One of my favorite perks of being in children’s ministry is getting to attend conferences from time to time. I love kidmin conferences – or breakfasts, or luncheons, or training sessions. I love talking with other kidmin about connecting kids and Jesus. I love listening to speakers who encourage those in ministry to new levels of understanding and service. I love listening to teachers explain their new perspectives on reaching and relating to kids. I have done this long enough to know that there are thousands of ideas that I haven’t heard or tried yet, and I want to hear them all and try them all.
However, there is one potential downside to excitement about soaking up all this new information. In my zeal to know all that I can, and to learn all that I can, I may easily spend all my free time learning, and never take what I have gleaned and put it into action. It’s as though I have become a colander instead of a cup. Very little is retained that can be shared with someone else.
As a volunteer, to schedule the time in my calendar to go away to a conference is a major accomplishment. And when I do get to go, I am excited and challenged to try new processes. But, how many of those processes actually get done? What do I do with the information I am given at a conference. I often bring back my post-conference excitement for something new and try to work it into a week that is all ready jammed packed to make up for the lost time while I was away at the conference. Now, those new ideas and challenges often have to sit to the side on my desk, waiting to be implemented. Day by day, they may be pushed further to the side, covered by the immediate tasks at hand that have to be handled now. Until, reluctantly, my once fresh and exciting ideas end up filed away with the next “cleaning of the desk” for when I have more time.
If we are to be good stewards of our time away at a conference, we need to have something to show for it. After a conference, make it a practice to decide what you can address first, and then:
– Do it. Schedule that new activity somewhere in the next 30 days. Nike was on to something. Just do it!
– Stop it. Kill that program, event, or person (no, not really) or ministry that isn’t accomplishing what your vision for ministry is to accomplish. Be brave. Just stop it.
– Tweak it. Take what you are doing and adjust it to incorporate what was presented that rang in your spirit at the conference.
– Share it. When it works, let others in on it. Blog about it, link to it, send a tweet, but don’t keep it to yourself. Multiply your conference time to those who didn’t attend, but see your work.
Conferences require a volunteer’s most precious resources – time and money. If we go, and don’t change, it’s wasting both. I can’t justify paying to go to another conference if I haven’t done anything with what I learned at the last conference, or six, that I have attended.
What we learn can benefit our ministry, as well as others. We can offer what we have learned to those in our ministry, and to those around us. Like a cup of cold water (or cup of hot coffee), we can be a refreshment. Or we can just let the water or coffee, run through like a colander and be lost.
I want to be a cup!