The Young Men of GOD movement was first established in 2000 when Fr Ken Barker received a calling to create a movement for young men in Australia, At the same time two young men Ben O’ Heir and Nick Seselja started a regular gathering for young men in Canberra. When the men heard about Father Kens experience, they joined forces and as a result, YMG was born.
The Young Men of GOD conference has been an event that has always intrigued me. I had heard a lot of good stories especially the year that my good friend Christian Rimene attended who shared his powerful testimony with the group.
This year I decided that I was going to stop procrastinating and I told my friend Andrew Lemalu on Facebook Messenger “Im interested in going to the YMG conference this year”. I remember speaking to Andrew and he would always tell me that YMG is his favourite conference.
Throughout the year YMG was always at the back of my mind as paying the overdue bills got in the way. There were times where I didn’t want to go to YMG due to not knowing anyone, financial strains and youth ministry fatigue. I realised that I have a Year 11 retreat to facilitate in Richmond and that I would need to drive to Stanwell Tops to get to YMG.
There were moments where I’d say in my mind. “Maybe I should just buy the day pass for Saturday” However, The LORD had other plans, He wanted me to challenge myself and to go out of my comfort zone. In the end I paid my ticket to attend YMG. I am now going to give you five reasons to go to the YMG conference.
- 1) VENUE
Stanwell Tops is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sydney, The Tops Conference Centre provides top quality services.When you walk into the cafeteria you are welcomed by the staff members who are outgoing and enthusiastic. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is self-served, I don’t ever recall a time feeling hungry because there was always enough for seconds.
The conference room itself is impressive with the lighting and the big screen. Outside, at the back, there is a rock stairwell and a beautiful scenic view which is where you can see the sunrise (Unfortunately for us the weather was overcast in the mornings). The cabins are comfortable to relax in and there is a tonne of carpark spaces available.
- 2) EXPERIENCE
Another reason for going to YMG is the experience itself. Nick and Father Chris Eaton are cooking sausages on the BBQ, There are a couple of couches where you can have a chat to honorable men from all walks of life, High school students, modern day missionaries and religious figures coming from Melbourne and Canberra.
The YMG experience is action packed with live music, talks, prayer, leisure and some Michael Jackson dance moves to Billy Jean, courtesy of John the MGL. On Saturday afternoon, We went down to Stanwell Tops Park to display our touch and football skills. If you love sports you will love going to YMG.
- 3) ROLEMODELS
The third reason for going to YMG are the mentor’s that you encounter. We were fortunate to learn from great men such as Chris Lee, Fr Dan Serratore, Karen Doyle, Ben Galea, Sam Clear, Fr Ken Barker, Nick Frassetto, Nathan Tran and Steve McCourt. We were led by a mixture of logistics and laughter by the MCees’s for YMG, Andrew Lemalu and Jordan Hodge.
The lessons that we took away from YMG ranged from topics such as knowing your purpose, GOD is like a concerned parent who cares about his children, the difference between shame and guilt, Kerygma-Building up a relationship with GOD, Jesus is both human and divine and the importance of the YMG mission.
- 4) SACRAMENTS
The fourth reason for going to YMG is that you have an opportunity to receive the sacraments. We had adoration first thing in the morning, the opportunity to receive reconciliation and to participate in holy spirit night where we had the option of being prayed over by the prayer teams and a chance to celebrate Sunday mass together. Shout out to Nicholas Weir and the music team who played nonstop throughout the weekend.
- 5) BROTHERHOOD
The final reason for going to YMG is the importance of brotherhood, especially in the church. During a personal development session at school, Father Richard Leonard told us that 12% of catholics go to church, what’s more alarming is that would mean possibly 6% of the churches population is male.
It is very difficult to find a community of young men who are willing to share their victories and struggles with one another, this is the very reason why YMG plays an important part in our society.
I can honestly say that I started out with a few close brothers to a whole group of brothers who I can depend on. I saw one of the boys last week and we reminisced on the YMG experience. YMG is a mirror image of Jesus and his disciples as they had come from all walks of life. Bull, One of the Year 12 boys from Canberra loved the experience so much that he had to return.
If you are a man who is trying to find a community that will provide support then the YMG movement is the place for you. I’d highly recommend going to the YMG conference, Hands down it was one of the best conferences that I’ve ever been too.
Youth Ministry Organisation: Young Men of GOD Movement
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Written by Richie Leilua
Richie Leilua is the Youth Ministry Co Coordinator for the Youth Ministry Game Changers Program, He is a Lasallian Youth Minister at Oakhill College in Castle Hill and assists with the youth group in Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Fairfield, NSW.