I’ve been so busy that I haven’t sat down to try and express all of the incredible emotions and experiences that I’ve been having this week at the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN.  So incredible!  I’ve been on the live-blogging team this year, so you can see lots of my thoughts on the general sessions on the live blog page at nywc.com/live.  There’s lots of great pics and thoughts from my co-bloggers, too.  Definitely worth browsing through.

My travel day was relatively painless to Nashville.  I boarded around 10-ish Mountain Time and arrived in Nashville at around 7-ish that evening, Central Time.  It was cold – much colder than I anticipated!  The thirty-minute wait for the hotel shuttle was almost unbearable.  BRRRR!

That evening was a little lonely.  My lovely wife, Deanna, wasn’t to join me until the next day, so I was all by myself.  I met a few random youth workers and talked for a while in the lobby, but the hotel restaurant, where I chowed down a burger for dinner, was totally empty…

I was hoping to catch the late night concert that evening for the early birds at the convention center, but our hotel ended up being further away than we had originally thought.  That, and the shuttle driver told us that — at least for the first night — the shuttles would only run until 10:30 PM.  That didn’t work so well as the concert I was hoping to go to started at 10:15 PM (sigh).  I went back to the hotel room and watched the #nywc tweets pour in.  I finally fell asleep at around 1:00 AM, I believe.

The next morning, I got up early and headed over to the convention center via shuttle.  The drive ended up being about two-and-a-half miles.  Upon arriving, I walked the facilities and scouted out the classrooms, headquarters, exhibit hall, YS store, and registration area.  Here’s a shot of this year’s theme, Seriously Ridiculous, and the accompanying baby-graphic for this year’s event.

That morning, I got to connect with Adam McLane for the first time.  Now, really, my time with the guy has probably been all of twenty/thirty minutes as he was giving me my all-access pass (sweet!), my USB cell-signal wireless thingy (sweet!), and a tour of the convention center, but I feel I know the guy that I’ve been following online since his transition to YS’s web 2.0 guy ealier this year.  I like him just as much in person as I did from afar.  And who wouldn’t want his job?!  I mean, he’s gets to hang out online all day and get paid for it!  (grin)  Seriously, though, I like Adam’s passion for life and for those in ministry.  Good folk; stop by his personal blog at adammclane.com and you’ll find out for yourself.

Friday afternoon started our first day of live-blogging.  We gathered at 12-noon to get all of our stuff together, hooked up, and online before the first general session which started at 1:00 PM.  This was the first time that I met my new friends and co-bloggers, Andy, Ryan, and Jason.  I feel really fortunate to be hanging out with these guys and be a part of this team — such great people.  I hope you take the time to check out their various sites.

Deanna’s plane landed in Nashville that afternoon and she joined me for the first time in the middle of the first general session with the David Crowder Band and Francis Chan.  I am so overjoyed for the time alone with her this weekend.  It’s not very often that we get to do that with a family of our size.

Anyhow, I think I’ll “bulletize” the rest of my thoughts into shorter, quick bite-size nuggets because there is so much that I’ve experienced and each could probably warrant a post of their own.  So… here we go…

* Mercy Me, Joe Castillo (a sand artist), and Amena Brown all added so much to an already good first session.  Ryan captured some video of the sand artist and posted it on his blog.

* Francis Chan shared a message about being flavorless salt that I’d already been hearing about from the other conventions.  Very challenging and inspiring at the same time.

* That afternoon, Deanna and I skipped the seminars to go get an early bite to eat.  She hadn’t eaten lunch yet. We invited Andy Thompson, a co-live blogger, to join us.  We went to Jack’s BBQ, a place that I’d been hearing about since my arrival.  Now I know why… so good!

* While there, we got to hear some of Andy’s story.  You can pick up on some of it at his blog so I won’t share it hear (especially without his permission), but he’s a guy that’s gone through a lot of transition and heartache over the past few years.  As I’ve been hanging out with him this weekend, I can tell you that this guy has such a servant’s heart.  Everything about this guy seems to be genuine.  I know for sure that I’ll want to stay connected with him after this is all over.

* Deanna and I walked over to a bookstore just down the road after lunch/dinner (whatever that was).  It was cold!  And yes, for all of our time here so far, it has been COLD!  I thought we were going south — isn’t it supposed to be warmer down here?  (grin)

* The 2nd general session that afternoon didn’t simmer down at all — it kept the momentum going from #1.  It featured short hot-button talks from Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and Andrew Marin.  Each speaker then answered questions that were texted from the audience after their talks.

* I think I’ve discovered Crowder’s secret formula: straight kick and “la-la’s”… he uses the combination quite frequently.  😉

* YS without Crowder just wouldn’t be right.  That’s one of the big reasons that we picked Nashville this year.

* Deanna talked me into staying over for a late night session with two of the boys from Audio Adrenaline.  They did a concert and shared some very moving stories from their lives at a session they called AA Talks.  I’m so glad that we went.  The concert was so fun and Will McGinniss — Audio A’s bass player — actually remembered me from a gig I played with them many years ago.  Wow!

* General session 3 might end up being my favorite session of the convention… only because Mark Yaconelli’s disco ball-dance extravaganza at the end of his talk was so moving (and incredibly funny)!  Again, Ryan caught some footage of that for you here.  That’s Lincoln Brewster in the opening shot.

* Lincoln Brewster is an amazing worship leader.  I knew he was a great guitar player, but I’ve never worshiped with him until now.  It’s been great!

* That afternoon I attended Mark Matlock’s super-seminar on mentoring students.  Lots of great content.  I’m glad it was good because I was SO TIRED that afternoon.  After a few days all the activities of the weekend start catching up to you.

* The evening session was also challenging with Dr. Collins, the leader of the human genome project and a believer, discussing why he thinks evolution and Christianity don’t have to be enemies.  Very interesting, at least for me.  I think several just tuned him out (and some even left early) after they figured out that he believes in evolution.

* The shuttle system back and forth to our hotel is hit and miss.  We need, oh, only about two or three more shuttles to handle all of us.  Last night’s wait wasn’t too bad — only about thirty minutes.

There’s much more I could add, but it is Sunday morning now and I’m excited to dig in to all that God has for us today.  Whoopee!  Be sure to stop by the live-blog page and see all the other thoughts, pics, and video clips from the general sessions.  Laterz…


Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District