The weekly GOD conference

I’m a pastor, but my primary responsibility isn’t preaching. So I struggle with explaining what I do in terms that make sense outside church (or even inside church).

This week, I figured out one way to understand it.

church cornerstoneEvery Sunday, there is a GOD conference in Grabill, Indiana. There are 3 keynote sessions, one a 9 and two at 10:15. The latter is split along age lines,  with those younger than 6th grade having their own session.

Every week there are nearly thirty breakout sessions during the morning. Most are grouped by age.

Yesterday, I led 2 of those sessions. One was about word of mouth marketing. We talked about conversations that are rooted in our own experiences rather than in scripts that we have been given. Because I wanted to give them something tangible out of the class (I was thinking “kit“), I asked them to write down the answers to six questions, just so they could think about conversations.  (By the way, the first question? “What is the biggest complaint you have about Christians or church?” Word of mouth has to be authentic.)

The other was about how to read a story. This was with the oldest group of people at the conference, looking at a story all of them had read or heard several times. Using notes I had developed in a series at, I walked them through the story from the perspective of the original listeners. (Yes, I repurposed blog posts to teach. In that group, it was new.)

The best part of many conferences is what happens in the hallways. I spent some time in the hall. I had a couple of great conversations with people. Some of it is coaching, some of it is just “touching”. Because most great conferences depend on volunteers, I need to do more of this. I did, however, leave notes for some of the breakout group leaders.

I missed a couple people I wanted to see, but did see the dad whose son lives across the street from ground zero at Fort Hood.  The dad was relieved. The son had been away for training for a couple of weeks.

I also work with conference logistics, particularly tech issues. We run a loop of announcements through the venue so I did a bit of editing on that Saturday evening and started it Sunday morning. I’ll be troubleshooting a video that didn’t run during one of the keynote sessions. We already started talking about how to avoid the problem through a change in process.

There are a number of special interest sessions that meet at other times. I spent Sunday evening with one of those groups, talking about how to build community by serving. As a result, next Saturday they will be doing some work in a local agency and then telling the story with video. They are 20 something. They have the tools, both to serve and shoot.

I’ve been thinking about social media conferences recently. I’ve wondered what I would say, whether I had anything to say. Looking at yesterday, I know the answer. We do it here every week.

In the process of reflecting, however, I found a challenge. If I were doing a breakout at a conference, I would do everything possible to make the session as useful as possible, because there would be one chance with this audience. Just because we run our event every weekend, it’s possible to get comfortable, to think “I can wing it this time.” I don’t think I have that option.





14 responses to “The weekly GOD conference

  1. What a wonderful description and it gave me a fresh look at my own weekly God conference!

  2. Great picture of the “church conversation” and I like that your congregation is teaching young people that building community begins with serving the community.

    Many adults, I fear, have yet to learn that lesson, and as a consequence, miss out on a lot.


  3. Michelle Gillies

    What a great way to reach your conference attendees on their current levels. I really enjoyed this perspective.
    Thank you.

  4. What an interesting perspective. A new way to look at something traditional. Very well done.

  5. I love this and appreciate your perspective! I think regardless of whether our “conference” is weekly or a one time event we should give it our all.

  6. This is a brilliant perspective of your Sunday. Hopefully it helps explaining easier. 🙂

  7. Excellent way to frame your work and what’s involved. I hope others in ministry follow your lead, because I think it could inspire some great ideas and new methods.

  8. A new channel for grace to flow through. Talk about being relevant! Excellent.

  9. Jon, I love this as a way to think about church, but I think I appreciate the illustration even more when I flip it around as a way to look at social media, conferences, and our other day-to-day interactions in the world. How can we take the best about our on-going God conferences (particularly what happens in the hallways) and apply it to the many people whose paths we cross?

  10. thank you all for your comments. i understand better why i woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn’t sleep, had to write.

  11. What a great way of thinking about what you do… sounds like it’s been useful for you as well as for us. Thanks

  12. We read 11 good comments from women and none from men. Good followup would ask why? Are you not reaching them or are they not writers or what?
    Perhaps visiting with the men would reveal answers.

  13. Not everyone is turned on by conferences and marketing hype. As an engineer, I have an outright aversion to it. I saw this article because it was tweeted by a social media guy at a PR firm. I can get why a PR guy would love this concept, but it leaves me flat.

  14. Thanks for stopping by, Michael, even if this metaphor doesn’t resonate for you. I could, I suppose, explore the morning from the perspective of a local political campaign or a community development perspective. The challenge for me is to move out of churchy language to understand what I do. And this is always a challenge.