by Ted Esler
Conferences have a long history in the Christian tradition, going all the way back to Acts chapter 15. Later this week the annual Mission Leaders Conference kicks off. Here are a few short but powerful ways for you to get the most out of any conference.
Check Your Attitude
What’s your attitude heading into this conference? Do you see this as a unique opportunity to learn new ideas, a means to making new relationships and a privilege to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ? What if you saw your attendance as a part of what God is doing to advance the Great Commission? That puts it in a different light altogether. Now you are a steward of the time you are investing in the conference.
Survey the challenges you face in your current ministry – what is the single most pressing issue? Who might you connect with at the conference that could speak into that challenge? Plan two to three questions about the issue that you could ask others. Make that connection within the first day of the conference. It might be somebody you already know or it might be a new relationship.[BTW: I don’t buy the idea that the Mission Leaders Conference is an “old boys club” (something I have heard from a couple of people). Over forty percent of last year’s attendees were first-timers – that is hardly an old boy’s club. Get out there and make some new friends!]
Purposefully ask others about their ministry as well. What’s your biggest challenge? What would be this past year’s most significant advance? How do you see God showing up in your work? These open-ended questions give others the chance to connect with you. Practice active listening after you ask a question.
Find Your Tribe
Conferences give you the opportunity to hang out with peers. Search out table discussions, sessions and informal gatherings of those who hold similar position in other churches and organizations. Exchange contact information so you can follow-up later. Join an online forum around that specialty. My experience has been that these get-togethers can be among the most fruitful times at a conference.[BTW: Your tribe isn’t made up of the people from your own organization. You see them all the time. Branch out!]
On the flight home, the day after or at least within the week you should reflect on your time at the conference. What did you learn? What application can you make from what you learned? Who did you meet that was a significant connection? If you identify these three things, you will get much more value for the time you spent at the conference.
I will see many of you soon!