I’m sitting in my hotel room only 2 miles from Willow Creek, having just completed the first day of the SHIFT conference, a conference for youth leaders, volunteers, and students. It’s my first youth conference since becoming a youth pastor, and I must say, I’ve been quite impressed. I was telling Amy today just how comprehensive, pastoral, and even, dare I say, impromptu, everything was. Although I knew the speakers (Brian McLaren, Mark Yaconelli, Shane Claiborne were just TODAY) were high quality, I was sure that Willow itself and its staff would make me cringe with its commitment to hyper-efficiency, overproduction, and extravagance. And I must repent at the end of today, having experienced what I have. The worship leader, Charlie Hall, cut out half of his planned set after the second session after listening to Mark Y. talk about the need for silence in our lives, and allowed us to continue sitting in the grief that the silence was stirring up inside all of us. Bo Boshers, Willow’s youth exec, teared up after Shane’s presentation and again broke the day’s planned protocol so that Shane could come back up and pray again for us. All of Charlie’s music selections reflected both a deep pastoral conscientiousness of the subject matter, and attention to worship metaphors and pronouns (he had about the right balance of using You-We-I pronouns, in that order of frequency, instead of the usual I-You-We). And as expected, the speakers were all profound, prophetic, and yet still pastoral and loving (especially Mark, with whom I was less familiar). While I remain wary of megachurches in general, I repent tonight of my stereotypes. I thank Willow for providing this needed spiritual and intellectual sustenance for so many youth workers, newbies (like me) and experienced. And I eagerly await tomorrow’s fare.
Check out the blog discussions on Out of Ur for the conference.