The flyer comes across your desk or the email hits your inbox. Captivating images and flashy fonts capture your attention. The subtle message imbedded in the creative presentation says, “Come to our conference!” You delete many of these ads a week, perhaps a day, but this one stands out. Maybe the subject matter tweaks your interest or perhaps you follow the keynote speaker on Twitter. For whatever reason, you think, “I should go this conference.” Almost immediately, the doubts assault your desire to attend. Conferences involve expense, leaving work and family for a period of time, and either navigating airports or going on a road trip. You wonder, “Is it worth my time and energy?”
Obviously, the answer to that question depends on the conference and just as obviously you cannot attend every conference available, (although I believe some ministers try). However, I encourage you to override your doubts and attend some conferences because the positives typically outweigh the negatives. Last week while returning from a conference held in Pittsburgh for Directors of Doctor of Ministry programs, I reflected on the positives that come from attending conferences:
Conferences introduce you to new information.
My boss often cites a John Maxwell quote, “Leaders are learners.” What better way to learn, than to get away and listen to an expert (or multiple experts) talk about a subject that interests you? Often the conference speakers have invested time, energy, and focused study on the subject matter. They can offer you new and unique perspectives. Even if you do not agree with the “expert,” attending the conference exposes you to new insights which can sharpen and improve your own perspective.
Conferences provide space to think.
Travel, which can admittedly be a headache, forces us outside our normal routines. For me, travel to Pittsburgh last week meant getting away from classes for a few days, (I’m confident the students didn’t mind!) This meant reading time in airports and on planes. The off-pace schedule coupled with the new information described above, provided time to think and process. In reflecting on my time in Pittsburg, some of the most productive discoveries for me came, not from a keynote speaker, but from a line of thought sparked by something I heard or read.
Conferences offer opportunities to network.
Conferences typically offer opportunities to interact with others who do things similar to what you do. Interacting with other practitioners can sharpen thoughts and practices. I am not a natural networker, I tend to keep to myself, but conferences almost force you to interact with others and build relationships. In addition to the knowledge these engagements provide, they can also offer support systems for the future. You find people you can call on when you face an obstacle in your ministry.
Conferences introduce you to new places.
Travel broadens your horizons. Until last week, I had never traveled to Pittsburgh. Until last week, I was unaware of a Pittsburgh sandwich that includes coleslaw and French fries, (on the sandwich!) While eating a Pittsburgh sandwich might not improve my skill as a D. Min. director, it broadens my horizons and helps me see the world a little better.
So, the next time your doubts threaten to keep you from attending a conference, remember the positives that the conference could provide.
I apologize in advance for this shameless plug but, Anderson University happens to be hosting the National Conference on Preaching in Washington D. C., May 17-19. If you haven’t already registered, do so today!