Introverts. Extroverts. Connected. Disconnected. Young leader. Seasoned Saint. For some the idea of going to a conference is exhilarating. For others the idea of going to a conference is daunting – big rooms, large crowds and lots of unfamiliar faces.
My professional background, prior to planting, was in the tradeshow industry. I would manage and attend dozens of conferences every year. It’s not cheap to rent space, ship booths and send staff, so trade show managers were always evaluating the ROI (return on investment). In the same way, taking time away from the local church and ministry responsibilities is significant. Airfare, hotel, meals and miscellaneous expenses means that you are spending hundreds of dollars on the experience. So more than a getting a free t-shirt and an oddly shaped stress ball, we attend conferences with the expectation to encounter the Lord and with the hope that we come home with helpful tips and practical wisdom. We too, want a return on our investment!
I’ve learned that a little strategy in advance can make these encounters that much more valuable. Here’s some tips on how to make it worth your time and resources:
If you are like most pastors I know, you are presently challenged by a few important issues and asking a few important questions. How can we have a greater impact on our kids in family ministry? What are some creative ways to engage the church in giving? How can I develop a sustainable rhythm in ministry now that my kids are teenagers? How can my spouse and I co-pastor more effectively? Regardless of temperament, conferences are a great place to connect with other pastors who have asked those same questions. National and regional conferences are treasure troves of wisdom and experience; men and women who have journeyed a similar journey and asked similar questions – some even have answers. You will have a great opportunity to seek out these people and glean some of their wisdom.
In advance of the next conference you attend, prepare to have five key conversations with five specific people. Or maybe decide in advance that you want to hear three unique perspectives about an area of ministry or personal life for which you are seeking God’s wisdom. Even more risky, commit to approaching a pastor or leader that you believe models similar gifts or calling and asking to receive prayer for impartation. Prepare questions. Pray for divine appointments. Ask God for what He wants for you as you prepare.
Choose your hotel intentionally. Decide who you’d like to meet with. Decide what you’d like to talk about and what questions you’d like to ask. Call or email those those people in advance to arrange a time for lunch, dinner, or a late night drink. A simple, “see you there!” is a lot different than “Let’s have lunch on Tuesday at 12:00pm. Meet me at the registration table when the session lets out.”
Tell your staff or even your Board the questions for which you are seeking wisdom and the people with whom you plan to meet. Upon returning, write up a summary of the conference and your conversations to share as a point of accountability.
By embracing this approach, I’ve asked many of our most seasoned leaders for prayer and wisdom for my marriage, my kids, the vision of the church, our local mission, conflict management, working with the Board, evangelism, discipleship, diversity and on and on and on – and I am an introvert! I go to conferences expecting to meet with and be refreshed by God and I also go to conferences knowing that I’m going to come home in a few days encouraged, challenged and equipped to answer the big questions that are front and center.
Robb Morgan, and his wife Julie, co-pastor the Delaware City Vineyard in Delaware, OH. They responded to the church planting bug as part of the plant team sent from Vineyard Columbus to Denver, CO. After 3 years in Denver, they moved back to Central OH after the birth of their first child. Upon returning to OH, Robb served on the pastoral staff, at the Vineyard Church of Delaware County for 4 years In September of 2009, Robb and Julie Morgan planted the Delaware City Vineyard. Robb and Julie have served as Area Leaders in the Vineyard for 7+ years. They’ve been married for 13 years and have two daughters, Emma (11) and Via (8).