By Brock Morgan
Normally when Marko calls me it’s a good thing. So far he’s asked me to speak at The Cartel’s Summit event twice, he’s asked me to write three different books, and he asked me to “potentially” go to Africa. But when he called me about a year and a half ago to ask me to write a graduation book, I thought, “Um, not interested.”
I remember getting graduation books as a senior in high school– they all sat in my room for years, unopened, and then eventually passed on to younger siblings or friends as white elephant gifts. So I thought, “these are books students do not read. Why would I want to write one of them?” But then Marko said, “What if you wrote a book that students actually would want to read and a book that would help them in the next steps of their live and be a launching pad into college life.”
Hmm, well, OK, now we’re onto something!
I’ve always had a passion for seeing students have a sustainable faith. I was a youth ministry major in college (yes, there is such a thing) and my senior thesis was all about helping students think critically and live faith out in a way that it truly makes a difference in every aspect of culture.
So when Marko asked me to write a book helping students to live out the faith in college and on into adulthood, well, that’s a completely different thing all together. The Amazing Next came out about a year ago and since then I’ve gotten emails from students, parents, and youth workers from all over the country thanking me. Honestly, I’ve been blown away by it all. But what happen next was even more of a surprise. I was talking with my friend and he said, “Brock, you should turn this book into a youth conference.” What?! Again, this also initially sounded like a bad idea.
I’ve been a youth worker for 25 years now and I’ve taken students over those years to countless conferences. My experience has been that these events have had very little lasting impact. Now what I have found was that many of the conferences we’d take our students to led to great bonding for us as a group, many students were inspired, and maybe even experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. But inevitably students go back home with their same questions and struggles, and back to the noise, the patterns, and the life that drowned out God’s presence in the first place.
Plus, in my humble opinion, we all go back to a youth ministry routine and cycle that just might not be the most effective anymore. Now I’m not a pessimist at all. In fact, I’ve been called a delusional optimist at times. But after 25 plus years of doing this routine, it has pushed me to wonder if we could come up with a new strategy around camps, retreats, mission trips, and conferences. My friend’s question about possibly turning The Amazing Next into a conference led us to ask some important questions:
What if a student conference began a communal conversation that addresses the Christian faith’s current cultural stumbling blocks that keeps this generation from thriving? How can we make this experience a building block for youth workers and their teams? Could there be a conference that is deeply intellectual (not afraid of the big questions or the answers students land on) but also deeply spiritual and rooted in the work of God’s Spirit? Could it move groups from youth ministry to youth in ministry? And what if we wrote a curriculum that each youth group could take home to continue the conversation and journey that began at the conference?
That conversation led us to this idea:
A holistic conference that creates an environment of grace, where students are not necessarily told what to think, but are given the tools that help them grapple with the tough questions. A place where we reengage with the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study, pray, discuss, and worship. And an event that includes training and encouraging youth ministry teams so that whole youth group leaves on the same page, recalibrated and ready to go home commissioned and ready for change. Honestly, we want whole youth groups leaving thinking, “we just can’t function the same!”
Another Phone Call
I remember sending Marko our plan. Honestly, I was afraid of what his response would be. Marko is known to be a blunt fella. sSo I reluctantly got on the phone with him to find out what he really thought about this conference idea. To my unexpected delight he said, “Brock, you have to do this! No one is doing anything like this!”
So we launched our new ministry June 1st of 2015 and our first Amazing Next Conference is in Oklahoma City in September. We’re also booking around the country for next school year. I cant believe all that has happened this year. We have produced 10 months worth of curriculum (first one comes out May 15th), we’ve written scripts and we’ve gathered an amazing speaking team. If you’re at all interested or if you have any questions, please let us know. You can also find out more here.
Now for extra credit, here’s our Manifesto:
We believe in this generation. Many have written them off, but we believe. We believe they can actually live this thing out. And we are not naive in thinking that this world is an easy one to grow up in. But we know that they are dying for a life worth living. So we want to help get them ready!
We are about the Heart & the Head and there are not many places or times where students can be challenged both intellectually and spiritually.
So we’ve decided to do something about that.
As youth workers we have always been searching for a place where both can occur. A place where students can grapple with the big questions of life and see how the gospel rings true, while at the same time encountering the power and presence of the living God. We don’t think these should be mutually exclusive and we know we aren’t alone in thinking this.
We feel you. We are you.
It’s been frustrating finding a more holistic approach. We long for students to experience the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation more fully and we believe they are ready for it.
That’s what the Amazing Next Conference is about.
We provide a space for students to experience God emotionally, sensorily, and intellectually within the context of community. We are open to their questions and believe that we can and should teach our students how to think and how to ask great questions.
We want to empower them to better engage their culture with the Good News of the gospel of Christ.
And this news really is good and it is for them. Not when they’re older, not when they’re more mature, not when their hormones aren’t raging. But NOW. The gospel is a beckoning call for them to join this ragtag group of misfits who are salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.
And we believe in youth workers. That’s why there will be training for your whole leadership team throughout the conference. Plus we’ll be handing them the resources they need to continue the conversation.
Ultimately we, like you, long to see a movement.
A movement of young people who are ready to step into the Amazing Next. They are wide open to the work of God in their lives and ready to live life to the fullest. That’s our prayer, to help develop and create young activists and to see the germination of a sustainable faith that thrives into adulthood. That our youth will be like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what they should do (I Chronicles 12:32).