Conclave has become a special time in my life that I look forward to each year. If you don’t know, Conclave is an equipping and rejuvenation event for student ministry leaders. Eight state Baptist conventions partner in planning and leading the event for youth ministry pastors, leaders and volunteers. So, if you work with students in a ministry context, Conclave is for you. The leaders from those eight states are student ministry veterans. That’s where the value of Conclave starts.
Conclave isn’t an event where a single ministry entity or a single interest is trying to tell others what to do. It’s men and women who know what it’s like to be in the trenches of student ministry, bringing that experience and a collective heart for student ministry leaders to the planning of Conclave each year. They seek the most relevant and useful training from all over Southern Baptist circles. They desire to provide an opportunity and see student ministry leaders refreshed. And they pray for connections to be made that help us all do ministry better.
Before I go further, I want to introduce Steve. Steve is one of my student ministry volunteer leaders who joins me at Conclave every year. I asked him to share some of his thoughts for this blog post and I think he summarized it well: “Every year (we) go knowing that (we) can bring something back for our students while receiving something for us individually.”
Steve’s big value draw is the equipping from the breakout sessions. We both love the wide array of breakout topics. Speakers are chosen by leadership to reach the broadest contexts of ministry while still maintaining relevance to today’s ministry landscape. This allows each attendee to tailor the experience to their needs. In one Conclave, you can receive top-notch equipping for your personal walk and your ministry.
This kind of breadth may not be new in the world of conferences and conventions. At other student ministry leadership conferences, I have rarely seen the breadth with the depth Conclave offers. In one room, you may have Dr. Richard Ross talking about the development of Gen-Z brains in today’s culture and how that should shape our discipleship efforts. In the next room will be a highly respected, veteran YP sharing the principles and practices that helped them endure and last in ministry. And then there is everything in between. You have the potential to receive value in every breakout session you attend.
Each year, I am able to attend breakouts that speak to me personally and others that equip me ministerially. Steve spoke about how he has always had that “I never knew that” or “I’ve never thought of it that way” moment at least once each year. I share the same sentiment. I’ve attended Conclave for seven years and have never failed to come home having gained value from the breakouts. The potential value of the breakouts is vast.
The next source of value is in networking. The networking I get to do on a personal and professional level has been of immeasurable value to me. This is the main way Conclave blesses me throughout the year. Conclave will have people from all walks of Southern Baptist church life and even a little outside that. Just a few of the different walks represented include camps, seminaries, missions organizations, other student ministry leaders, Christian entertainers, apparel providers, literature providers and other types of service providers. They are all present with the hope of partnering with you for the good of your ministry and the Kingdom of God. Many of these professional connections have impacted my ministry in positive ways over the years.
On top of that I am able to network with peers and make more personal connections. Walking around the convention hall, I see so many familiar and friendly faces. Each state even has a time where you have an opportunity to sit down with others student ministry leaders from their state in the hopes that you might connect and bless each other. I have been to Conclave with my emotional and ministry tanks running on empty only to have friends, breakout leaders and even vendors pour into and lift me up. I have also been one of the many that God allowed to pour into and lift others up. Conclave to me is like a giant, extended family reunion. That value is almost indescribable.
For Steve, the connections came a little closer to home. In my first year at my current church, I convinced Steve along with Jonathan and Meeda to attend Conclave for the first time. Despite serving alongside one another, they didn’t really know each other. Unfortunately, that year my wife became very sick on the first night causing me to leave the conference to go home to care for her and our kids. Steve, Jonathan and Meeda were optimistic about the value of Conclave for them and our students, so they elected to stay. Their time together at Conclave resulted in all three wanting to return with me each year and a deeper relationship between them where they see each other like family now.
In their time together, they learned about one another, discussed what they were learning from breakouts and the main stage speakers, related that to our ministry, and forged a special bond. I cherish the fact that Conclave helped provide value to and did something special in the lives of my volunteer leaders. This blessing has resulted in improved ministry at church and with our students. That was just two years ago. Last year, we added two more volunteer team members to our group of attendees. This year all six of us will be in attendance again and the value just keeps growing.
The last value I want to mention is what I call refreshing. Conclave calls it rejuvenation. As I mentioned before, each year my soul is blessed by the individual connections I make, the conversations I have and the hope I receive from the equipping. My spirit is also lifted by the powerful worship and dynamic main stage speakers. As student workers, we can come out of the holiday season pretty empty. Even if this is not you, worshipping our God in a room with hundreds of other student leaders and praying for God to do a work in us for our students, their parents and His Kingdom is an awesome experience.
The main stage speakers are specifically tasked to encourage and exhort student ministry leaders. Usually, they have experience and wisdom in student ministry that makes us as leaders in the room feel seen and reminds us that we matter. Not every main stage speaker is a student ministry veteran. But every main stage speaker is clearly chosen as someone who can reach out to us and inspire us in our faith walk and pursuit of better ministry. Just thinking about it lifts my spirits and excites me for Conclave ’24.
I truly hope I’ve been able to show you that, if you are a student ministry leader in any context, Conclave has value for you in equipping, networking and refreshing. Come to Conclave, and I believe you will leave wiser, better connected and ready to do ministry more effectively. Already know about and value Conclave? Share this blog post along with what you see is the value in attending Conclave. If you have any questions about Conclave I’m open to talk. The YM Link office can get you in touch with me. I’d love to see you there.
Trent Nolen serves as student minister for First Baptist Church, Hartselle.