I am collaborative by nature. Trainings and conferences relative to ministry have great value and are worth every penny. But what if your pennies are few and your calendar is even slimmer? What if you are freaked out by crowds or not knowing someone one? Here are just a few of the reasons I build in margin to make conferences and trainings a priority if I am going to be involved in professional ministry:
- I meet the most amazing people. At the last Children’s Pastors Conference, I sat behind a woman who, after the workshop was over, was ranting on her phone about the previous Sunday’s attempt at family worship at her church. She was lit up! Since we were looking at the same thing at my church, I blatantly lingered to listen and then engaged in a 30-minute conversation about her experiences: what worked, what evidently didn’t work, and the surprises she didn’t anticipate. “Why network and collaborate with others? Even on my worst day, I could be someone’s best hope.” – Craig Johnson
- I see what’s coming in culture. At past conferences we have watched uncut, full length movies that would be coming out 9 months later, played with Sunday school curriculum as a focus group, and engaged in conversations across the table as a think-tank over challenges, and struggles. “Moses was 80+ years old when he walked up and down a 6,000 ft mountain repeatedly to bring others to the summit. The whole Bible is filled with COME and GO. We come to the Lord, but then forget to go back into the chaos to escort others into the Kingdom. We forget that God has more than just my chapter in His hands.” – Beth Guckenberger
- I glean from those who are in the trenches. It does something to a weary, bruised soul to see other sojourners joining in the fight for a Kingdom of God that is real for little people. For most of us, we don’t just attend church events, we have either planned them or come with keys in hand. So it’s lovely to ‘just come and be served.’ We need a regular something that feeds our Spirit and encourages us in our calling. If it’s a conference out of town and for an extended period of time, several of us will go a day or so early to catch up and glean from one another our challenges, and celebrations over the last year. We laugh, we take notes from each other, and we enjoy table life. “In the spiritual life, we need mentors to point us back to Jesus when we get confused about who we are or where we are going.” – Jessica LaGrone
- Face-to-Face builds community and relationships. Even if it’s just a day away, I am a better, more confident servant for Christ when I come home. I could probably sit in my pajamas and search the internet for blogs and Pinterest to build a program. I mean, do we really need any new friends? (said with a lot of sarcasm). God wants to build ME into the best teacher and student…a disciple…in my work, my calling, my family, my life. His abundant love has ruined me for the mediocre. After spending time in the company of others who share my passions, I am ready to take on the world. “God’s spiritual comfort often comes in the physical company of another person.” – Jessica LaGrone
Someone says, “Join the conversation” and I am all in. If I can do it outside my normal surroundings, I am better prepared to be fully present and focused. Because budgets are involved and planning is part of the process, make choices far in advance. Taking advantage of early registration is also being a good steward. Where will I go next year?
I’ll be attending the North Georgia Conference’s Done In a Day in January because these are my denominational and local peeps in five locations on the same half-a-Saturday; and the 2016 National CEF Conference in October because it builds Communities of Practice with Christians engaged in faith formation around the world. I will also spend a week in June at Emory’s Candler School of Theology to begin a certification program provided by the National Institute of Church Finance and Administration (NICFA), a program of the National Association of Church Business Administrators (NACBA) because there’s more to ministry than glitter and putting nasty stuff in my hair.
Attending conferences and trainings are like drinking from a fire hose, so I make sure to send a local postcard to my Staff-Parish Relations Committee thanking them for investing in me and our ministry with children.
Where will you go? If you are wigged out about going somewhere by yourself, join me. I am always looking for new friends. I’ll bring the tea.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7