Thursday, November 3, 2011

Connect Groups improve the Conference Experience

Conferences are great ways to gain skills and acquire new learning resources by attending General Session and carefully chosen workshops and browsing through the trade booths.  With great intentions of experiencing all the planned learning opportunities, I would race from session to session taking copious notes looking for that one thing God wants me to take home and implement.

After my first five or six ministry conference experiences, I'd come home totally exhausted and overwhelmed with the plethora of ideas and initiatives I'd gathered. It would take me weeks to digest it all and usually that idea that sounded so great at the conference simply didn't satisfy my ministry needs or fit my church's situation.  After one such conference experience, I arrived home totally depressed and depleted. (That's quite another story, so I'll save for another post.)  I ended up swearing off conferences for a few years. It was just too expensive and too exhausting... I was DONE!

Instead I'd take my team to local conferences, like Group's Children's Ministry Magazine Live.  The price was right and the material covered was just the right amount to challenge without overwhelming me.  Plus, I enjoyed the interactive activities interweaved throughout the presentations when I got to talk with other attendees and hear what they were thinking.  I even made a few Children's Ministry friends in my area that I kept in touch with for years afterwards.  (Matter of fact, I ended up being a presenter for CMMLive! and Group's HOW2. I was THAT big a fan!)

As a result of my association with Group Publishing, in 2009 I was invited to attend the first ever LifeServe Conference and serve as an "Affinity Group" leader.  All I had to do was gather with others in Children's Ministry several times during the conference and facilitate conversation.

Since talking and listening are two of my favorite activities, I knew I was up to the task.  I like to find out what others are doing that's making a big difference in their communities.  I enjoy meeting others that totally "get" me, and that's usually others in the trenches of Children's Ministry.

My experience as an Affinity Group leader was mind-blowing! I'll admit I missed a few sessions and workshops because I get involved in some deep discussions, but I'd found something to make my conference experiences more valuable than I ever imagined. I was making personal connections! Instead of gaining skills, I was learning from others with similar struggles and situations.  As a bonus, I gained new friends to interact with, pray for and celebrate life with after the conference.

Group Publishing actually calls them "Connect Groups" now and they are a unique benefit at all of their Conferences -  LifeServe, Simply Youth and this year's first ever, Kidmin Conference.  I jumped at the opportunity to serve as the Children's Ministry Connect Group leader at LifeServe 2011 and the Rural Children's Ministry Connect Group leader at Kidmin2011. I hope and pray I'll be asked to lead again, but if not, I promise I'll be a Connect Group member!

Learn more about my experiences Leading "Connect Groups" in Insider magazine...

Go Ahead - Google it!