I try to attend at least two or three leadership conferences each year. There is a lot of value in hearing talented, gifted people share their stories and experiences. In addition to hearing great speakers, the conversations with other attendees are priceless. Some of my greatest learnings and takeaways have happened over a cup of coffee in-between sessions with like-minded leaders.
Rewind several years ago and you could find me, not at two or three, but at several conferences throughout the year.
I confess, I was a conference junkie.
I was at every conference that my time and budget allowed. If conference paraphernalia (pens, notebooks, lanyards, etc) are considered trophies, I had enough to fill two cases. One of the opening questions almost always asked at the beginning of each event was, “Are you ready to drink from a firehose over the next two days?” For a junkie like me, there was only one answer.
When the conference ended, I returned home and in a few months, I was already looking for the next fix. Conference junkies always have associated behaviors; especially when the junkie is a lead pastor. Here are some of those behaviors and signs:
1. Changing the direction and vision of your church to align with the main talking points from the conference, which will change again after the next conference.
2. Toying with the idea of firing current staff and hiring edgy, cool people so your church will be edgy and cool…to reach people for Jesus, of course.
3. Returning home hyped and stoked and ready to take the city for Jesus, only to become super frustrated because no one else is.
4. Mentioning the name of conference speakers and books more than the name of Jesus and the Bible.
Now that I’m older, my youthful brown hair has sprouted a few grays and I have fully recovered from being a conference junkie.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy conferences. I seldom leave one without capturing pages of great content in my journal. I encourage the pastors I work with at The Unstuck Group to attend conferences as well. However, I don’t want them becoming junkies and don’t want their church or team to be at the mercy of whatever emotional high they’re on after returning home.
Here’s the reality:
As appealing as it sounds, drinking from a fire hose is incredibly hard to do. The water comes fast and you get soaked…but you are unable to drink very much. It can be disheartening to be saturated in content, and still be thirsty.
Firehose experiences are exhilarating; listening to great content from great speakers can build excitement. But teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision. They need to see the vision happen. They’ll follow that.
My encouragement to you is simply this: Go to the conference and get soaked by the firehose. It’ll help you dream and you’ll learn great things. But don’t let it end there. Solid strategy and execution require persistence, best practices and patience. Finding a coaching or consulting relationship is one of the best ways to move from content saturation to strategic implementation. When experienced mentors speak into your life, focus heightens and the things you learn at conferences can become tools for growth and impact.