Simon Em is a first time attendee of TS and a service team member working in the Communications team. Coming from an African nation, he writes from a cultural perspective.
How do you organize, manage and run a conference of over 3,800 people from 20 different nationalities all together in one place? In fact, these are not ordinary people. A good majority of these are teenagers, and every parent or teacher who has dealt with teenagers knows how people at this stage of life can be extra energetic and rambunctious.
When I was invited to attend TeenStreet (TS) and read about how thousands of teenagers from 40 different nationalities, cultures and languages flocked to and gathered in one place, I was excited but also intimidated by the numbers.
I was keen to learn how the leaders managed to run the event with so many people. Arriving at the venue, I was more shocked by experiencing how the leaders ran the conference than by seeing the number of teens in attendance.
One would have imagined leaders standing in front of hapless kids with rods and whistles, barking out instructions. Instead what I witnessed was leaders who were cooking, cleaning, washing dishes and scrubbing floors.
Perhaps this is normal, but being from Africa, I struggled to hand over my plate to be washed by someone older than me. This is because back home it is not only expected of young people to serve their elders, but it is also a mark of how well one is raised and cultured.
Jiri is a marine engineer from Denmark. He paid to attend TS not as a teenager keen on the fun and learning with his peers but as an adult ready to clean toilets that other participants use. “I am two and half years in the Lord. I believe serving others is one of the ways I can serve the Lord.”
John Fickling (69) from New Zealand was invited to TS by his daughter. Experienced in television production, he used his skills to help OMNIvision, OM’s live events team, with video production.
Leaders at TS lead by example. Furthermore, the desire to model what Jesus said – whoever wants to be leader among you must be a servant of all – is at the upper-most mind of many who attend.
Mari and Teno brought their two teenage children from Finland to experience TS. As the children enjoy TS, the parents help run the conference by cleaning dishes. “You know Jesus said whoever wants to be leader among you must become a servant, and we are serving because Jesus said we should.”
As I had pondered the question of how TS was run, I expected a group of strict leaders and complicated technology, but I was glad to find that the answer was not that complicated.