Attending conferences are a vital part of both your faithfulness and fruitfulness in ministry. During those times, our hearts can be renewed, our ministry tools sharpened, and our souls restored. But a good conference can be completely overwhelming.
Commonly stated, it often feels like drinking from a firehose.
Put the C4 away.
The first day of most conferences is intended to reinforce your calling AND reinforce your need to be at that particular conference. That means that by the end of the day, most of us are convinced that everything we’re doing is actually detrimental to the cause of Christ, and we need to completely blow up our current ministry structures and programs in order to completely adopt the suggested ministry paradigm. Don’t do that.
Bite the Bullet.
There is, however, wisdom in taking their paradigm into consideration and honestly evaluating where your church is. After my first conference as a youth pastor, I remember being destroyed by my failures to lead a healthy youth ministry. I sat down and evaluated everything we were and weren’t doing and sent the evaluation document to my Senior Pastor along with a note of gratitude for the opportunity to be there. The brutal facts forced me to make some needed changes in our ministry, and by sharing that with him, it displayed that I was seeking the best for our church, not just for me.
Come up for Air.
The conference often tries to cram in a month’s (or more) worth of wisdom and insight into 3-5 days in order to guarantee that you get your money’s worth. That’s a good thing. You’d rather they do that than not. But, unfortunately, by the end of Day 2 (if not sooner), most conference attendees start to get that glazed over look in their eyes. Take a break. A spiritual practice that has served me well has been to take a “breakout session” off at any conference longer than 2 days. That’s not to say they don’t have great value, but rather to say that it helps to stop, take a deep breath, and focus your mind to receive more.
Take a Day to Process.
Re-entry is always one of the most exciting and most frustrating aspects of any conference. You typically get home sleep-deprived, road-weary, and full of ideas and thoughts. Most of the time, your spouse will look at you lovingly in spite of the fact that you’re rolling out buzz-words and ideas that are actually completely foreign to them. It takes some time for you to share the enthusiasm that you’ve garnered with them and they jump on board. I recommend taking a full 24 hours post-conference to get some sleep, process your thoughts, and play with your kids before making any major decisions.
Take copious notes. Mark your notebook up. And at the end of the conference, determine what 3 steps you can implement with the next 3 months. Again, DO NOT blow up what you’re doing. Add something. Remove something. Tweak something. After those 3 changes are made, review your notes and determine what else could be done. A strong conference can help guide your ministry action steps for a year. An excellent conference could direct it for 2 or 3.
After you’ve chosen 3 things to take care of, be diligent to move on them. Don’t allow disorientation, or the pain of re-entry take the wind out of your sails. People will say things like, “Can you tell he’s been to the mountain top?” Or will inform you that this newfound excitement will wane. Don’t be dissuaded. You’ve done your homework, you’ve honestly evaluated where you are, you’ve taken some time, and you’ve decided what 3 things MUST be done. Now do it.