The 2008 National Lutheran Youth Workers Conference — known as “NATIONAL” — offered an array of opportunities and settings for 200-plus volunteer and professional workers at the July 10-13 event in Indianapolis to gather insights and resources for youth work back home. The conference theme was “Something Better.”
Sponsored by LCMS District and Congregational Services — Youth Ministry, the “program” for NATIONAL this year offered Bible study, worship, plenary gatherings, workshops, and multi-session “intensives” that allowed those attending to delve into topics of interest.
Speakers and presenters for such sessions “are great gifts to NATIONAL,” said Dr. Terry Dittmer, director of LCMS Youth Ministry. “Church professionals, Concordia University System professors, teachers, and laypeople bring their various skill sets and expertise to enrich and train conference participants.” He added that they proved they “really know their stuff and are willing to share their knowledge.”
Chris Mizel, a student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, said he found “most beneficial … the sharing of ideas and resources, whether … in the formal sessions or in conversations with other youth workers. It was certainly encouraging to know that other youth workers have some of the same joys and pitfalls that I do and to be able to build each other up in that.”
Dittmer said he agrees that such networking opportunities “make NATIONAL an incredibly valuable event” for all youth workers, but especially for volunteers, who he said are in the majority at NATIONAL.
“The volunteer is the backbone of youth ministry,” he added.
Overall, Dittmer said, “It was great to gather around the ‘Something Better’ theme and know that the conference is truly equipping people to do effective youth ministry back home.”
He also noted that many participants — volunteer and professional alike — commented on “how cared for and affirmed” they felt at this year’s NATIONAL.
One of those, Director of Christian Education Intern Emily Norman of Romeo, Mich., said, “I received so much encouragement from former professors who are excited for me to begin in ministry. It was neat to connect with them in this setting and know that they trust me and are confident in what I will do in the future.”
NATIONAL is held each year when there is no National LCMS Youth Gathering.
Next year’s NATIONAL is set for July 16-19 in New Orleans.
Dittmer noted that the 2009 NATIONAL conference will provide “a great opportunity to learn, grow, and be refreshed,” and also give youth workers a chance to get acquainted with New Orleans as the site of the 2010 National LCMS Youth Gathering. He said he’s encouraging youth-ministry workers throughout the Synod to “plan now to attend both events.”
Posted July 24, 2008