Phil’s Top 5 SYMC Highlights

Last weekend, 3000 youth workers joined together in Louisville for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I have to say, I have been attending these conferences since they began, and this one was the best yet! Here is my top five list of highlights. Some are serious, and you will see that some are funny too:

1) Brilliant General Sessions:

This year it seems like the planning team did a brilliant job to make their general sessions a time for youth workers to truly breathe, to worship, and to take in some of the best general session speakers I have ever heard.

  • The Speakers: Francis Chan, Jon Acuff, and Derwin Gray brought a level of transparency and authenticity that I had not seen in a while. Their messages were not just inspiring, they were challenging and practical too.
  • The Worship: In addition to the amazing speakers, Tim Timmons and Shane & Shane, (who now refer to themselves as part of “the SYMC family), led most of the worship. They truly helped us to breathe and experience God in a refreshing way without the lights and glitz… Simple heartfelt worship…
  • The Experience: During morning sessions Rick Lawrence and the team provided experiential opportunities (including ), to be refreshed and connect with God. Given that the theme for SYMC was “Breathe,” these experiences were a great way to be filled up each day.
  • The Skit Guys: These guys did an amazing job crafting their skits around the theme of ‘breathe.’ They didn’t simply show up and repeat their material. They seemed to take great time crafting and adjusting their skits to help us breathe, laugh, and be refreshed. Their balance of humor and seriousness seemed perfect.

2) For Youth Workers By Youth Workers: Being a part of the IT3 (In The Trenches Team), it was great to see how this conference is truly owned by youth workers in the trenches. I am amazed at so many people and all the hard work they did to create an brilliant experience. There were so many of them working behind the scenes and not looking for any credit for what they did. They truly love SYMC and were prepared to do whatever it takes to make this conference incredible. Yet, in all this, every one of them always had time to stop, talk, and encourage new comers and reconnect with those who had been before. In September a group of about 100 these IT3 will gather again for a summit in Colorado to review and plan for SYMC 2013.

3) Air Time: ‘Air Time’ was a part of the general session experiences this year, and it had a particularly great impact of me personally. The idea behind ‘Air Time’ was birthed last September at our IT3 summit. The premise is that a youth worker from the trenches has 3-4 minutes to share their heart about ministry and life. It was an opportunity to hear from an everyday youth worker who could truly relate to the audience and encourage them in their ministries. It had particular significance for me since I was one of those youth workers who was asked to speak during ‘Air Time.’ I was honored to be asked and humbled to share my heart to encourage youth workers.

4) Conversations: This was a big highlight for me this year! Some of my greatest times of learning and encouragement came through conversations on sack chairs, or over a cup of coffee. SYMC has really worked hard to create a culture of conversation and make it easy for new and returning youth workers to truly connect. Their connect groups intentionally gathered people from similar ministry or life situations, and gave them times to talk, pray for, and encourage each other. This year I met so many new people who were coming to the conference for the first time. Everyone one of them commented on how easy it was to connect with people there…

5) Getting Kicked By Cheerleaders! (Yes, you read it correctly)! This year we shared but of the conference center with cheerleaders who were taking part in a national competition. One evening after dinner, myself and my buddy Ben saw a group of cheerleaders getting off of a bus and creating a “cheer tunnel” for each cheerleader to run through… It looked so much fun, that Ben and I could not resist the opportunity to run through and be “cheered up” ourselves… As we ran through, the cheering cheerleaders realized that we were impostors and began to kick and try to trip us up as we ran through. Fortunately, Ben and I are both soccer players and have received our fair share of kicks in our time, and we were able to keep running through the cheer tunnel. Note to Self: If you’re not a cheerleader, think twice about joining their cheer tunnel…

So there you go. There’s my top five highlights. Did you go? What were your highlights? What did you get the most out of? Are you coming to SYMC 2013? I hope to see you there!!!

Phil <><


  • Brian Ford

    I’ve been thinking and processing since I’ve returned and will be posting my own thoughts. Thanks for sharing. I agree with your highlights except the part about being kicked by cheerleaders, lol. It was great seeing you the only regret I have was not getting a chance to actually sit down and talk with you bro. It was the best SYMC I’ve been to.

  • Matty

    I thought for sure you would have included our wrestling match! :)

  • Phil Bell

    Hey Brian, I guess I am just going to have to come down to the Haute and see you the family sometime! It was great to see you too my friend!

  • Phil Bell

    Matty, the wrestling match is something I have been having nightmares about… I now need counseling… Haha!

  • Ben Beaghan

    The SYMC was an amazing experience! It opened my eyes to the world around me and had a great feeling of camaraderie among the youth workers. It is cool to see that we are all striving after the same goal of loving Jesus and inviting students to Christ. Thank you to all the people who put the work into making this conference a reality.

    You know, I was thinking about the cheerleading thing… If I had fallen down in front of you, then you probably would have fallen down on top of me, and the cheerleaders behind you would have fallen down too. It would have been quite the pile up and would have been hilarious! Haha o well, I’m glad that didn’t happen. Getting out of that situation would have been a little awkward… haha

  • John Fix


    This was my first time at the conference, and I was blown away by so many things. The heart that the SYMC team has infused into the event was incredible. Just being there to serve youth pastors who need to know they aren’t alone and other people “get” them. I was convicted and blown away by the need to remember it is the Holy Spirit who brings the change, not my effort. Hearing other “in the trenches” stories encouraged me to persevere. My only regret from the weekend was not being there to see you take a right foot from a 12-year old girl with a bow in her fake hair.

    Can’t wait until next year.

  • Scott Tinman

    Where is the eating Fish & Chips with me…oh wait we din’t get a chance to but was good to connect with you again and meet your wife. Also appreciate you asking about my family and son…this is where the IT3 family makes life & ministry connect with one another…the community of the YM Nation

  • Phil Bell

    Scott, I got to eat Fish n’ Chips once. (Not so good fish n’ chips either). Glad you had a great conference and I will be praying for your son.

    Ben, that was fun! Let’s do that again sometime before you get married?

    John, it was great to see you at SYMC! I am so glad that so many youth workers got hear your wisdom!

    Phil <><

  • Brian Seidel

    It was great to meet you (and many others) face to face. I had a great time as well.

  • Phil Bell

    Thanks Brian! You too mate!