The every-four-years USMB youth conference is a highlight for the students—and for all of us—who attend. If you need a shot of optimism, energy or fervor, volunteer to be a sponsor with your church at the next USMB national youth conference. Here are my observations on YouthCon 2019.
♦ YouthCon 2019 was fun. There were lots of smiles, laughter and chattering. Because we were the only group on the grounds, you knew that everyone you saw was “one of us”—or worked at the camp, which made them one of us for the week.
♦ The Glorieta kitchen staff has a great system for feeding a crowd of people—from a couple dozen to 2,000—in record time. There were lots of instructions during our first dinner but once we got the hang of it, eating family-style and busing our own tables was a breeze.
♦ There are more important things than sleep.
♦ While there is racial diversity in the U.S. Conference, that diversity is not typically reflected at national USMB events. However, our diversity was evident at YouthCon 2019.
♦ Even though YouthCon organizers hoped for 1,000 participants, at a total of 698, the USMB youth conference still ranks as the largest national gathering of U.S. Mennonite Brethren. It is significant in terms of attendance that the Pacific District Conference was represented by six of its 115 churches and youth from the Latin America MB Conference (LAMB) did not attend.
♦ High school students worship enthusiastically, sincerely, wholeheartedly and with a lot of spirit.
If you need a shot of optimism, energy or fervor, volunteer to be a sponsor with your church at the next USMB national youth conference.
♦ The general sessions conveyed a sense of optimism, celebration and joy. There were repeated reminders of God’s deep and personal love for each one of us in spite of our sinfulness, and that we are created for a “life of awesomeness,” as speaker Kat Smith put it.
♦ YouthCon 2019 sessions were cohesive and intentional. The five speakers, OneTimeBlind drama troupe and Presence Worship band members reinforced the same key themes and ideas. Organizers intended the sessions to challenge students wherever they were in terms of their relationship with Jesus and his call to discipleship. Students were frequently asked to stand as a sign of their willingness to receive prayer, to confess a sin or to “go all in,” whether as a new believer or as a recommitment.
♦ While YouthCon had all the elements you’d expect at a fun-packed, large-group event, organizers also equipped youth workers to customize the conference for their teens. Stephen Humber, a Multiply staff member who headed the YouthCon pastoral team, wrote a series of lessons for youth workers to prepare their students for YouthCon and to help students process the experience when they returned home. During daily morning youth worker meetings, organizers gave a preview of what students would be hearing and doing during the day. The schedule guaranteed youth workers would have the opportunity to debrief with their students after each general session.