With a little over 2 months to go until we say good bye to 2016, the new year is certainly looming with excitement and opportunity. I’m not sure what 2017 will look like for you, but regardless of what the details are like, I hope and pray that your year may be one that is marked by God-glorifying, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled activities and relationships.
As we slowly march into the new year, I’d like to draw your attention to one particular conference that may be of interest to you.
For two weeks in January 2017, the Katoomba Christian Convention will hold their annual NextGen Conference. I’ve written about NextGen once or twice on my blog, so feel free to check that out if you’d like. But if you don’t know much about it:
‘NextGen is an annual leaders conference designed to train youth and children group leaders to be better handlers and teachers of the Bible. The training in broken up into three strands, exploring Basic Bible Study Preparation, Biblical Theology, and Systematic Theology (in recent years, the conference has included a ‘Rising Leaders’ strand and a MasterClass on preaching). Delegates complete three strands over three years and receive a pretty cool/funny certificate at the end.’– Back the Basics
I’ve spoken about the strengths of NextGen from a leader’s perspective, so here, let me give you three reasons for why you should consider attending NextGen as a delegate.
Firstly, NextGen aims to teach the fundamentals of ministry. Whether you’re enrolled in the youth or kids ministry strand, you’ll be taught how to read and teach the Bible. The Holy Scripture is the core and essence of your ministry, and NextGen strives to ensure that you are well equipped in that area so that you can always have fuel for all that you do.
So from day one, you’ll be sitting under world-class preachers (and in 2017, we have the former principal of Moore College, Dr John Woodhouse and Gracepoint’s very own, the lead pastor/chef/barista/cross fit enthusiast/banter inducing/avid reader/proud husband and father of two/semi-reckless driver, Reverend Eugene Hor). You’ll get teaching from the Old and New Testament during the plenary sessions, and then you’ll get time in the morning in allocated small groups to learn how to preach and teach God’s Word. You’ll be absolutely saturated in God’s Word for 5 days, and my friends, that is a great privilege.
Apart from fundamentals, you’ll also learn about ministry practice. There are seminars in the afternoons (I had the privilege of sitting under Philip Jensen once which is a session I’ll never forget), you get access to your leaders (the quality of this will largely depend on your leader and his/her accessibility during ‘off hours’. But if you get Sherilyn and I as leaders, then we’d love to spend time with you. We’ll grab coffee or ice cream with you and we’d love to hear your story), and you’ll learn from each other (you will be broken off into groups of about 10 people from different churches. And if you’re in the same strand group, it means that you’re involved in similar ministries. Ask one another how they do things and journey together! You might make some long lasting friendships).
Which brings me to my nextpoint: friendships. I’ve made some incredible friends at NextGen. One of my best mates, Ivan Lee – I met at NextGen. Another one of my best mates, Benjamin Lu – I had the chance to consolidate and solify friendships with also at NextGen. Gracepoint’s very own Andrew Ong, Ronnie Chiu, Terrence Zheng, and all these trouble makers – all friends I met at NextGen.
In fact, here’s an interesting story. I’ve got a couple of friends who work as optometrists in Tamworth for a Christian boss. Long story short, his daughter was going to get married, my friends who work for him talked about it, and then I found out that his daughter is Laura Harvey – also a friend I met at NextGen.
I could go on, but I hope my point is clear. You’ll have an opportunity to meet incredible people with whom you are basically brothers and sisters ‘in the trenches’. Connect with them, walk with them, and win many for Christ with them. You need each other – we need each other. So use this opportunity to connect with each other.
Lastly, you’re going to have lots of fun. I mean, learning the fundamentals of Scripture and making new friends is already lots of fun. But more fun on top of fun? That’s just insane. But it’s true. Depending on what group you’re with, you might have an opportunity to do a bit of coffee grabbing, chocolate munching, bush walking, frisbee playing, music jamming, instant noodle eating, sunshine mountain climbing (don’t know what this is? Come to the mountain camp dining area at dinner), star gazing, and chances to have heart to heart conversations.
If you’re part of Gracepoint, then most (if not all) of the above will be guaranteed. We have a youth pastor who works hard at facilitating these things (and sometimes even stirring these things a little) so come prepared. If you’re not part of Gracepoint and you want a taste of this, then look out for us and join us. We’ll most likely be the loudest crowd of Asians so we won’t be hard to spot. We may or may not be pegging your shirts during sessions and taking over the mountain camp piano or table tennis table. You’ll see us; the crew will be playing basketball, singing in the halls, preparing their bible studies, and some will even be studying (exactly, who does that at a camp right? It just ain’t right. But if you want space to do that, then join us – I mean, them).
I’ve completed the entire 3 year program (but now they’ve introduced an additional fourth year program) and I’ll be returning to lead in 2017 for my second time. These weeks have been formative in my life and journey, so I hope it can be the same for you too.
 Yes, I’ve been sort of known as a bit of a ‘conference junkie’, that is, someone who regularly attends conferences. People poke fun and have a go at me because I’m ‘always at conferences’, and that’s true to a certain extent. But do you know why I try to invest time and money into their various opportunities? It’s because I grew up in a country where we had very little access to great biblical teaching and ministry training events. Yes, I know our churches are meant to be the primary source of teaching and ministry training – I’m training to be a pastor to facilitate and provide that. But it’s hard to admit that there’s something special about gathering with saints from across the country (and sometimes, the world) to i) sit under God’s Word by preachers who have proven themselves to be world-class expositors (and who’ve laboured to prepare specifically to address this particular group of conference delegates), ii) learn and hear from men and women who have worked hard at whatever ministries they are involved in, and to also learn from them, and iii) to remind ourselves that the Church is much bigger than our respective local churches. That of course is not to underplay the significance of the local church – far from it. But it’s sometimes so easy to believe that God’s mission and purposes are going to be fulfilled by our church, our programs, and our people, when in fact, God is doing incredible things in different pockets of the country and the world! And so we’d so ourselves a great benefit to rub shoulders with them to learn from them, pray with them, and also pray for them as we part ways. So after having moved to Sydney just a little over 11 years ago, my eyes were opened to a city with a wealth of resources. Not only were there good churches seeking to obey God’s Word and commission, there were also a variety of parachurch organisations that sought to supplement and partner with local churches so that our city and our nation can be won for Christ. It just doesn’t get any better than that, so I resolved to do what I can to attend conferences that were beneficial for my growth and service. And to be honest, I’ve been blessed by almost every single one of them (there have been one or two that I’ve been to where I thought ‘oh, that was…alright’). But hey, although the quality of the sermons or seminars were fairly average, these were also opportunities for me to meet men and women who were serving in contexts different to mine, and these were opportunities for me to glean from their wisdom. Now to be sure (oh man, so many qualifiers…), there are only so many conferences and Christian events you can attend. So obviously, apply wisdom in considering which to apply to. Don’t read this as ‘you’re only a good Christian if you attend conferences’ or ‘I need to jump at every opportunity that pops up’ – no, of course not. What I am saying is this: if a reputable organisation or church (and by reputable I mean, reputable for their sound teaching [seen through the speakers they invite] and doctrine) hosts an event or conference that suits you and your ministry (and by suit, I mean doesn’t jeopardize your current responsibilities at home/work/school) which you can afford (and by afford, I mean time, money, and energy), then wisely consider attending it for your growth and maturity. Phew that was a long qualifier. And I already sense anti-conference people ready to fire at me. But that’s okay. I’m going to hide at conferences where they can’t find me!