Conferences bring exciting ideas, conversations, and new insights. But there’s a potential pitfall: overload. Here’s how to retain what you’ve gained.
See if this scenario rings a bell. As you walk away, your mind spins. One moment you feel motivated and inspired, and the next you feel as if the job that needs to be done in your ministry is so monumental that accomplishing it all would take a miracle.
This sense of being overwhelmed and driven at the same time is a common ailment called “conference overload”. The moment you leave the convention center, you’re immediately beset with all the thoughts, challenges, and ideas you experienced—and the potential they hold for more effective ministry. but you also realize that ideas are just ideas until they’re implemented.
You can attend all the conferences your budget or board will allow, but unless you effectively implement the ideas you receive, it’s all wasted time. The challenge of taking the raw inspiration and knowledge you’ve gained from a great conference and translating it into change and growth for your ministry is daunting, but not impossible, if you follow a few simple steps:
4 Steps to Conferences: Conquering Overload
1. Let the Engine Cool
Have you ever overheated your car engine? The only think to do is walk away and let the engine cool. Usually when you return it’ll start.
Your mind works the same way. When “information overload” starts flashing in your brain, it’s hard to make good, solid decisions or discern the best move for your ministry. So right after a conference, collect your notes, materials, and resources—then walk away for a day or two. When your mind clears, go through every page of notes and every resource. You’ll see that many of the ideas you wrote are great, some not so great, and others good but not workable for your ministry. By allowing the engine of your mind to cool, you’ll be able to effectively assess your conference experience and more efficient in enacting change.
2. Don’t Junk It
So now that you’re back at your church after this ministry-altering conference, you walk the halls with a growing sense of dissatisfaction. When you look at what your ministry is doing currently and the resources you have, you feel inadequate. You may even be tempted to “junk” everything you’re doing and start from scratch to emulate the ideas you saw. This reaction is human nature, and my advice is Don’t do it!
Your challenge is to be okay with where your ministry is now and all you’re already achieved—but to not be satisfied. God wants you to start where you are; your job isn’t to junk everything and start over, but to chart a course that’ll safely guide your ministry from where you are to where God has inspired you to go.
3. Make a Road Map
Now is the time to create a plan. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, meet with your leaders and present where you are now and where you’d like to go. Emphasize that you’re combining your previous knowledge about your ministry and the insight you gained from your educational experience; this communicates the worth of continuing education and the fact that you’re intentionally seeking to improve areas of weakness. Then brainstorm together how you’ll get to where you want to be; don’t attempt a Lone Ranger strategy.
Once you create a workable plan, follow through. Just remember that effective change takes time. Rather than introducing “instant” change, your more important task is to intentionally plan for needed changes, prepare your teams, and execute life-changing ministry. By creating a solid road map with high-level approval, you’ll see the change happen effectively, you’ll build trust, and you’ll put a win under your ministry’s belt.
4. Perform Regular Maintenance
Successful conferences or conventions can be among the best possible experiences for leaders and volunteers because they’re places where people share ideas and inspiration. God frequently uses these experiences to motivate and inspire with refreshing new perspectives. Your understanding and the subsequent actions you take are indicators of whether a conference was really an effective use of your time. Don’t let your conference experience be just another good weekend away; instead, use it as a way to supercharge your energy and creativity—and to propel your ministry to a new level.
Bill Anderson is a writer and a pastor to children and families in Berlin, Ohio.
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