I had a great time at the DYO conference last week meeting many of my fellow DYOs* (though not all - missed you guys!). Lots of time for fab discussions and networking as well as setting up discussion groups to meet throughout the coming year.
There was, however one moment which made me reflect on all those youth events where there was an icebreaker. Right near the start we were asked to get ourselves in height order. Now, some readers may not know but I am not the tallest person in the world and, to be honest my heart sank just a little as I made my way to the end of the line (actually I am only the THIRD shortest DYO in the country!). Conversely Youthblog said he made his way to the middle of the line and ended up as officially the SECOND TALLEST DYO in the UK (if we excluded Wales, which we would hate to do, he'd have been the tallest!). It was a great mixer and we all got to chat and, despite my deeply buried comedy fear that they might divide us in to two groups for a game of basketball - tallest v shortest, it worked out fine. The progression of heights, far from being drastic was a really smooth line of increments.
However it did make me think about the impact of what might seem an innocuous activity on someone who's a little sensitive about things. I'm not really hung up about being short anymore but I was when I was younger and it would not have been fun.
It's that important difference between enabling people to laugh at themselves and laughing at other people who might not find it funny.
We also had a caricaturist on the last night who drew each of the DYOs and it had a mixed effect on peopel. Some were very excited but most had a fear in their eyes which was quite unifying. Almost everybody thought that everyone else's was great but their own was hideous/inaccurate/scary/goofy. I haven't yet seen one appear on anyone's site and, despite encouraging words from my best beloved that it looks fine, I don't think mine will be coming up here!!
We were also privileged to hear from Helen Tomblin on the topic of laughter, comedy, depression and the church. It was fabulous. It really opened up discussions about Christians facing tough times and not always being "smiley smiley". Because "God loves us", there's sometimes a temptation to think that we should always be happy but, as Helen said, in John 10.10 Jesus said he came to bring life in all its fulness. That doesn't mean just joy but sorrow too.
During the conference then, we were brought together through laughter and and fellowship and brought together more deeply by talking about less comfortable things. It really was a good few days.
*insert alternate acronym here, DAVE...