Unlike most youth ministry conferences, this wasn't about the latest and greatest programming. All of the workshops, speakers, and presenters revolved around the structure of ministry. It was a crash course in systems analysis...and I took more useful information away from those three days than I ever have for any professional conference. Ever.
The weekend wasn't all work, though. Here's a few non-ministry tidbits that I found interesting. You may not find them quite as interesting, but this is my blog, so read on. Or don't.
First, I flew down to Nashville by way of Memphis, which is about an hour's drive from where I was born in Blytheville, Arkansas. When I was a little kid, we used to meet my grandparents at the Memphis airport when they'd come to visit...it was also where we'd fly out of when we'd visit extended family. So, in a strange little way, my hour-long Memphis layover was kind of a homecoming for me. I hadn't been there in about 30 years, after all. Pretty cool.
Second, while I was in Memphis waiting for my plane, a familiar bald head walked past me. For those who don't know (or remember), one of my dirty little secrets is that I'm an American Idol junkie. I quickly ruffled through my mental roladex, and realized that Phil Stacey, one of the American Idol finalists from a couple of years ago, was sitting about 20 feet away. Phil used to be in the Navy, and came off as a really decent human being on the show. Good guy, totally in love with his wife and kids, and committed to his faith. I wanted to respect his privacy, so I left him alone until about 5 minutes before our plane was ready to board, then I walked over to wish him well and ask for a picture. Turns out he was heading back to Nashville (on my flight) after doing some shows in various casinos and clubs across the midwest. We talked about life and family for a few minutes, and he did end up posing for a picture with me:
Third, my conference was held at Brentwood United Methodist Church in suburban Brentwood. There's a Christian musician named Mark Schultz who most folks don't realize got his start as a youth minister at Mark DeVries' church a few blocks away. At Mark's invitation, he came back to do a mini-concert in the BUMC youth area for the 80 or so of us in attendance. One of the songs he sang is called Walking Her Home, which follows a couple from their first date through their last night together in a nursing home. I had heard the song one other time before the concert, and like that first time, I was left a sniffling mess afterwards. Here's a video of that performance:
There's a couple more things I'd like to write about, but it's bedtime. Those will wait for another time.