You see the brochures come across your desk, you read the email announcements, you hear ministry colleagues talk about a recent one they’ve attended – they are conferences for pastors and church leaders, and it seems like more are popping up all the time. Yet all too often, you’ve tossed the brochures in the mail, deleted the emails and ignored the conversations – after all, who has time to go to a conference?
You do, if you value your ministry. And here are just three reasons why you should look at your calendar right now and set aside time and funds to go to at least one such event this year.
You Need New Insights
If you were a physician, accountant or an attorney, you wouldn’t have a choice – your professional organizations would require you to earn a certain number of continuing education units on a regular basis as evidence that you are keeping up-to-date in your field. Why do we think pastoral ministry deserves less attention?
The reality is that there is so much to learn – whether you are a Bible college dropout or a seminary doctoral graduate. There are new ideas, new information, new trends to understand. The Word may be eternal, but there are fresh insights you haven’t heard before. There are new things to learn about preaching, about leadership, about so many areas of pastoral service. Churches are not static things, and that means an effective pastor is constantly learning in order to keep fresh. Conferences are one of the best ways to do that.
You Need New Perspective
As pastors, we’ve all commented on those congregations that seem locked in concrete, resistant to changing situations or new opportunities. Yet as we serve year after year in pastoral ministry, it’s all too easy to fall into the same trap of doing things the same way because we grow stale.
Attending a great conference can remind you that there are new and fresh approaches to some of the same challenges you face. By hearing speakers, attending workshops and sharing with other participants over lunch or an after-session cup of coffee, you gain new insights about approaching some of the issues that confront you as a pastor or leader. One breakthrough idea can more than pay the cost of the event!
You Need a Break
Many companies require their top leaders to take a certain amount of vacation annually purely as a health issue. Leaders who face pressure-packed lives tend to live with their internal springs in tension; sometimes they need to just relax for a few days in order to be back at top form when they resume their duties.
Pastors’ conferences aren’t vacations, but they can fill some of the same role. (And without the need to keep the kids happy all day!) Just the change of pace and fresh setting can allow you to lay aside the leadership pressures for a few days or hours, and will let you regain some of that energy you need to face the challenges of ministry.
Is every conference worthwhile? Of course not – you’ll need to spend a little time determining which ones will be of greatest value to you. (Does the topic seem interesting and relevant? Are the speakers ones that you’d like to hear? Is the sponsoring organization one that you know and trust? Can the time fit into your church schedule without too much conflict?) And you may have to educate your lay leaders as to the value they’ll gain from such an investment in your ministry. (Maybe you can start by making a copy of this article and giving it to some key leaders!)
Right now, start thinking about a conference or two you can attend this year. Your ministry effectiveness may depend on it.