It is the day for which thousands upon thousands of Catholic young people have planned, prepared, packed, fundraised, and travelled hours and days – – opening day for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). Our prayers are for all the organizers: presenters, musicians, and leaders; exhibitors; generous adult chaperones, and, of course, the kids.
But, let’s chat about after the conference. Here’s my list of planned priorities:
Sleep: Of course, there is never enough sleep on these things. It’s ironic that we lose sleep making sure that the kids are actually getting enough of it. So, time off is always already scheduled just to place the feet in an upright position and to deeply meditate upon the insides of my own eyelids.
Engage with Family and Friends: NCYC is located on the calendar in the ramp-up towards Thanksgiving and Christmas. On my calendar, it is the marker of an end of a season so in the next weeks, I have family meals, two sets of out-of-town travels, and hopefully catch up on quality time with loved ones
Don’t Build Tents: Yet, still, too much time and effort have gone into getting all those young souls to Indianapolis to have the experience to come to a complete close after liturgy Saturday night. We can not risk falling into the mindset of the apostles who claimed ““Lord, it is good that we (have been) here. If you wish, I will make (some emotionally-based) here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (and keep you all as well as ourselves forever comfortably and tragically stuck in this moment.)” To ensure we don’t build tents on the mountaintop, we have been planning to:
- Build on the experience with young people. Throughout the conference, our young people will be writing postcards to our bishops back home about their experience. Throughout Advent, they will be receiving postcards back from the bishops that will be continuing to expand upon the themes of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
- Thank your adult chaperones. You could not have done this alone. Make sure to show appropriate appreciation and gratitude for the adults with whom you are traveling. Do it while you are at the conference but make sure to repeat it publicly when you are back home as well… Really, you probably cannot show enough thankfulness, but you should certainly give it a try!
- Report to parents. We have been trusted these days with parents’ most prized gifts. Hopefully, they are monitoring the live-streaming of events occurring at the conference. Possibly, we have provided them with a facebook, twitter, or instagram feed for on-going updates, pictures, or videos. If we truly believe that parents are the primary formation source for their young people, how are we equipping them with information formation about what the kids did and saw so that they can build upon the spiritual momentum of the conference for their young people?
- Report to your boss. So, how was your vacation with the kids in Indianapolis? Seriously, if you get that sort of question from your boss, it really probably is your own fault. Make sure to “brief the boss” about all that occurred while in Indy (both the good stuff as well as your “learning moments” – better to identify those for your boss before someone else does for you!). Do this in a one-on-one meeting or before the pastoral staff or council; a report, thank you notes from the participants (or, in my case, a shoebox full of postcards sent to bishops – – we call that multi-purposing, my friends!)
- After Action report. Get back into the office quickly (and briefly) enough to properly dispose on any receipts, credit card justifications, or billings for transportation or housing. This part of the conference you do want over as soon as you can. File away notes about what worked well and that you want to repeat and lessons learned as well. Make sure that you pull this out not just in the Spring of 2015 but when-ever you go to a diocesan or regional conference in the upcoming months.
OK, experienced conference goers, I’m snuggling up into my official ArchBalt NCYC swag bus blanket and working on that sleep thing… Comment away and offer what you would add to the above list of possibilities after the conference.