Conference focuses on vision for youth ministry

Communications Staff — October 17, 2003

More than 250 youth workers attended a day of intensive youth ministry training Sept. 20 at the fifth annual Vision Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The conference featured 26 speakers from 6 states speaking on topics ranging from high school ministry to counseling and missions. The Vision Conference is hosted each fall by the National Center of Youth Ministry, a group that seeks to recruit, train, place and network local church youth leaders.

The conference “exceeded our expectations and was the best heretofore,” said David Adams, professor of youth ministry at Southern and executive director of the National Center of Youth Ministry.

Jay Strack, founder of Student Leadership University in Orlando, Fla., was the featured speaker. Preaching from Habakkuk, Strack told conference attendees that a fresh vision from God is the greatest need in youth ministry today.

“I promise you, the greatest need we have is a fresh vision from God,” Strack said. “But no one ever tells us how to have a vision. … How, in heaven’s name, do we get a fresh vision for your ministry, for your life, for your family from God?”

To discover a fresh vision, believers must follow the example of Habakkuk by moving beyond negative attitudes and actively seeking God, Strack said.

Pursuing God’s truth is of paramount importance in ministry, he said. In fact, one reason why ministers loose sight of God’s vision is that they depend too heavily upon sources of inspiration other than God’s revelation.

“You’re never going to get it from a conference or from a speaker or from a book or from a tape. Now I can hopefully make you thirsty for a vision. My heartfelt desire [is] to be practical, to motivate you to seek a vision and to remind you: how dare we go about His work without His fresh vision for your life,” Strack said.

The widespread desire for vision in both religious and secular arenas, Strack continued, evidences a hunger for the Lord. People may claim to seek “vision” generically, but what they truly seek is a word from God.

“I’m not going to be able to help you much with vision unless you realize that only the One who made you and only the One you’re going to stand before and only the One who loves you, the Creator who knows you best can give you a vision,” he said.

When the Lord finally grants a sense of vision to His followers, they have a responsibility to receive that vision and share it with others, Strack said.

“We know that God speaks. We know he answers. We know vision comes from Him. … Please don’t settle for anything less than that as a result of having been here today.”

Strack concluded, “Write [the vision] down so that others can get the vision.”

In addition to hearing Strack’s keynote addresses, the Vision Conference presented awards to two youth ministers for their outstanding service. Barry Shettel, youth pastor at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., was awarded the “CYM Lifetime Achievement Award” for 34 years of youth ministry service. Gene Dodson of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., received the “CYM Founder’s Award” for 24 years of youth ministry service.

Next year’s conference is scheduled for Sept. 11, 2004. It will focus on counseling youth through problems including addiction, pregnancy and rebellion.

With reporting by Jeff Robinson

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