This week some of our staff got together to begin planning for a conference, which we will be hosting this fall. A “church” conference.
Why a church conference? What is a church conference?
Here’s the background. For a number of years we set aside a Saturday each fall for a retreat for our parish staff. The point was to renew everyone in the purpose, mission, and values of our parish. We also shared our goals and vision for the coming year and got everyone charged up and headed in the right direction. As time went on, the event became more elaborate, so much so that last year we decided, why not open it up to all our ministry leaders?
So we did. For that event, Tom and I spoke about the big picture of what we’re about and what’s going on, and in between, several staff members offered sessions on specific topics.
In fact, about 100 of our ministry leaders and volunteers came, which was an unexpected surprise. But there was another surprise too: beyond the intended audience we were contacted by leaders from other churches and ministries who heard about the conference, by word of mouth, and wanted to attend too. Don’t know how many off hand, perhaps two dozen or more: most from parishes and ministries right here in Baltimore, but also from New Jersey, upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. We were happy to have them, and enjoyed hearing about their churches. The day was a wonderful one and most successful.
But most importantly the experience revealed to us something that we had sort of suspected before but resisted. We need to do an annual church conference: a conference in which we talk about and celebrate and demonstrate the church God is growing here. We’ve been to these kinds of gatherings at non-denominational churches in different parts of the country and have benefitted from those experiences tremendously. Now it’s our turn to do the same thing in a Catholic setting.
We are going to host an annual church conference, because it is something that God is calling us to do. Like our book project, a conference is an important way to make ourselves accessible to others and to be of service. In a sense it will be an illustration of the book, speaking and acting it out in a way that is refreshing and renewing for members and instructive and encouraging to newcomers.
As Andy Stanley puts it (about his own church conference), it is about pouring our “cup” (what we have learned, what we know, what works for us) into the “cups” of others.
Tom and I will be giving two general sessions on growing a healthy parish, one at the beginning and one at the end of the conference. In between there will be a half dozen breakout sessions given by members of our staff, on topics like prayer, giving, service and ministry (you pick two or three that interest you). We will have awesome and incredible worship music offered by our house band, some over the top crazy fun stuff, and a surprise or two. It will be fun and inspiring and you won’t want to leave when it’s over.
Conference tickets, which include lunch, will go on sale in September, and tickets will be limited. However, they will be offered here first, and at a discount (so all you faithful blog readers stay tuned).
This is going to be a great experience in the life of our parish, and a solid opportunity for leaders from other communities to see what we’re up to. You cannot miss it. Plan on joining us Saturday, November 3rd for “matter” (as in “make church…” that’s what we’re calling it).