"Epic!", "Refreshing," "Just what we needed," were some of the words used to describe the South England Conference (SEC) Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) 2020 which was held at the Crowne Plaza, in East Grinstead from 24-26 January. The theme for this year was 'Rebuilding the Walls' with over 90 Youth leaders from across the SEC in attendance. YLC focused on creating dialogue on the realities of Youth Ministry (YM) and dying youth leadership in the local churches whilst challenging the status quo with Spirit-led innovation. YLC successfully met the objectives for attendees to realise the need of change and innovation; create an intimate platform, discuss best YM practices with leading experts and to ensure relevant specialist training and resources birthing real solutions and new leaders.Attending YLC as specially invited keynote speakers were Naomi Burgess; Development and Leadership Coach for Team GB, Pastor Laurent Grosvenor; the Senior Pastor of the Alpha Adventist church in the US, Fabian Thorpe; Business Director and Entrepreneur, Jennie Hall; Senior Youth Leader Award Assistant and Pastor Tihomir Lazic; TED Student Ministries Director with special appearances from BUC Youth Director Dejan Stojkovic and Pastors Nathan Stickland and Lon Jones.
Workshops throughout the weekend included the introduction of the specialist youth training the GC 'Senior Youth Leadership Award', Values and Conflict Resolution, AY and Strategic Planning, Youth Leadership and the Holy Spirit and Youth and Innovation. Each presentation was thought provoking as well as relevant which allowed young people and leaders to adapt information to their respective areas, churches and individual lives. The Youth leaders in attendance took opportunities to network and share youth leadership challenges and success stories.In one of the interactive sessions called 'The Youth leaders' challenge', Youth leaders were invited to split into four groups, each of which tasked to come up with a youth project from a business perspective with a budget of £100, £1000, and £1,000,000. The ideas and creativity that were birthed as a result were amazing. One idea proposed was to set up an allotment and health store which would be run by young entrepreneurs in growing and selling organic and healthy food products.
One of the major problems highlighted by Youth leaders in an open forum suggested that Youth leaders and other key stakeholders in the youth fields are not sufficiently aware of the dynamics and processes from higher leadership level leading to marginalisation and exclusion. There is therefore a need for leaders from Division, Union and Conference level to become more aware of these dynamics and work more closely together.Cathy Boldeau who represented ADRA and Urban Ministries promoted up and coming community projects and the SEC Youth Director Anthony Fuller closed the conference by saying encouraging words on plans he has for the coming years and was encouraged that over 60 Youth leaders had committed to the Senior Youth Leadership Award specialist programme. He assured that the SEC would be doing more to collaborate with Youth leaders and youth in the local churches and committed to improving quality and professionalisation of youth work.