As many return from conferences and continuing education events, the question that always rises to the surface is… “What do I do now?”
During those conferences leaders have encountered new learning, engaged in challenging conversations and heard an inspiring word. Just like a youth who has returned from the “mountain top” high of a camp experience, leaders, too, sense renewed energy, creative thinking and hope for the future.
The question remains… “What do I do now?” I offer 5 steps to implement and share the new things you have learned with your community.
1. PRIORITIZE: Before you report back to your church, sit down and write a bullet point list of all the “nuggets” of knowledge you would like to share. Realizing that the list might be short or long, then take a moment and pick one (maybe two) that you would like to communicate in the first days back. If you tell them pieces of everything you learned, you will just create noise and busy-ness so it is important to communicate the best and most important in those first few days.
2. COME PREPARED: Now you know the one or two things you will share, be sure to gather all the information around these topics or ideas into one place. It might not even be a bad idea to create a resource binder to be kept in a central location with the handouts, book references and copies of things you will be sharing. That will allow your community and staff to access the information in their own way and in their own time. It will also allow you to keep things from the conference together for easy access.
3. DON’T SAY, “If you had been there…”: Be sure as you are sharing the information you learned, you share it with a spirit of collaboration and not with a spirit of “nana-nana-boo-boo”. Many people, when they come back, speak of the conference as a special place where special people get to go. That attitude and tone will turn off anyone listening to your report because they will be disconnected by not having been present. Instead speak of the experience as a representative opportunity, “I am so thankful to have gone and I want to share my experience,” or “Thank you so much for sending me, because of your investment in our church I have information to share.”
4. THINK PRACTICALLY: Don’t expect there to be immediate change about the topic at hand. Prayerfully plant the seeds by sharing your experience and then cultivate change, please don’t force it. If you return from a seminar and conference and demand immediate change, two things happen – 1) Your community will resent the conference and be less likely to support your return to similar events, or 2) They will be skeptical about your idea because of its sharp immediacy. Make a plan, talk it out and be patient.
5. PRAY: Pray, pray and keep praying. Transformation and wisdom take root if they are steeped in a community of prayer. Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for transformation, pray for understanding, and pray for opportunities to share.
Conferences can be a gift to your community by prompting meaningful conversation and spurring good mission. Be patient, God’s working too.