It's been exactly a year ago this month that I left my corporate sales training job to come home and see my kids and husband and friends more than half the month. And, other than a comparatively short trip to Delaware this summer, it has been a year since I have spent so many hours zooming along the highway in uncomfortable vehicles -- enjoying the scenery of cornfields, truck stops and yucky public restrooms!
Using the privilege of being married to the Executive Administrator at UCCC to its best advantage, I tagged along with Brian and several of the new staff to the Innovative Church Conference in Granger, Indiana. Now, this was by far NOT my first-ever church conference, but it was my first time to Granger Community Church. Honestly, my goal in going was not to learn more about this church, but to spend some quality time with the new staff and my husband and get a chance to eat out a couple of times!
The 12 hour ride to the conference and the 10 hour ride back (we made our bladders behave and saved 2 hours on the way home!), I was given the gift of listening to each person's Story...the history of them -- the good, bad and the ugly. I feel like a bigger person now. My view of God is larger and my hope for our community has grown after hearing the creative and merciful ways He rescued each person and is painting out the purpose for their lives. Beautiful.
Now, no conference will ever duplicate the "first time". I told my friend Michelle that the first Willow Creek Arts conference I attended I was basically reduced to a puddle on the floor because I couldn't stop crying. In the very first session of that first conference -- in fact the very first song of the very first session of that first conference I began to bawl because I was watching kids singing and dancing their hearts out on stage and there was JOY on their faces. They represented my biggest dream as a child...the one that just sort of faded away with all the disappointments and mundane-ness of life.
So...even though I can never duplicate that first experience, the most valuable take-away from every church conference I have attended since has been the refreshment and enlargement of my PERSPECTIVE.
This is a key learning for me. Otherwise, it is possible to attend one too many church conferences. One can become disillusioned and discouraged and just plain, old 'dissed' by all the noise and energy and well-known speakers and unknown faces and -- the fabulous video mixing boards -- of these mega-churches. BUT -- if I can accomplish these two goals, I'll keep coming back again and again - - STORY & PERSPECTIVE.