Take your student to ReThink! Earlier this week, David gave you his impressions on the 7th annual Stand To Reason Rethink Apologetics conference in Orange County, CA. This conference is near and dear to my heart. I attended the kickoff luncheon for the very first conference back in 2012. Unfortunately, prior commitments kept me from attending that first year, but I have attended every year since.
Isn’t This Just Another Youth Conference?
As a new youth leader back in 2012, I knew that I wanted apologetics to be a part of my youth group. I had a feel for what I wanted to do, but I was disappointed with the conferences I was seeing advertised.
Once you are thrust into a position of leadership working with youth, you are almost immediately inundated with conference and camp invitations. Your mailbox and email will be bursting with opportunities to take your group out to draw closer to Jesus. I could easily have booked a trip every weekend and filled the summer months had I responded to every advertisement I was sent!
Most of these camps and conferences place a heavy premium on fun. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not opposed to fun per-say. But fun should not be the entire focus of what we do with our young people. We seem to believe that unless we selling fun 24/7, kids won’t want to come.
Make The Time To Go!
I know as youth leaders, we are in competition for time. Students have academic, sports, music and other interests that consume their time. And I feel the pain of trying to get both parents and students to give priority to youth group events. But perhaps the reason they don’t give us time is that the activities we give them in return are not worthy of that time.
If all we are offering is silly games and a quick 10 minute blurb about being a good person, it’s hard to blame people for staying away. I wouldn’t prioritize such events either. Students are much more capable than we often give them credit for. These are the same students that are taking AP math and science classes. And yet we are somehow convinced that they can’t handle deep theology or apologetics.
It’s Not Boring
“But that’s boring!” I’ve heard this challenge more times than I can count. If learning about God is boring, it’s our fault as teachers for making it boring. My first year leading youth group was boring. It was my fault. I didn’t understand how to make presentations visual and engaging. They were dry and monotonous. It actually pains me to go back and look at those old presentations now.
As I learned how to engage and interact more with my group, the discussions and interactions became more frequent and deeper. It was a learning process. And my style changed with each new group. I never dumbed down the message, but would change the delivery to meet the group where they were at.
ReThink Gets It Right!
The issues I have outlined above are why I think ReThink is such a fantastic conference. The people at Stand To Reason are not there to simply entertain your students. They have fun to be sure. Having magician Drew Worsham working in between sessions is always a nice, fun way to transition topics! But entertainment is not the focus. Content is what is prioritized. And the speakers at this conference know their stuff!
But ReThink goes a step beyond just having good content. Just as I struggled in my early days of youth ministry with boring and dry presentations, the people behind ReThink realized that not just anyone can communicate effectively with Students. There are some brilliant scholars out there that are probably more knowledgeable that the speakers at ReThink. But knowledge is only half the battle. Being able to effectively communicate that knowledge to GenZ is an additional skill set.
Who Are The Speakers?
The presenters not only know their stuff, they know their audience. J. Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell, both speakers at the event, literally wrote the book on teaching apologetics to GenZ. They are two of the most engaging speakers you will encounter for youth or adult events. Even though I have seen their talks multiple times, I always learn something new.
Our friend Ryan Pauly of Coffee House Questions was a newcomer this year, but after sitting in on his break out session, it’s easy to see why he was brought on board. I have always found Ryan’s talks both engaging and informative. I had him out to speak to my youth group a few years ago, and he did an outstanding job. In his session dispelling the false idea that “God is anti-science”, Ryan again kept his audience engaged with the material. He is a rising star in the apologetics realm, and I look forward to seeing him continue speaking at ReThink.
Greg Koukl, Tim Barnett, Alan Shlemon, Amy Hall and Jonathan Noyes from Stand to Reason are also top notch. They are the brain trust behind the whole enterprise. Were it not for their vision and dedication, we wouldn’t have this amazing conference to attend. They continue to put on high quality events year after year. I am always in awe of the amount of work they put into this, and their dedication shows.
One More ‘ting
If you have students and have never been to one of these conferences, what are you waiting for? I don’t do this often, but I’m going to issue a challenge to parents and leaders out there. You dedicate time and money to every aspect of your student’s life and extracurricular activities. Dedicate some time and resources to the spiritual development of your students as well. Don’t assume that just dropping them off for an hour a week at youth group will do the trick. Challenge them to intellectually engage with their faith. Go with them to the conference! Make this the one event of the year you volunteer to help out with!
There are many things l love about this conference, but the thing I love the most is being able to spend time with my daughter. As she’s getting older, I’m cherishing these moments more. And I can’t think of a better way to spend time together that this! So take your student to ReThink! Maybe we’ll see you there!
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