‘A new normal’, the phrase that has defined 2020. The oversight of More Conference would normally have been my biggest project for the year; however, that was the ‘old normal’.
More Conference is the annual Territorial Children’s and Youth Leadership Conference. It is a highlight on my calendar, as it offers the opportunity for leaders of Youth and Children’s ministries to come together to learn, be spiritually refreshed and grow closer as a network.
Taking a step back in time to October 2019, I eagerly sent out my first meeting invite to start planning our 2020 More Conference, and the organising took off. Speakers were accepting invites, promotional posters were being designed, themes and websites were being finalised, we were on track to advertise early … and then Covid-19 arrived. And then we were introduced to an alert system. And then we were advised that we’d be entering alert level four, a nationwide lockdown. It was disappointing, but responsible to make the call to cancel the conference. The following statement was posted on our website:
‘More Conference, 17–19 July 2020, has been cancelled as a precautionary measure to help keep us all safe as the situation with Covid-19 continues to evolve around us. This disappointing decision was made as a result of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that New Zealand will go into lockdown at alert level four on Wednesday 25 March. Thank you for understanding. Look after yourselves and each other.
Kia kaha, from the Territorial Children’s and Youth Departments’
It was not long before the Territorial Children’s and Youth Departments came back to the drawing board to discuss new ideas. Taking into consideration all that was rapidly being adapted to an online platform, we took another look at our main objectives for the conference: learning, spiritual refreshment and networking. It seemed to us that networking and worship or church were readily available online, with a multitude of options out there. What was less accessible was training. Particularly, training that was relevant to us now, while we’re still in the midst of this whirlwind year. After we’d mulled over a few formatting ideas, we decided four training videos—each being the equivalent of a workshop—would be filmed and published on the More Conference website for anyone to view at any time.
All four videos are now available at moreconference.co.nz. They’re aimed at leaders of Children’s and Youth ministries of all ages and stages. Whether you’re a full-time employed Youth, Children’s and Family ministries coordinator of 27 years, or you started helping out for 30 minutes once a fortnight last month, the content will be beneficial to you. Across the four videos we hear from Jeannine Serevi on ‘Journeying The Tough Stuff’, Nathan Holt on ‘Discipleship’, Rosy Keane on ‘Making Peace With Partial’ and Sarah Bridle on ‘Taking Care of You’.
Even though the format is different and very minimal this year, our mission has remained the same. As always, we move forward with our leaders and young people at the front of our minds. An in-person conference is special and creates lasting memories. This year we’ve created special content through lasting videos. Amidst the disappointment of cancelling a partially planned conference, it’s important to identify and celebrate the positives that have come out of plan B. Usually the More Conference experience would be age capped, capacity capped, come with a price tag and limited to those who could travel for a set weekend in July. This year, any person of any age can connect with our content at any time, for free. This year’s content will be lasting and always available. Leaders could take this year’s content to show and discuss with their whole teams.
What a year we’ve had! For me, it was a conference, but we’ve all had to re-think our plans. In a youth work training session the other day, I heard someone say: ‘Love the problem, not the solution, or you’ll miss out on much joy’. Any other time I would’ve thought, That doesn’t make any sense; after all, how can a problem produce more joy than a solution? I think this statement encapsulates 2020 well. Plans have been cancelled and put on hold, but life has not been cancelled; life goes on, problems and solutions persist. Let’s embrace the now, the messiness, the let’s-see-how-it-goes and the not-sure-yet models of life. Hey look, it’s October again, I’d better go start planning More Conference 2021!
Check out the following training videos now at moreconference.co.nz.
Tips for Discipleship—Nathan Holt
Exploring the importance and biblical relevance of being in a mentoring relationship. Nathan gives practical tips of how to mentor others while telling the story of being mentored himself.
Taking Care of You—Sarah Bridle
Learning about valuing our own time and honouring it with rest and restoration. By doing this, we can then be great leaders for our young people and show them how to do it too.
Journeying The Tough Stuff—Jeannine Serevi
Jeannine guides us through the harsh realities that face many young people today. She gives helpful tips and shows inspiring passion for leaders partnering with young people to navigate hard circumstances.
INC_MPLETE: Making Peace With Partial—Rosy Keane
Reflecting on how God’s plan and our expectations collide. In a year of cancelled plans, how can we make peace with reality and maintain motivation and passion to outwork God’s plan?