakers/Preachers who could share the Gospel far and wide and also provide event planners the peace of mind they needed when inviting new speakers to their events.
The Youthworker Movement has taken this dream and made it a reality. I am thrilled that the Speakers Connexion is ready to be launched and delivered through the hard work and devotion of the Youthworker Movement’s team. Our hope is that the Speakers and Preachers who come through this connexion (a play on Wesley’s spelling of connection) will be engaging and substantive for the youth and young adults who come to your events. I believe that we have a wonderful and rich heritage in The United Methodist Church and I believe that the Wesleyan understanding of God and God’s grace should be shared as far and wide as possible. It is a message that invites people into a sustaining and enriching relationship with the Divine in this world today.
If you are a trained speaker/preacher who can really engage young people, join the Speakers Connexion. If you are an event planner, Conference staff leader or youth minister looking for a great speaker/preacher for your youth event, look to the Speakers Connexion. This is a network through a movement that seeks to make a difference in the lives of teenagers. The best way we can all benefit is if we work together.