Last January, part of the Life Teen team was privileged to attend the college age Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 42,000 young adults took over the Georgia Dome for several days of worship, powerful talks, and a social justice component aiming to eliminate modern day slavery. The conference gave me a great sense of hope, joy, and excitement as a group of young people rose up in the name of Jesus. It was powerful.
As a Catholic, I of course missed the Sacraments: specifically Mass, Adoration, and Reconciliation. But, I knew coming into this non-denominational Christian conference, that not having these staples of my faith would be the case. So, instead of looking at what the Passion Conference lacked, let’s look at all of the amazing things it did. By doing that, we can see how our own events and retreats can be better. And the end result will be the same, whether you are involved with Passion or Life Teen or not: God will be glorified.
- Have a clear mission. This may seem obvious, but so often in the midst of schedules and planning, the goal of a retreat or event can get buried in the details. Never forget the reason for doing an event. In our case, it has to be leading teens closer to Christ. From the talks, to the music, Passion had a very clear mission of forming a “Jesus generation united for His renowned.”
- Invest in volunteers. At Passion, they called their volunteers “Door holders” and they were awesome, excited, eager to help, and able to communicate the mission of the movement. In our events, we need to do the same thing! Not only would it enable more people to get involved, but it helps spread the mission of what you want to accomplish easier and more effectively.
- It’s not about the event. How often do we see teens on fire after a retreat and then it quickly dies away. True, I’m sure it happened at Passion, but they did a really good job of diminishing the importance of Passion and elevating the name of Jesus. Through an incredible social justice component focusing on fighting modern day slavery, college students raised over $3 million. The event of Passion became a movement that is still being acted on months after.
- Focus on production. This may be a surprising one. True, its never about the lights, flash, and production, and more about the substance and depth. But, our teens live in a world full of screens and music. It is how they learn and often how they experience God. As the Church, lets use these means of communication and technology and elevate the name of Jesus. Passion spends a great deal of money on production, but it never comes without the substance–and as youth leaders, it never should. By the way, those moments of silence are still golden. It’s all about balance.
- If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all. If you look at the daily schedule of Passion, you will probably ask yourself, “where is everything else?” It’s true. The schedule and the actual conference is very simple. Main sessions. Community groups. Small groups. Late night sessions. And that is about it. All of those sessions, though, are excellent. In fact, people are so confident in what Passion will do, they don’t need to know any details other than the time and location. Sometimes we do so many things at an event or retreat, but we never have the time to do them all well. Less sometimes is more. Focus on your key mission and do the things that accomplish that. Eliminate the stuff that doesn’t matter.
I think the bottom line is that it is an exciting time to be all about Jesus! He’s doing amazing things, and it is such a privilege to be part of it. If you’d ask the Passion crew what is most important in preparing for their event, they would probably say prayer. And I think that is a good place to end for us too. One last thing. As today is the day Passion’s new album “White Flag” from the conference releases, look to your May Life Support Box for a copy to enjoy yourself. Happy Event Planning!