These reflections come from Kent Miller, the Denominational Minister for Youth Ministry for Mennonite Church USA.
I will always remember driving to Orlando with my MYF, for what would be my first Mennonite Youth Convention in 1997. I was in my second year as youth pastor, and I think that I was more excited than the youth and other leaders. There were youth conventions when I was growing up (I’m not that old!), but my youth group did not attend together, so the experience was going to be completely new for me. I had heard great stories from the youth and leaders who attended Wichita ’95, and I was anxious to see what would happen.
What happened that week was phenomenal! The speakers and music were great, but it was the time we spent together in the worship and seminar – singing, laughing, crying, praying, talking – and yes, even the long bus rides on either end of the trip, which became the building blocks for stronger relationships within our group. Relationships which have deepened everyone’s walk with Jesus.
What amazes me is that this dynamic flows through each convention! I have had the opportunity to take several groups to convention, and been involved in some way ever since 1997. I continue to hear young people refer to their convention experiences as significant markers in their faith journey. Just as significant to me are the comments from the youth leaders who experience significant growth in their lives as they have heart-to-heart conversations with youth on living out faith in the real world.
Conventions are great high moments in our collective lives together, and they provide a spark. I’m committed to helping convention be a great place for youth groups to connect on a deeper level with one another, and create those spiritual markers that serve to help guide our faith for years to come! I am excited about our time together in Phoenix as we deepen our faith, build life-long relationships, and become people who are healed in the hope of Jesus. I look forward to seeing you there!