I just got back from #Campference with two of my best volunteers. Campference is a half-camp, half-conference event that takes place only an hour and a half away from me for middle school youth workers–it’s basically a no-brainer to go to. This weekend had some fantastic moments. Here I want to highlight why Campference is not only the best conference around, but why it becomes one of the best weekends of the year.
A tribe is in it together. Middle school students aren’t always held in the highest regard, but middle school youth workers are kind of obsessed with them (in a healthy way). Life proves time and time again that people bond over hard things, and middle school ministry creates a bond in youth workers that is lasting. I feel like when I come to Campference, people remember the details of my ministry–even some of the silly things about it. I love that! I feel truly known by people, and I feel like I have 100 people on my team supporting me.
The vibe is real life. The joke is that Campference is “Vegas,” and everything that is shared and experienced is honored and kept in a safe place. But more than being a safe place, it’s also a fun place. We can make poop jokes, cuss a little, and know that this is how the “real world” is, and so we don’t have to pretend around one another. Also important– no one is on a pedestal. Speakers aren’t holy gurus (only once was I caught drooling), but normal people that sit down and have normal conversations with you over normal food. This is where real conversations happen.
The breakouts apply. All the time. Even when I went to a breakout that’s name didn’t totally convince me, I walked out smarter. Why? No one is imparting some great knowledge on “lesser” youth workers. Instead, we’re having conversations and growing together. We’re taking time to take names and stories and treat each other the way we would if it was our own youth ministry. This matters–most conferences have a style that is totally opposite of what we would do during youth group. And everything applies; even the games we play as groups can be taken back home and replicated in our church.
For me, this year Campference was healing. There were things that I was able to deal with in my own heart that I needed that space for. SO, shoutout to The Youth Cartel for putting on another great event. Go to their website and buy all their stuff.