ARLINGTON: Youth ministry is a calling that comes along with great trials but even greater rewards, including seeing the salvation of young souls and the opportunity to inspire a generation of future leaders.
Speakers at the 2014 Youth Ministry Conclave on Oct. 13-15 focused on youth ministry as a calling and encouraged leaders to recognize it as a divine appointment. Conclave is sponsored by Texas Baptists and supported through the Cooperative Program with ethnic scholarships provided by Mary Hill Davis Offering for state missions.
"It's not about your ability, but your availability," said Ed Newton, Conclave speaker and executive director of the LIFT tour. "And when you say, 'Here am I Lord send me,' it's not even your message…You're called, you're appointed, walk in that prophetic ministry that God has called you to."
In agreement, Sammy Lopez, Conclave speaker and pastor of Mighty Fortress Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, said sometimes the busyness of life can cause leaders to forget their primary calling and turn to alternative motives.
"Oftentimes we're so filled up with doing ministry for the Lord that we forget the Lord of our ministry," he said.
A comfort zone in ministry can be a dangerous place to be when God is trying to get His child's attention.
"Some of us today, God is calling us to do something for Him," Lopez said, addressing the crowd of youth leaders, "but because of our comfort zone, we desire not to go through with it. We're not ready to listen."
He encouraged leaders to listen for God's call and trust in Him, because His perfect will is far better than what man thinks is best.
Over 700 youth ministers and leaders attended Conclave where they heard from speakers, worshiped together with the Jeff Johnson Band, attended small group conferences led by various ministry leaders, and explored the exhibit hall where ministries, camps, colleges and other vendors hosted booths and gave out prizes.
On "Leadership Tuesday," successful leaders participated in on-stage interviews with Jane Wilson, youth ministry specialist for Texas Baptists, about their experiences in leadership.
In the first interview, Tim Maloney, Director of Basketball Operations for Baylor University, talked about the importance of good leadership on the basketball court. Being a great coach means positively molding young men's lives, he said. That is what he strives do and teach his players to do—to be a leader and mentor on and off the court.
Paul and Joel Vinyard, father and son owners of Babe's Chicken Dinner House, gave insight into their family business and the art of training their employees restaurant business. They said they pray before team meetings and teach their employees, a great number of whom are teenage girls, to practice hospitable customer service.
"In every way, we treat them like we want to be treated," said Joel. "The loyalty is extremely high because of that and job satisfaction is also high."
In another interview, Gary Stroope, senior campus pastor at Watermark Community Church in Ft. Worth, talked about why Watermark was named one of the Dallas Morning News top places to work in 2013. He told the youth leaders the high job satisfaction can be attributed to the intentional relationships amongst staff members, which is important in all workplaces, especially churches.
"It starts with a group of men and women who love each other," he said. "Life's too short not to love the people you're working with."
Stroope explained it does not imply everyone is always lovable and disagreements never take place. Rather, it means employees feel known, and open communication allows for freedom to express personal concerns and issues.
"You sit down and you love one another and you talk to them and you try to understand," he said.
Conclave has taken place annually for over 25 years. Some say it is like a family reunion, others say it is a chance to learn new methods of leadership. All, however, may agree it is a much-needed reminder that God has appointed them to minister to youth, an honorable calling to raise up spiritual leaders in the up and coming generation.
Youth Ministry Conclave 2015 will take place on Oct. 12-14 at the Arlington Convention Center. It is one of many Texas Baptists resources for youth ministers. Check out youth.texasbapists.org for camp options, multimedia tools, numerous resources, and more links to help your youth ministry be more effective.