I used to run a conference for people who work at churches. Now I work at a church and go to conferences for people who work at churches. After crossing over to the dark side good guys, I realized there are some potential mistakes that tempt me when I?m at a conference. Just last week at Catalyst Dallas I was working through these three things ? what not to do at a conference:
1. Don?t confuse their resources with?your resources. For one thing, at a conference most of the team?s energy and focus is directed toward what?s happening in the main room. But at a church, the team is likely divided among several ministries that a running simultaneously. Also, a conference team gets months to plan a two- or three-day event, while you get four days to plan your next worship service.
And of course there?s the budget. Unless your church charges everybody $249 apiece to enter the worship center, you probably don?t have the same financial resources available to you that a conference team does. They can spend big money on speakers, musicians, video production, gear, lighting, and stage design, but you might be working with a shoestring budget. And that?s okay. Just don?t sit in the main session at a conference and ask, ?How are we supposed to recreate all this back home?!? Their resources are not your resources.
2. Don?t confuse their audience with your audience. If you?re at a conference for church leaders, the crowd has a lot in common: Everyone?s a believer, everyone is there by choice (in fact, everyone paid to be there), and everyone wants to learn. Those factors make it so much easier for the conference team to put together a great event. Conference attendees are excited and enthusiastic about worship and the speakers they?ve been waiting to hear ? they cheer loud and sing loud. Then, they take good notes and live-tweet the whole thing.
Also, at an event like Catalyst Dallas, people are close to the same age and tend to share a similar worldview. As a result, there are elements such as indie rock, spoken word, and edgy humor that are well-received by 90 percent of the Catalyst crowd, but which might fall flat back at your more demographically-diverse church in Oklahoma. Catalyst knows their audience, and you need to know yours too. Odds are, your audience is very different from theirs.
One last thing on this one: A conference?s audience is dialed in for a few days, but your audience is around for about 75 minutes. This puts a lot more pressure on you to be effective and efficient.
3. Don?t confuse their mission with?your mission. Regardless of what a conference?s stated mission is, their real mission (at least for those two days) is to entertain and inspire. That?s it. And guess what? You?re trying to form. You?re called to make disciples, week in and week out, and that?s a lot different from a few days of fun and tweetable leadership maxims.
The truth is that all our experiences are formative, including conferences, but I don?t think most conference teams feel the burden of formation. Your team, on the other hand, ought to be acutely aware of how you?re forming your people ??who you?re helping them become as you are indwelled and used by the Spirit of God. So for example, don?t go to a conference and think, ?This was so much more fun than our worship services. Maybe it was because at the conference we never did anything heavy like a prayer of confession. Let?s stop doing a prayer of confession!? This, I think, would be mission confusion. Confession, after all, is positively formative.
There they are ??my three conference traps. What would you add?