I’ve just returned from two Church Leadership Conferences back to back – I’m worried I might be in danger of inspiration overload!
We all know it is good to get away from our day to day job situation, but surely with readily available Leadership Podcasts on iTunes, Inspirational TED Talks, online networking with LinkedIn and pithy Leadership Quotes on Pinterest or Instagram is there any need to leave your laptop and head to a conference centre in deepest darkest Derbyshire or should we stay at home instead?
So, here are three reasons why attending a Conference is still a great idea:
1. Break Times!
Business people call it networking. Essentially you build a network of contacts up so that if you ever need anything you have a stack of business cards in your rolodex (whatever that is!) that you can look up and call for the right contact. But as a church leader this aspect of a conference is so much more than meeting people for OUR long term benefit, it is the very essence of what we are about – Other People.
People really matter and when we attend a conference, we can meet people over coffee and lunch breaks, from all kinds of background and experiences. They may provide us with the perfect insight that we need, but we may also be able to support them in their situation or simply we might just make a friend that we can share our slightly exaggerated (we obviously don’t do lying…) church ‘horror stories’ over a late-night drink of hot cocoa.
2. Better Together
Conferences are an opportunity for you to grow, but you don’t grow through experience, you grow through assessed experience. This is why it is so much better to take others from your team with you when you attend a conference. It also means you can share out the various seminars and compare notes afterwards.
A positive conference is also the perfect shared event with your team. It enables you to connect around this experience when you are back in the office having your weekly meetings, although watch that you are careful about leaving others out.
There is no waste of time. Maybe some people in your church are thinking “why are we sending our church staff away on a conference – it’s such a waste of money!”, but it’s not. When you take a team with you every moment becomes valuable – when you travel together, eat together and learn together, culture is being developed through your conversation and everyone wins.
Being away from home gives great perspective. Turn off your mobile phone (apart from sending the obligatory and slightly annoying tweets about what a great time you are having and how much better the conference 30 foot LED screen is compared to the OHP held together by string back home!) and get some perspective. Slow down and enjoy the extra time that you get in the day and allow yourself to ponder. Get up early and make notes from the day before, reflect and clear your mind before the next onslaught begins again with the opening song.
Allow the opportunity of being away from your normal environment, as a chance to be objective on what home looks like from a distance. It’s amazing how the problem that seemed so pressing when it was in your face, becomes less powerful when you are in a different town or city.
Use the time of travelling home wisely. Don’t rush, your family won’t appreciate you coming home with a head full of stories and ideas that haven’t fully formed yet and unable to listen to what they have been doing while you have been away. Take time to adjust back in, by creating time in the days after the conference to write up any scribbled notes and filter the interesting from the essential.
Yes, there is loads of good resources available online and for some it is impractical to travel due to time, finances or family responsibilities, but if you do get the opportunity to travel to a conference with your team – do it and make every moment count.
As Rick Warren, the Author of Purpose Driven Life states “To stay spiritually healthy you must divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually” – Stop reading other people’s tweets about their great experiences at a conference, get yourself and your team booked on one and create your own experience!