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Youth conferences are a sacred community for youth to grow and explore their identity and their faith. This community does not develop on its own. All con-goers play an important role in creating and maintaining a welcoming spiritual environment. There are many things we do to shape our beloved community. We worship together. We play together. We eat together. We struggle against injustice together. In order to protect the integrity of this community, DYSC has created a covenant that we like to call “The Rules.” We would like to highlight and expand upon how some of these rules protect our con community.

No smoking, tobacco products, illegal drugs, or alcohol.
Besides being illegal on state, church, and local levels, smoking and using drugs at cons alienates those who choose not to or who are not comfortable around it. Furthermore, the perception that smoking and drug use is prevalent at cons reflects negatively on all youth, whether they participate or not. This could result in a loss of support for cons within local congregations and the district as a whole. Besides, where else in the world can you experience a fantastic substance-free space and still have an amazing time? Instead you can enjoy the natural high of being in community with each other.

No sexual behavior.
Imagine this fictitious scenario: Alex and Jamie are outsiders at their school, where most kids are conservative. Alex and Jamie are 14 and finally able to attend their first con. They are really hoping to be welcomed into an accepting spiritual community. They go to put their stuff in the touch group room and walk in on a make out session in full swing (ew!). Nobody wants to see anybody else doing that. That night, Alex and Jamie try to sleep but are kept awake by rustling sleeping bags and suspicious noises coming from other areas of the room. Alex and Jamie feel extremely uncomfortable and do not get much sleep, making it harder to enjoy the experiences of the next day.
This type of experience can taint a youth’s perception of con and Unitarian Universalism, keeping them from returning to the community. In addition, this can create an unsafe space for those who have had negative sexual experiences in the past. We recognize that sexuality is an important part of a youth’s identity, but the point of the con is that we come together in spiritual ways, not a sexual way. A sexualized environment affects how we welcome new faces into our community. Imagine walking into a new church on a Sunday morning and congregation members are making out in the pews.

No sharing sleeping bags.
The volunteer night patrol that keeps our con environment safe and welcoming in the wee hours of the morning has an unglamorous job. Not sharing sleeping bags makes it easier for the patrol to check on youth without disrupting their sleep.

No walk-ins or walk-outs. Youth are not allowed to drive themselves to youth events.
An important part of maintaining con community is staying together in a shared space. When people leave the con site for non-con related activities, part of our community leaves with them. Also, churches allow cons to be held in their sacred space. Con participants should not only treat each other with respect, but also the con site.

There must be an advisor or parent that knows each youth personally at the conference. Registration must be sent in by an advisor, no exceptions.
Advisors are responsible not only for the behavior of their youth, but also their physical and emotional well-being. Advisors cannot do their jobs effectively when they do not know the youth they are responsible for.

When con-goers follow the rules, the integrity of the con community is maintained so that congregations and the district can continue to support them. It is the responsibility of each con participant to do their part to keep the con community welcoming and safe for everyone. If you love cons, following the rules helps to ensure that they remain an accepting spiritual environment for years to come.

DYSC: District youth Steering Committee
Authors: Meredith Lukow, LinZ Simon and Heather Godbout (on behalf of DYSC)