A few years ago we decided to take a Saturday morning and bring together our parish staff and parish council. The focus of the meeting was a discussion on the purpose of the parish: our mission, vision and strategy.
What we found at that time surprised us: there was far less shared understanding about who we are or what we’re about than we had anticipated. We thought everybody was on the same page, but we were wrong. We were really wrong. These were the leaders of our parish and they actually didn’t seem to know our mission, vision and strategy. Was that really their fault, or ours? We had stumbled upon an important lesson in leadership. Pastor Bill Hybels sums it up best:
“Some leaders believe that if they fill people’s vision buckets all the way to the top one time, those buckets will stay full forever. But the truth is, people’s buckets have holes of varying sizes in their bottoms. As a result, vision leaks.”
After that experience we determined to repeat the exercise at least once a year. Over the last couple of years the gathering has grown in scope (that always seems to happen around here, doesn’t it). We started investing staff time and energy into shaping more of an event than just another meeting on people’s schedules. We began broadening the circle to include more of our ministry leaders too.
This year turns out to be the year we’re taking it to a whole new level. We decided we wanted to host a conference for all of our ministry leaders and major volunteers as well as our full and part time staff (about 100 people). Not just a meeting or even a series of meetings; more like a retreat with the opportunity for fellowship and worship along with vision casting and team building. Additionally and unexpectedly, we received requests from some leaders in other parishes about attending (they heard by word of mouth). After some internal discussion we decided we’d be glad to have them join us (about 30-40 people).
We have a good message about why church matters, and how to make it matter more in the life of our community. Several members of our staff have prepared break out sessions on a variety of topics of importance for running and growing a parish. Our creative team has worked overtime putting together some amazing and fun stuff too. And of course, the entire conference will be offered in the context of worship and music.
In presenting a conference we admit that we don’t know what we’re doing. In doing a conference about “doing church” we further acknowledge that we are not pretending we’ve cracked the code on parish health and growth. We want to share what we know, what we’ve learned from others, as well as what we don’t know, what we still have to figure out or find out from people who are better at this than we are.
But beyond that, bottom line the purpose of this “conference” is still the same. We want to invest in our leaders and fill up their vision buckets.