I got in late yesterday afternoon and am still exhausted, but it was great fun. The band showcase ran into multiple technical difficulties which seriously frustrated the youth group leader who oversees Testify. He's a young guy in his twenties with small children of his own and a wife who is going to seminary (I like her very much). They're deeply committed to the kids in the band and I could see how much it bothered him. They'd been assured that the sound system that was already in place would suffice. In brief, it didn't.
However, all that said, they did a bang up job anyway. Jeremiah plays lead for this group and sings when they make him (He sings just about as well as he plays, but prefers not to). Jeremiah is putting together a video of the performance and I'll post it when he finishes.
Meanwhile, here's my picture of him--I had some trouble with the lighting in the room so it isn't the best quality. By the way, the title of tomorrow's blog entry will be "Choosing your battles: Haircuts and other parenting issues."
Other than that, we saw some terrific speakers and heard amazing music. I confess Stellar Kart (whose music I enjoy) was a little much in person for those us over the age of forty. Too loud, too busy, and a little too frenetic. But the kids loved them, crowding the stage and screaming and waving their hands in the air. These guys had the WOW staff throw about twenty beach balls into the audience which the kids tossed around during the performance and while it looked pretty cool from where I was standing, it encouraged some (apparently) unexpected rambunctiousness. During one of the conversational moments, one of the musicians looked over at the lead and said, "You know, I think we might have made a mistake, bro" just after one of the balls hit the drummer (who was sitting in the back). To their credit,they kicked them back out to the kids when they did hit the stage, and even played an encore at the kids' request.
The worship bands were a lot more my speed. Brandon Salter especially impressed me with his "get real" attitude with respect to faith and the amount of thought he clearly puts into his music. I couldn't find any videos of his band (which is a shame--these guy are really very talented). However while looking I did run across this: This was the only time, other than when Stellar Kart was playing, that the kids left their seats to get close to the stage when someone was performing. He slowed it down more than once to talk to them about his faith and they just ate it up. After he finished playing he invited the kids to come out and meet him at his table afterwards, telling them, "If you want to buy a CD, wonderful, but mostly I just want to meet you and talk with you." He had kids crowded around his table chatting with him when I went by. Wow indeed.
We also saw Bob Stromberg: He also does a phenomenal shadow puppet show.
One of my favorite speakers was this guy, Marquis Laughlin. I'd happily listen to him read a pizza menu
Marquis's presentation produced complete silence in a room of over 2000 teenagers. No one moved, whispered, or got up to get drinks (which not even the musicians managed). At one point (because I clearly have less self control than a teenager) I reached out and lightly poked my thirteen year old in the ribs. He turned and glared at me. "Shshsh! I'm trying to listen!" he said. I think what impressed me the most about this guy was that he didn't add to the Word at all. My oldest son said, "For the first few minutes you're waiting for him to make his point, then you realize that the Bible is his point and all the sudden you're hearing it in a completely new way."
There was another speaker too by the name of Jason Gant (I've added his blog to the list of blogs I follow), but I want to save him for a separate entry (he deserves it). I attended one of his seminars which involved successful youth ministry, something very near and dear to my own heart. This is may be an entry peppered with with my frustrations with my church (some of which I've expressed here before).
The only really bad part about the whole trip was sleeping on a very cold, very hard gym floor; I think I got three hours sleep. Next year I'm buying an air mattress and I'm bringing a battery powered electric blanket (if there's not such a thing, there should be).