The best conference I ever attended was not at Saddleback or Willowcreek, although I am a great admirer of both ministries.
The best conference I ever attended was not at Glorieta, although I have attended many fine conferences there, due in part to the fact that it is only 5 hours up I-25 for me.
The best conference I ever attended did not have headline personalities on the stage; it was not a conference you ever heard of. But, as I think about the life-changing affect of this conference, I want to make this kind of experience available to others. More on that below.
Several years ago some ministry buddies and I gathered at a campsite for a few days to talk about our ministries. We didn't really have an agenda. We didn't have a program. We didn't have any speakers. We just hung out for a few days and talked about what was working and what was not. We shared good ideas and frustrations and asked a lot of, "what if?" questions. There were a lot of bad ideas bantered around--I believe you have good ideas by having lots of ideas--as well as a few good ones that rose to the top. In significant ways, those ideas changed my ministries.
You might consider setting up a conference like this, or consider the one I am planning with David Smith in Memphis, Tennessee, December 8 - 10. Here is what we have in mind.
I want to gather with 20 Pastors and Ministers of Education for three days of brainstorming about how we can get groups doubling. Each participant will prepare ahead of time a brief presentation on their church that will include graphs of Sunday School attendance, growth rate, baptism ratios, etc. (I will show you were you can go online to get this information, as well as provide spreadsheets with the formulas all worked out.) In addition, we will want to hear about subjective things like how you would describe the mood of the church. We would like to see pictures of the church and a layout describing how many classes are used during which Sunday School hours. The presentation will close with a brief list of the biggest issues facing your ministry. Then, the group will brainstorm ideas about those issues.
Here are some examples of the kind of graphs we will want to see.
A second component of the retreat will be for me to give some ideas I have about how to get groups to double. These will be in 30 minute segments every few hours. There will be about 4 hours of content, covering such topics as:
The last topic--A Mere 20 Million--will be a brainstorm session around the idea of how we can show others groups in other churches to double so we help our denomination reach 20 million in attendance by the year 2020. That should be a fun talk.
After all the presentations, each participant will make a list of goals and plans and we will talk about whether it would be useful to get back together and talk again.
We will start mid-day on Monday and finish mid-day on Wednesday. The cost for this retreat will be $100. This will include 3 meals and 2 continental breakfasts, as well as snacks. If you are not local to the Memphis area, hotel information will be provided about local area hotels. Attendance will be limited to 20 participants.
We can take America for God by giving the ministry to laymen who are using their gifts to grow their groups to double their classes every two years or less. We can help our denomination reach 20 million in Sunday School attendance by the year 2020. By God's grace, we can do it. We just need to figure out how. These retreats/ brainstorming sessions may be the way to figure out how.