Sneak Peek into the YS Family Room

Jim Hancock brings his group dynamic expertise to the Family Room experience

I have a confession:  I love to lead youth through team building games and small group discussions, but when it’s my turn, I really hate being forced into it.  Am I alone here?  Games make me uncomfortable and I’m reluctant to open up to others.  I am a natural emoter (that’s just a nice way to say I cry easily) so I don’t like being made vulnerable.  Given that, we enter what I expect to be my worst nightmare: the YS Family Room concept.

Last Tuesday, Youth Specialties leaders invited youth workers to visit Irving Bible Church in the Dallas area for a trial run of this year’s new YS National Youth Workers Convention concept, the Family Room.  Mark Matlock, Jim Hancock, Mark Novelli and other youth ministry gurus were on hand to observe and facilitate the experience.  (By the way, it’s a great idea to do a trial run of any youth activity before it goes live – just think of the youth ministry duds and carpet cleaning disasters we could have avoided if only…well, I digress.)  This is how the YS brochure describes the Family Room:

Mark Matlock addresses the need to bring a new, deeper level to the YS National Youth Worker’s Conventions

The Family Room is an interactive learning environment where we’ll come together to dream, learn, share and create.  Whether you come to NYWC alone or with friends, you’ll know you are part of the YS family.

Sounds safe enough.  Here’s a sneak peek of how the Family Room concept really works:

If you’ve been to YS, you probably know they’ve mastered the Big Room experience – top quality bands and speakers get the crowded convention centers of youth workers on their feet and thinking until their brains are full.  It can be awesome, exciting, controversial, overwhelming…and I’m sure the Big Room speakers will bring the best again this year.  New this year, after the Big Room time, we will have the opportunity to break into small groups for “Family Room” time.  In our Family groups, we get the chance to really know 7-8 other youth workers and to process all we heard together in the Big Room.

On our trial day, we were able to break into small groups and try out all of the discussion questions.  Our group was reluctant at first, but it did not take long at all for that reluctance to fade and for us to get to the heart of what matters in youth ministry.  My particular group was mostly male youth workers from Southern Baptist traditions and a couple of United Methodist women.  We had experience levels ranging from 6 months to 4 decades in youth ministry.  We laughed a lot, we shared a lot, we learned that we have more in common than we think.  It really was effective.  I’m not going to give away the questions, and I’m sure your own group will have different answers anyway… but I can tell you that if you come to the Family Room experience with an open mind, you will walk away a better youth worker.  It’s definitely worth your time – I can’t wait to see it in action at the convention.

Small group discussions in the YS Family Room get to the heart of youth ministry quickly

Full of so many great ideas, the YS convention is sometimes described like being on the receiving end of a firehose of information…the Family Room gives us a chance to absorb a little of what we are learning and figure out how to apply things to our personal ministry.



Are you going to the YS National Youth Workers Convention?  If so, what are you looking forward to most?

Who do you meet with regularly to discuss your youth ministry hopes, dreams and ideas?

(Side note: if you’re coming to Dallas and need inexpensive lodging ideas, send me a message)


  1. Erin!

    Thanks for you kind words about YS Family Room. I’m so glad you were part of the test; and I’m delighted by how you immersed yourself in the process.

    Yesterday, we had a great time briefing the Family Room Lead Presenters — they’re the ones who will do at the conventions in San Diego + Dallas what Mark Matlock did at the test.

    FYI, the LPs are Kara Powell, Duffy Robbins, Ginny Olson, Rich Van Pelt, Crystal Kirgiss, and Walt Mueller. Each of them is working with a Co-presenter (which we didn’t do at the test).

    I’m hoping you’ll be a Circle Leader in Dallas — we need at least a couple of hundred people to serve their fellow youth workers by facilitating all those circles (what I’ve been thinking of as “learning units of eight”).

    So, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, Erin. I’m really pumped about this new YS experience.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jim. Sounds like a great line-up of Lead Presenters!

      I hope youth workers are open to trying the new Family Room experience – it’s taking a risk but it’s worth it. After all, we are all in this together.

      I’ll be working the Youthworker Movement booth for the Dallas convention – would love to be a circle leader too if it works schedule-wise. The circle leader role is a great spot for experienced youth workers to pitch in during the convention.

      Thanks again.

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