Why Youth Conference?
It’s crazy to think that last weekend I attended my 16th youth conference! From being a shy 13 year old girl who was nervous to walk to the altar to pray, to now praying for my youth, I’m at a loss for words of how good God has been on this journey.
Throughout my teenage years, I was always filled with so much anxiety. I wanted to be liked, and I wanted to belong. Conferences were where I learned to be bold in my faith, and that it’s okay to be different. I remember going back to school the day after the conference, so excited and empowered to talk about my experience with my friends. Even at church, I sometimes felt left out or out of place. So, having these conferences allowed me to connect with the other youth in my group, and feel more like a family.
That’s why this past weekend was so important. I know that these conferences are life-changing. I want my youth to understand the importance of a relationship with God and with others. Community is vital, and it is what uplifts us during the difficult seasons of our life.
What I Learned
Last year, I was able to help out as a conference staff member, and I was so looking forward to doing it again this year. But I kept feeling this tug on my heart to focus on leading my group this year. For many months, I couldn’t understand why, but there were a handful of situations last weekend that brought clarity on why God told me what He did. Without any warning, I was challenged to grow in my leadership. I was forced to communicate about things I didn’t ever expect I would need to discuss. Most importantly, I was able to just be there for them. Staying up late at night talking about life, taking endless selfies, eating junk food and playing video games until 2am, and answering any questions they had about God…are all things that made me feel like I belonged when I was their age. It’s the most basic things that remind them that they are loved. Just being in their presence and offering a listening ear, reminds them that they are important.
Last weekend also reminded me about the huge responsibility that comes with leading. Pastor Jack (Network Youth Director) chose the perfect theme for this year – “Coming Alive” based out of Ezekial 37. That passage reminded me to believe and trust in God, regardless of what I see. To let go of laziness and apathy. To reignite that flame for ministry (because let’s be honest, it’s hard work!), and to let go of that sin that hinders my growth process. “If we want to walk into the things that God has for us, we have to walk with the Holy Spirit.”
Saturday night we prayed for a move of the Holy Spirit, and so many spoke in tongues for the first time! It was so encouraging and exciting to see the next generation hungry for God.
One of my favorite testimony’s was that one of my younger girls didn’t want to stay on Friday. It was her first conference experience and she had never been in that type of setting before. With tears in her eyes, she said that she didn’t feel comfortable and wanted to go home. She ended up staying the night.
The next day, I saw her with tears in her eyes again. But this time she said she had been crying because she was praying and felt God for THE FIRST TIME.
These are just a couple of the reasons why all the convention planning and sacrifice is SO worth it!
Speakers, Artists, and Worship
I love this girl SO much. She’s not only talented, but she’s so humble AND such a funny person! She grew up singing at our church, so having her lead us into worship this past weekend was such a blessing! Leading youth into worship at conference has always been something that she dreamed about, but didn’t talk about. It was something she would pray to God about and leave it alone. Our friendship has allowed me to see the sacrifice she’s had to make throughout her life, her commitment and obedience to God’s calling, and the discipline she has to work on her craft.
I remember when I was younger, I would always look up to the worship leaders at conference because I wanted to be used by God in a similar way. So, I know for sure that many youth this past weekend looked up to the worship team in that way too. I’m so proud of the entire team, because it was many of their first times playing there! It’s inspiring to see that musicians and singers from our very own network are being used by God. I noticed how the worship team interacted with the youth who had questions about music and instruments. They were humble, and took the time to listen. I know many of the youth were inspired to continue practicing back at home, so that they can one day be a part of it too.
Another person I am so proud of is one of my best friends Jordan! She has one of my most favorite voices and did so amazing this past weekend! I’m so proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone. I’ve known her since college, so seeing what God has done in her life since then is such an encouragement to me! I’m so excited to see what God has in store for her next.
I’ve heard this pastor speak at a young adults conference back in April, and I loved that he was invited to come speak again. I got so much out of his message, but overall he reminded us that God is BIGGER than our hopelessness, regrets, past, failures, lack, burdens on our heart, depression, and anxiety. It was the exact reminder that I needed in this season! He also mentioned how we need to have a “table of people to speak wisdom” into us. It’s so easy to isolate ourselves, or make ourselves think that we are okay because we are so blinded by our current circumstances.
This girl’s testimony was amazing! My youth loved her and wouldn’t stop talking about her all of Saturday. I love that she is a Christian psychologist, and can preach a message from that perspective. She had a lot of great insight!
He brought the house down on Saturday night! His message was title “The Parable of Taco Bell,” and I’m sure you can imagine how that went. He was hilarious! We couldn’t stop laughing the entire message, and he definitely kept everyone engaged! Then towards the end, he had everyone crying! He was such a dynamic speaker, and I learned a thing or two from him on how to deliver a message more effectively.
Mark J the Poet
I admire this guy. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. He spoke so openly about his struggle with pornography, and how he had to seek help in order to overcome it. It was beautiful to see how God restored his marriage, which had almost been destroyed because of the things that were overtaking his life.
My youth loved his music! He did an amazing job. I played his music this past Wednesday at youth night, and it was awesome to see a lot of the youth singing the lyrics and commenting on his songs.
I have so much respect for this guy! He’s an amazing leader and friend. He and his team did an amazing job putting together this year’s conference. The time that goes into planning these events is a lot, and not to mention he and his wife have a newborn baby girl! I’m so thankful to him and his team for their sacrifice and sleepless nights. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. Oh, and special shout outs to Estuardo Arevalo and Christian Pompa who were a part of the team! They are youth leaders at our church, so we missed seeing them at conference. But we are so proud of them for serving as security.
I left the conference feeling excited for this next year in ministry! I left with so many ideas and excited to begin planning them and seeing them happen at our church! I know this was such a LONG post…but if you’ve made it this far…would you please keep our youth and church in prayer? We’ve gone through a lot these past few years. So, please pray for guidance, clarity, revival, and unity!
Also…if you have it in your heart to sponsor one of our kids to attend youth conference next year…it’s never too early to donate! 🙂
Special Shout outs
My parents Jaime & Lourdes Balderas- For donating Pizza to the entire youth group on Friday.
Pastor Eva Torres (who’s also my amazing aunt)- For being by my side the entire weekend and literally assisting with everything and anything! Also for pouring into the lives of the young girls who would visit her room! And for the late-night sweets!
Our East Bay Sectional Youth Director Christian Alcala – For donating a food table with endless snacks for our group! He’s also my assistant, so having him there to help with the guys in our groups was SO helpful! Things would not have run as smoothly as they did without him.
To all my room leaders– Diana, Kemly, Ingrid, Trinity, Andrea, Daniel, and Josue. It was many of their first times helping as room leaders, and I’m so thankful that they stepped out of their comfort zone to help me out with the younger ones.
Maliya Esco- For just being an amazing friend lol! It’s always great to have someone closer in age with you at these things since there are so many teens! Loved having her to sit next to and to talk about life with. It meant more to me than she knows.
Chosen Youth Parents and families– A HUGE thank you to all those who donated snacks for the weekend! For financially supporting and encouraging your kids to come to conference. May God bless you all.
Almira Flores- For all the amazing photographs! Thank you for capturing these beautiful moments! You’re talented girl. Excited for your journey.