#nywc and #aar/sbl

We live in a world where you can be in more than one gathering at a time, kind of. Thursday I got on a plane and headed to Nashville. The same day many of my colleagues boarded a plane to Baltimore. All of us were on work-related trips, and truth be told I could have gotten on either plane and had an enriching time.

Baltimore was a national gathering of religious scholars, people who teach and research in a wide range of disciplines and work in a variety of colleges, universities, seminaries and divinity schools. People come for the learning, yet many experience it as a reunion and networking opportunity…having dinner with PhD colleagues, drinks with past professors and running into colleagues at receptions or in hotel elevators. Publishers come to introduce their latest resources, trying to diffuse them into the field; authors come looking for opportunities to pitch their proposals, with hopes of tenure and ‘making it’ in their career.

Nashville was similar. A national gathering, one which offered more learning than one person can handle and one filled with networking, reuniting AND introducing colleagues from all parts of the country. And yes, publishers were there pitching their resources, as were all sorts of other ‘vendors.’ And yes, there were aspiring authors hoping to take their ideas to the next level. And this gathering also hoped to advance participants careers, as it also hoped to further the work of faith and religion.

But these two gatherings were also not the same. As I followed both on Twitter, I noticed something different. My colleagues in Baltimore offered teaching tips and nuggets of scholarly wisdom; they tweeted some fun, even whimsical quips of their experience. And while some of the tweets from Nashville also fell into those categories, the gathering in Nashville was centered in something more than learning and networking. And that center was what I needed.

Young and old, from near and far, representing different church traditions, the group in Nashville were Youthworkers and they gathered around a shared mission. Several times each day the networking and learning was interrupted by ‘the big room.’ ‘The big room’ brought everyone together celebrating everyday ministry, joining thousands of voices in praising God, and reminding all of us who God is and who we are in this shared mission. The center was not doctrine, shared experiences or great ideas, but our love for discipling young people and sharing the good news of GOD’s love with them.

As a scholar, teacher and church leader, I’m usually leading others and proposing ideas about what it means to be church today. I’m encouraging leaders and listening to the joys and challenges of leading ministry today. And while I love my work, I get tired. And when I do I sometimes forget. This weekend I was reminded, even encouraged, not only around youth ministry but also about being church again. Sure, there are tons of frustrations, challenges and obstacles. But guess what. Being a ministry leader today matters. It really does. Thousands of us gathered in ‘the big room’ and heard that message again, and that’s the message I wanted to share with others. That was what I was tweeting about.

So this weekend I was in Nashville, ease dropping into the gathering in Baltimore, and I got on the right plane. As I return to work this coming week, I do so thankful, blessed and excited to be called into ministry with young people. #nywc

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