Growing up Christian in Texas was all about wearing your “Sunday Best”. It wasn’t just an idea, it was an actuality. The 80’s and 90’s were a fashion parade of poofy dresses and large bows every Sunday morning and I loved it.
Different parts of the United States have different standards of fashion. New York and California are often leading the way and the fashion trends move inward nationally from there. Even within a state, metropolitan areas are more fashionable than their suburban and country counter parts.
I have always been a lover of fashion. For a few years I lived in California and I would agree they were often right at the front of a trend. When I first moved to New Jersey I often felt out of place by my fashion choices, not because they were bad, but just because they often brought me attention for being different or trendy.
One day not long after living in NJ, I wore a long bulky necklace with beads and an adult I knew asked if I was playing dress up. They weren’t being rude, they were being serious. I felt uncomfortable and silly. Around that period of time, I legitimately stopped dressing up so much. I traded some of my heels for flats and just tried to blend in a bit more because I felt out of place.
In 2013, I went to the C3 Conference in Dallas, TX for the first time with the rest of my church staff. I was thrilled to be going to a conference for a host of reasons. One of the major reasons being, I knew I could finally dress trendy without sticking out like a sore thumb because at a conference everyone dresses up. Church culture has changed, a lot of church people don’t actually wear “Sunday Best” on Sunday’s anymore but conferences are a little different.
People bring their best to conferences, and I was planning to as well. When I travel, I like to pack a complete outfit for every day including jewelry. So, I packed with abandon, costume jewelry included. I was four months pregnant and just starting to show. I didn’t want to look fat, so I was working that baby bump to the max and accessorizing to match.
On the first day of the conference, several co-workers and church friends were commenting on how I never dress “like this” at church, and asked why I was all dressed up. I explained that I used to dress this way all the time, but people were always asking me why I was so I dressed up, so I stopped. However, at the conference I blended right in.
the highlight reel
The location of the conference could of course affect the fashion culture, but more than that I understood that conferences are like Instagram. They are the highlight reel of your life. I’m not the only one packing the best of my wardrobe for a conference. I’m sure there are pastors getting new wardrobes just for a conference. Everyone’s hair is getting freshly cut. All the ladies are getting fresh highlights. People are going on a 3-day Beachbody cleanse because you prepare to come in your “Sunday Best”. I would even say that this is partially the purpose of a Conference; to be inspired, inspired personally, professionally, and spiritually.
the point is this
You might ask why I just spent 600 words talking about fashion. I hope I didn’t lose you because there is a reason. The reason is that conferences are a lot of things, but they are not traditionally a place where you are going to find much needed training and help for your church and staff.
Some of the conferences I’ve attended have been amazing, filled to the brim with inspiration and ingenuity. If that’s your expectation for attending a conference then it will be everything you need it to be. However, if you think that going to a conference will fix any specific problem that you or your staff have, then you need to re-evaluate the purpose of a conference because that’s not it.
The reason that conferences can’t do a lot more than that is because of “Sunday Best”. When ministry leaders get together in that type of environment suddenly everything is “perfect”. Your offerings have been great, your family is happier than ever, your staff is completely rested and well paid, and your attendance is better than it’s ever been too.
It’s really hard to strategize and resolve a problem when you don’t have any. When you’re connecting and networking with other ministry leaders you’re spending 5 minutes to 2 hours max, connecting in a conference environment. I’m sure there is some real ministry talk that occurs between people, but when you have hundreds of people to see or “catch up” with, you have to have your spiel down pat.
It’s the Instagram highlight reel of your ministry. You talk about every good thing that’s happened, as you should. However, if you need help, it’s only an illusion that you will actually get it. In theory it makes sense that ministry leaders would want to help one another, but when people arrive at these things they suddenly don’t have very many problems.
Don’t forget I started this article by talking about how in a conference environment my own fashion attire was suddenly “on point”. So I’m talking to myself here as well, however, there’s a catch.
We know despite “Sunday Best” a lot of churches are struggling. We know the majority of churches in America have less than 100 people and are in decline. We know the American church has shrunk by 30% since the 70’s. We know millennials are more hostile to church than previous generations. We see extremely successful mega churches demonstrating a way that is desired by all, but not usually replicable at a smaller size.
So, what do you do? How do you change? How do you grow? When you go to a conference and then you leave, and want to change everything in your own ministry, how do you actually do that?
that’s where we come in
We believe that’s where we come in, we believe you get support. You partner with someone else who you don’t have to present your best to. Someone you can tell all the dirty details to and isn’t going to judge you or compete with you. A partner whose only job is to bring you success.
We don’t think that conferences and consulting are the same. We don’t think they are similar in any regard, but we think that sometimes you do. We think that you get excited about going to a conference because you believe it’s going to change things. Conferences do a lot of amazing things, but the results are different than what you might think. So, be aware of what outcome you want to achieve out of attending a conference.
- innovative and invigorating
- result oriented
- individually tailored
- consistent accessibility
So, if your staff has been down in the dumps and needs to get spiritually recharged then you should consider a conference. If you want to invigorate your staff with new ideas and inspiration for your facilities, or even see a sample model for your student ministry, then your leaders will likely benefit from a conference or another similar one-day event.
However, if your staff is in need of specific training then a general conference is not going to fit the bill. If you are working like a dog week after week without seeing results, then you probably need a consultant who can come strategize right alongside you.
pastors are just pastors
They are gifted to preach, shepherd, and lead people to Christ. A lot of pastors and ministry leaders aren’t strategists, they aren’t social media and web experts, or financial analysts, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Having a consultant is like having a private counselor or psychiatrist, and they’re not going to think less of you because they are there to help.
If you’re at your wits end about anything, call us at (252) 679-2030, because there’s a way we can help. You can also check out our lively podcast below to hear more about this topic.
Conferences are one of the highlights of the year for ministry leaders. Church leaders plan for months at a time about the next conference they might attend. In this episode TK and Stacia ask ministry leaders to consider the true purpose of conferences.
Obviously inspiration is at the top of the list, but when so many churches need tailored attention to grow and meet their staff’s needs, they ask you to consider if conferences are the best way to spend your resource and enrichment budget.
Listen as they compare the price breakdown, and even talk about how conferences find everyone bringing their “Sunday Best”. No everything.church episode is complete without a few laughs, impersonations and some major food for thought.
Chief Creative Officer
Stacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.
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