I have to say from the outset that I really enjoy Youthwork the conference each year. While the seminars and sessions are great, the main reason I go back each time is that it gives me space and time out from the busyness of regular life and I can catch up with other like-minded people. This year, after years of banter and quick conversations, I got to hang out with Chris Kidd (Official Blogger ™ of Youthwork The Conference) and his colleague Lydia which was great. Due to other commitments, I only went for the Friday and Saturday this year so my reflections are based on the half of the weekend that I attended.
I was delighted to see that Danielle Strickland was doing a number of sessions over the course of the weekend as her teaching has been inspirational in the past. I was initially concerned about a possible over-saturation effect since she has already spoken at prominent events like Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor this year, but after hearing her on the Friday evening these doubts were quickly dispelled. She is an excellent and thought-provoking communicator.
Having the Breathe prayer space upstairs was a good idea and much better use of otherwise wasted space. Also the more simplified programme worked well – it was easier to plan what you wanted to attend!
The other big plus for me this year was Nick Sheppard leading a main session on ‘Trying to be Christians’ where he explored the faith development of young people in today’s society. Although it was quite a big subject for an early morning start, Nick was engaging and captivating; expanding on his PHD research with a practical and theoretical driven presentation rather than preaching nice wooly ideas or isolated theology. He proved that the academic doesn’t have to be dull or boring and I’d love to see more research-based content in future.
However, sadly the same can’t be said for the CYM (Centre for Youth Ministry) sessions. I fully applaud the effort of bringing in some more practical training to the conference, and after reading the session outlines I decided I wanted to go to them. The two themes were around ethics in youth ministry and strategic planning. Both were interesting subjects and seemed promising, but unfortunately missed their mark with dry PowerPoint-heavy presentations featuring long lists that were parroted by the speakers. While there were some real gems that could be drawn out of each one, there was too much information and not enough application. In addition, both sessions overran and allowed no time for discussion or Q&A. Shame. I believe there needs to be more content like this at Youthwork The Conference aimed at trained and experienced workers, but it needs to be much better thought through.
Overall though, it was another good conference. Considering there have been some behind the scenes changes to the event organisation over the past couple of years, it was encouraging to hear such positive feedback towards Wendy Beech Ward and her team. I hope that they can continue to make the conference viable for the future.
With that in mind, the dates for next year are set at 18-20th November 2011. The cost is only Â£70 if you book before the end of December. Get booking now!