News and Views

Youth workers gather to restore

Posted by Guest Author on

By Christie Hoffman*
Special to the UMConnection

Youth workers and ministry leaders listen to Daniel Barnett during a time of worship at the recent training event and retreat, held Wesley Freedom UMC in Sykesville.
Photo by Christie Hoffman.

Youth workers from across the Baltimore-Washington Conference gathered at Wesley Freedom UMC for a retreat and training March 22-24. The weekend offered a time to focus on “restoration,” of both yourself and your faith. I personally cannot think of a more fitting message for a profession that requires a constant giving of yourself to the youth with whom you work.

Amazing things started to take shape over the weekend as many dedicated people came together to worship and learn how to make church a place for young people.

Youth leaders were enthusiastic to connect with others in the profession and have conversations about how to do youth ministry. Youth ministry is often an isolating field, where many youth workers feel disconnected and underprepared. Often, when someone steps into a youth ministry position, they are filling an existing hole and therefore have no one to orient them to the unique role of spiritually caring for young people. With a wide range of different churches and districts represented, as well as an experienced leadership team, there was a wealth of experience to be shared this weekend to help others grow.

Saturday morning offered a chance to grow as the attendees broke up into Novice and Veteran groups to discuss strategies, address questions and problems they’re currently facing, and gain a sense of comradery and support. Nothing is more reassuring than hearing others’ trial-and-error stories, and there were certainly plenty to enjoy. 

One of the best opportunities to hear these stories was during a lively round of “Speed Dating: Youth Workers Edition.” Questions ranged from the hysterical “most embarrassing youth group moment” to the more thoughtful “biggest fear in youth ministry.” The conversations that started in under a minute grew into deeper connections over the weekend.

For me, the weekend offered an incredible balance of absolute silliness, spiritual restoration, and missional growth. Fun, quirky moments ensued when attendees were asked to shoot a Nerf-style bow and arrow or to participate in an intense match of Extreme Bingo. These ridiculous moments proved that even “the ones in charge” can enjoy a laugh as much as our youth.

Unexpected changes to the weekend, like an ill keynote speaker who couldn’t come, demonstrated the incredible flexibility that comes when serving in youth ministry. The event’s leadership team created seamless worship opportunities on the fly that offered important spiritual messages to let the Spirit sustain us through the roller coaster that comes when called to work with young people. 

One of the most valuable take-aways from the weekend came in the form of the astounding training offered by those serving in youth ministry right in our own conference. Training workshops covered a variety of helpful topics including family supportive youth ministry, how spaces affect behavior, making disciples who disciple, passion to practice, and helping hurting kids. One unique opportunity was a hands-on chance to use art as a spiritual practice. Handed a terracotta pot and a hammer, the youth workers took to the theme of creating something new from the pieces and produced beautiful pieces of art together.

Leaving the weekend equipped with numerous pieces of helpful information and strategies, the most valuable are the resources shared. From prizes like a youth ministry go-bag to free book giveaways, and notes from workshop leaders, the most exciting thing added to my tool belt is the knowledge that you are never alone in youth ministry.

The BWC offers that amazing ability to be part of a connection greater than just your church.  Connections were formed this weekend that will continue to offer support and opportunities for the youth leaders in our conference. Going forward, the community of youth workers that gathered this weekend are committed to fostering supportive connections, expanding our community, and developing new ways for us to grow as leaders of young people.

*Christie Hoffman is a member of Reisterstown UMC where she serves as the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Intern.


Kim Carr Apr 1, 2019 11:29am

It was a wonderful and fulfilling weekend. So amazing to connect with our leaders across the Conference!

Wendy Johnson Apr 2, 2019 11:48am

I truly enjoyed the Restore Youth Leader Retreat. The planning and discussion was very good and very much needed. Thank you for all the resource information given and worship experience. Can wait until we are able to share again.