Progressive Youth Ministry 2016 – The Aftermath

29 Feb, 2016

PYM16 w SP

This February, I found myself deep in the heart of Dallas, Texas for the Progressive Youth Ministry 2016 conference (PYM16). Attending on behalf of Spiritual Playdate, this 3-day conference is specific to progressive youth ministers and youth leaders to exchange ideas, come together for worship, and to network. And let me tell you, it was a blast!

There is so much to tell regarding PYM16, but that would require an essay of great proportion. Instead, I’ll go over the theme, my favorite speakers, and my highlights:

The theme for PYM16 was Faith in an Age of Reason, which prompted an evangelical opening sermon from The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas where he challenged all of us to passionately lift our voices during the storm of life and to be in the presence of holding onto the divinity of our faith. Furthermore, he encouraged us to be “radically queer,” by which he proposed that we re-identify our image of [g]od and in turn, re-ignite our spirit. Talk about an invigorating way to kick-off a youth ministry conference! And of course, it followed with none other than Rev. Yolanda, a drag queen who sings Old Time Gospel and is now a dear friend of mine.

The rest of the conference seems like such a blur of wonderful connections and insightful information, it’s hard to grasp the highlights. The seminars I attended were FLIP Your Youth Ministry with Doug PagittWhen Churches Play Together: Building a Collaborative, Ecumenical Youth Community withMorgan SchmidtWhat Makes Youth Ministry a Safe Space for LGB and Transgender Youth with Yadi Martinez, and Human Beings and Human Becomings: Departing from the Developmental Model of Youth Ministry with Wesley Ellis. We also heard from top speakers Evelyn ParkerPaul WallaceCatherine KellerRob Bell, and Allyson Robinson. I found all of these speakers to be beneficial in their own way, but the most influential of them were Paul Wallace and Doug Pagitt. Paul recently released a new book Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Cosmos that brought me back to my undergrad days at Shimer College, while Doug truly spoke to a firm belief of mine – that youth ministry begins the process for youth to stay connected to themselves, [g]od, and all other people throughout their lives. Together they reminded me of why I do the work that I do in Interfaith Relations and Youth Collaboration.

Lastly, I have to mention the live-recording of the Homebrewed Christianity podcast with Tripp Fuller, where I found myself laughing out loud and pondering my biggest questions regarding theology. Tripp, with his incisive humor, was joined by Catherine Keller, Joerg Reiger, and Paul Wallace where they took on some of the mysteries of the cosmos in the most positive and nerdy ways possible. This also prompted me to purchase his book directly from him and then proceed to fan girl over him for 20 minutes. #SorryNotSorry

All in all, I walked away from PYM16 feeling enlivened by the amazing community that chose to come together to share their ideas with one another. Collaborating as leaders who believe in the power of youth is a rare opportunity that I for one, am honored to have had. Fingers crossed that the other Co-Founders of Spiritual Playdate and myself will be able to return next year for PYM17, which will be take place at the Montreat Conference Center, March 8-10, 2017.


Posted with permission and adaptations from

Lena McCain is a Co-Founder of Spiritual Playdate and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. She is in the midst of completing her Masters in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University. Lena combines her talents in Interfaith Relations and Youth Collaboration to speak to the importance of spiritual unfoldment in one’s development. 
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