Pastors get hit up with lots of promos for conferences. We get email invites in our inbox and full color brochures to our office. The response of a pastor to these promos falls somewhere on a spectrum. One on end is the pastor who goes to tons of conferences. The conference junkie pastor lives for conferences and the conference junkie pastor either (a) does nothing with the information or (b) constantly gives a new direction to the church based on the last conference – which means there is rampant confusion. On the other end of the spectrum is the pastor who never goes to a conference or never joins a network. The pastor who never goes to a conference or joins a network can miss out on new relationships and new learning. Obviously, it is healthy to avoid those two extremes.
What should a ministry leader look for in a conference or network? Here are 3 things I look for:
There was a time, early in ministry, when you could NOT get the content from a conference or network online after the conference ended. For some you could buy tapes, but the tapes of the breakout sessions, which were the most practical, were not the best quality. The conference was primarily about the content. Now with the ability to listen, stream, or watch content that is more easily produced with quality, conferences must be about more that content. BUT I still do care about the content because when I am away from the office and hustle of the role, I hear a message differently. I have more time to meditate on the learning and slow down and absorb the teaching. All that to say the content still matters to me a lot.
Even when conferences were primarily about the content, it was not the content that was the best part. It was the conversations after the content. Wrestling with friends and colleagues about how to apply the learning always becomes the best learning. So, I look for times in the schedule where there will be conversations or where there is ample time for conversations to occur. I have been the rogue conference guy who is encouraging friends to skip sessions so we can have those important conversations, but I prefer if some time is built into the schedule.
When I was an executive pastor in Miami, I once hosted a “mega church gathering for executive pastors.” At that event, I met Kevin Peck (Austin Stone), Josh Patterson (Village Church), and David Thompson (Summit Church). That was over ten years ago and the relationship with those guys has been so good for me and my ministry. Even today I know I can call them anytime. I love when a conference or network creates an environment where I can make some important connections with new colleagues. Ministry is challenging and can be very lonely, so it is a gift to have friends in other contexts you can seek wisdom from.
I am really excited to be connecting with lead pastors and speaking at the Vanderbloemen Lead Pastor Coaching Network in November. You will be able to get content, conversations, and connections in this coaching network. During the day I am teaching, I will be sharing lessons I while watching/researching thousands of churches in my role at LifeWay. I will also share learning from my first year at Mariners. For more information on the event and to sign up, click here.