Over the weekend of 23 to 25 July, around 140 delegates attended this year’s MORE Youth and Children’s Leadership Conference, held at Silverstream Retreat Centre in Wellington.
While MORE Conference is a territorial event, it needs to be said that we really missed our friends from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, who couldn’t attend because of the current border restrictions in place. Right at the start of the conference, we took time to pray for and acknowledge our Fijian friends who are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis and the devastating impact that this is having in their community.
This year’s theme was ‘growing through it’, and there were several motivating factors behind this tagline. First of all, it was an acknowledgement that here in Aotearoa New Zealand we made it through 2020, the year in which we became overly familiar with the terms ‘unprecedented times’, the ‘new normal’, and ‘team of 5 million’. Although these phrases were well used, we can’t deny the truth they hold—we did go through something pretty wild together. It was messy and hard and, in some cases, it still is. So, the idea behind ‘growing through it’ was to acknowledge what we’ve been through retrospectively, but, at the same time, also look forward to the future through the lens of growth. There are always challenges emerging, whether they’re related to Covid-19 or not. These challenges will always stretch us, whether it’s through personal character development or through innovation as we seek to engage a world that is rapidly changing.
This year we had a fantastic line up of keynote speakers and seminar and workshop presenters. On our opening night we had the privilege of hearing Mike Dodge, from Canterbury Youth Services, speak, reminding us of the importance of having healthy, outward focussed and inclusive youth and children’s ministries. On Saturday night, Captain Shaun Baker reminded us of the importance of staying connected to the Vine (John 15), and on Sunday morning Captain Kylie Tong used the story of Joseph (Genesis chapters 37–50) to illustrate the point that we should always be getting ‘better not bitter’.
After divisional time on Saturday morning, each delegate had the option to attend one of two seminars. The first one was presented by Carol Brieseman and her topic was ‘Engaging the Minds of Children’. She talked about the importance of tapping into children’s curiosity to help them discover the world around them as the basis of learning about the amazing Creator God that we serve. The second option was presented by Sam Bloore who talked about creating disciples right where faith and culture intersect. He focussed particularly on how we can help individuals, especially young people, establish and enhance a personal spirituality that is biblical, stable and sustainable.
Our workshop presenters included Matt Renata who did two sessions. His first workshop was on the theme of balancing our cultural identity, he talked about what it means for us as individuals and ministry leaders to explore together the restoration of balance in our culture here in Aotearoa. In his second workshop, he introduced some ‘Top Tips for Introducing Te Ao Māori to Ministry’. Tracy Boon’s workshop was titled ‘Caring for Yourself’, and she talked about the need for a healthy balanced lifestyle in ministry to avoid burnout. Raewyn Keane presented a workshop on ‘Creating Sensory Play’. Neville Bartley presented twice: his first workshop was on the topic of ‘Understanding Intermediate Kids’, and his second one was on ‘Effective Storytelling’. Jill Matthews’ presentation was on ‘Working with Volunteers’, and Bel Lemanutau’s workshop was about ‘Youth Ministry on a Budget’. We then had further workshops from Carol Brieseman, Sam Bloore and Mike Dodge on a range of topics, such as dealing with unacceptable behaviour, teaching and behavioural techniques, trends in emerging adulthood and speaking to groups.
Of course, all of this seriousness was balanced out with a whole ton of fun in the evenings. On Friday night, the opening ceremony of the Olympics was projected to a rather rowdy and enthusiastic audience.
On Saturday night, endless doughnuts from the doughnut truck were provided free of charge, and the delegates had the choice of either taking part in the MORE Quiz with Scott Keane or playing laser tag under the full moon until midnight. If people didn’t want to do either of these options, they could simply relax by grabbing a coffee and a board game from the café or go and hang out in the Market Place, which had several displays hosted by various groups. These stall holders included Kyle Aitken and the team from Blue Mountain Adventure Centre, the Candidates Department, Manna Christian Stores and Rosy Keane and the Women’s Ministries Department. There was also a stand where delegates could complete the new ‘Your Voice Matters’ survey for teens, young adults, children’s leaders and youth leaders.
Thank You Team
There are so many people to thank for helping to make this year’s MORE Conference the success it was. First, a huge thanks to Pou Tikanga (Cultural Advisor) Ken Te Tau for leading us in our mihi whakatau (formal speech of welcome). The space you created for us was amazing! Thanks also to Nick Vemoa and the team for leading us so well in corporate worship; Kris Singh, Kase Walker and the team from Creative Ministries for serving so well in the area of sound and lighting; Ash Patel and Georgia Cotter for their camera work; and Captain Nathan Holt and Moshe Jivan for being such great MCs. A huge thanks also to Captain Jordan Westrupp for the endless coffee, and to Captain Missy Ditchburn and her team for looking after the delegates’ children. Thank you also to Captain Beth Campkin and Captain Jeannine Serevi for looking after the morning prayer meetings. James Adams, thank you so much for leading us in our poroporoaki (farewell). A huge thanks also has to go to Claire Gardner, Bethany Coleman and the rest of the THQ Youth and Children’s team for making MORE happen. And finally, to everyone who helped out in some way that I may have missed here—thank you!
The MORE Conference’s purpose is four-fold: to inspire delegates in their ministry; to give them spiritual refreshment; to create an opportunity for networking; and give them quality training in children’s and youth ministry leadership. If you are a leader or a volunteer working in the area of youth and children and have never been to MORE Conference before, we would love to see you next year.