The heart of the conference is 300-plus hours of workshops and breakouts, which are all about learner-based teaching and experiential learning. “At SYMC, you will not go to a workshop where a person stands up in front at a lectern with a PowerPoint presentation and talks for an hour solid,” says Ostrander. “As a matter of fact, if that happens, they don’t get asked back again. It’s all about experiential learning.”

Ostrander will monitor this by asking attendees on the post-conference evaluation how much time the presenter spent lecturing and how much time was spent interacting. “We are looking for at least a 75/25 or 65/35 split on that,” he says.

One of the presenters, Mark Novelli, owner, Imago Event Design and Media Production, Elgin, Ill., ran a session called “Experiential Learning in Youth Ministry” that exemplified this commitment to learner-based teaching. “Seventy percent of what we did was interactive,” says Novelli.
He set up four learning stations based on the different types of learners—auditory, literary, kinesthetic, and visual—and had attendees participate and interact in each. He encouraged attendees to instruct their youth workers in the modes that best suit their individual learning styles. “Some were specific activities they could take home and use in their groups; some were hopefully sparking bigger ideas,” Novelli explains.