“Youth leaders are a different breed—we’re caught between two worlds.”

Mark Long knows what he’s talking about. The student ministry leader of Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala., has been in youth ministry for 26 years, and has five children of his own.

Long knows that straddling those two worlds is difficult, so in 2004 he and five friends helped launch Barnabas Connection, an annual conference from a Reformed perspective to encourage and network those in student ministry in the PCA and beyond.

“For some, youth ministry is preparation for another calling,” said Long. “But we see it as a vital ministry to the church. Our hearts’ desire is that men and women would come and feel encouraged and connected, knowing they’re a part of something larger than themselves.”

The 2010 Barnabas Connection conference, to be held March 29-April 1 in the greater Atlanta area, will feature the preaching of Mark Kuiper, senior pastor of Kirk of the Hills in St. Louis, Mo., as well as worship led by Patrick Bush. It will also offer discussion forums on topics ranging from technology to developing discipleship plans to uncovering the covenant model of student ministry.

“One of my favorite things about youth ministry is the ability to be a part of the covenant family,” said Long. “It’s really a vehicle of the church to disciple students. I don’t want to parent the kids I minister to—instead I want to be an instrument that undergirds a family through the church.”

For more information, visit www.barnabasconnection.org.