What to Expect

If you’re thinking of attending an Open, you may be wondering what to expect. Though each Open will be different (based on the organizers, speakers and attendees of each event), there are some general guidelines that all Opens follow, as well as some things you can expect at your Open no matter where it is.

It’s about everything Youth Ministry.

What makes something Open, as opposed to [insert-name-here] youth ministry event? The content of sessions is firmly focused on ideas, concepts, and best practices for developing a youth ministry for your context. Expect presentations that cover issues around working with high school students, middle school students, and every combination of adolescents in your community.

The general idea behind Open is that we believe that the best ideas in youth ministry are “out there” being tried–right now–by youth workers just like you. But most other events don’t give those voices an opportunity to share what they’re learning.

Open is exactly the opposite. We exist to celebrate innovation, discover new ministry ideas, and hopefully inspire the collective us, the tribe of youth ministry, to dream about reaching students in new ways.

The best bargain you’ll get all year.

Open is not meant to be a big, fancy, expensive conference. Open is meant to be a low-key local gathering that is affordable—cheap, even—to allow people from all walks of life to attend, meet, share, and learn. Sponsorships and donations make this possible, keeping ticket prices low. You’ll likely meet Open speakers who are featured at expensive national conferences, but you might just meet a youth worker in your zip code, too.

Open is designed to be one of the best bargains around.

Open Has a Conference Feel

Sometimes people wonder if Open is just going to be a big Open Space thing where we don’t know who is going to speak ahead of time. That’s not it at all. Open operates a lot like a conference in that there is a set schedule with presentations, times for interaction, spaces to mingle and meet people, and stuff like that. We offer tracks of learning so that people from all walks of life and experience levels will get what they need. The tracks change from location to location, but expect there to be some training for how to do stuff and also some sessions where you’ll hear about new ideas.

What makes Open “open” is the style of the event at the organizational level. We’re transparent about who we are, how people get to speak, where the money goes, and how it all works. In fact, we are creating Open as an Open Source product that anyone can take and use in their community. (Currently in the beta test phase of that.)

Open to all, content galore, shared with community.

Open does not discriminate, and youth workers of all shapes, sizes, denominations, and employment statuses should all feel welcome at Open, regardless of their experience level.

Sessions will hopefully span a variety of formats, including lectures/presentations, Q&A, workshops, interviews, and any other format you can imagine. Presentations are shared with the broader community by posting session slides/audio to the Open community on the openYM site.

Making connections, promoting collaboration.

Getting to meet and learn from other youth workers face-to-face is one of the main reasons we hope you’ll attend Open. When space allows, we hope to set up an informal space staffed with experienced youth workers who try to help fellow attendees with their questions. Maybe you’d just like someone to sit and pray with you? We’ll create space for that.

In addition to learning from each other, we hope you’ll find new collaborators and potential co-conspirators at Open.

Locally organized and focused.

We’re in the Beta testing of something we hope will pop up all around the country and around the world. Each individual event will be organized by local youth workers. We provide guidance, but the elbow grease is local. While there may be speakers and attendees from all over the region, we will be sure to flavor the program with lots of local speakers/presenters. It’s fun to hear from the big names in our world, but Open is not meant to be a lecture circuit with the same speakers at every event, so expect each Open to be completely unique.

Volunteers everywhere.

It is our hope that Open is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to give something back to the youth ministry community. Each Open will be operated by tireless volunteers, from the organizers who plan it, all to the volunteers who work the event, and the speakers who donate their time to teach you new things. It takes a lot of people to make Open happen, so remember to thank the volunteers who made it possible.

It’s not about the money.

Trust us, Open is not about making a boatload of cash. Most of the sponsorship & ticket money will get eaten up by the cost of putting it all together. Each Open will have an open balance sheet. So you’ll be able to see where your ticket money went. If there’s a surplus, the profits will be divided equally by the local organizer, The Youth Cartel (so they can keep this movement going), and a organization that ministers to teenagers in the host community.

Perks.

Though it’s not mandatory, we hope to use some of our budget to create commemorative t-shirts or other swag and/or provide food and beverages to attendees at the event. These things should definitely be considered potential perks rather than guaranteed entitlements, as we haven’t decided exactly how to spend the money raised from sponsorships and ticket sales, and we just don’t know yet! Information about what’s included with each ticket purchase will be listed when tickets go on sale.

Fun. Fun! More fun!!

We almost forgot to mention the most obvious part of Open: It’s fun! Getting to geek out for a day or two with other people just as obsessed with youth ministry as you are is just plain awesome. You’ll meet people who are crazy smart, insanely inspired and inspiring, and maybe even a handful of talented singers. We will follow the conference with an afterparty at a nearby location where you can have a few drinks with your new friends and hatch your plots for world domination.