For the last few years, my church has been sending the leaders of the youth group to a week-long conference at the Katoomba Christian Convention not far from the Three Sisters lookout. It is always a great week away held over the summer break, and the skills learned through the lectures and workshops really benefit those serving in youth ministry.
Each day is held following a similar schedule, which I have outlined below:
This was the first session of the day and was a great start to the morning. There was always some singing and prayer, and through the sermon we worked our way through 2 Samuel and David’s story with Bathsheba. The series of talks was titled ‘The Depth of Human Depravity & The Discomfort of Divine Grace’. We all know that David was a man after Gods own heart, but he was also incredibly human in some good ways and some bad ways. These talks really looked into the human side of the story and was a new look into a well-known story of the Bible
After the morning talk and a break with some morning tea, we broke off into our training groups. NEXTGEN is a three-year course, and each year you work through one of Year 1, Year 2 and then Year 3. In each ‘Year’ you are then broken into smaller groups of around 10 for Training Group. This time around I was in Year 2, and as part of our training group we were learning about ‘Gods Big Picture’ particularly the Old Testament and how the common threads link through the whole Bible. At the end of the week, we had to present an example Bible study from 2 Samuel chapter 6, verses 1-11. It seemed a daunting task at first for one who hasn’t had much theological training, but as I read the linking verses and looked at the context of the passage, I could see the link.
When the Training Groups had finished, there was a lunch break followed then by Workshops. This was more of a practical session where we looked at running a youth night, effective ways to engage with teenagers, and holding small group discussions, as well as open forums about issues and ideas we have had with our own youth groups.
For two hours in the afternoon before dinner, we had free time. This was time to go bush walking, visit the local cafes in Katoomba (I had a look at some second-hand book stores), read through our notes, or work on our Bible studies. It was also time to meet other young adults Christians from across Sydney and from interstate as well. For the week, our lodging was at the Katoomba Backpackers Hostel and with 80 young adults all in the common room laughing, joking and sharing stories, and playing many competitive games of Uno. There was a great atmosphere there all week.
After dinner, we had an evening session back at the main conference area. These talks were from 2 Corinthians, and looked at different aspects of being a leader – a leader’s power, weakness and enemy. The main theme throughout was that we aren’t perfect, but our weaknesses are opportunities to make use of the grace and power of the Gospel. We have more influence over those we minister to then we think, and we shouldn’t limit what God can do based on how we limit ourselves. Be yourself, and let God be God.
After a week in Katoomba for the NEXTGEN conference, it was time to pack up our bags and head home. As part of the conference, we could pick two books for free from a book stand. I picked up ‘What’s Best Next’ by Matt Perman, which talks about how the Gospel transforms the way you get things done, as well as ‘Dangerous Calling’ by Paul David Tripp, which looks at confronting the unique challenges of being involved in ministry.
It is always a great time of learning and growing at NEXTGEN, and I look forward to next year’s conference.
Christopher Archibald lives in Sydney and is a Youth Leader at New Life Christian Church in Blacktown. A voracious reader, he ploughs through many books in a calendar year, with a bookcase that is constantly being rearranged to accommodate new additions.
Christopher Archibald's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/christopher-archibald.html