Thursday, October 02, 2014

Conference Time: Together But Separate

At the moment, I am at the Rocky Mountain District Professional Church Workers Conference. It is always a great time of the year, not just to be in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado, but also to connect with fellow educators of Lutheran Schools. One thing that is troubling about this year's conference is that attendance is much lower than in past years.

What is the reason for this? Is it because schools cannot afford the costs? Perhaps. Is it that the program does not really support professional growth? Maybe. Or is it that we are losing the sense of shared mission and collegiality -- that it is no longer essential that we get together and support one another in the challenging tasks of Lutheran education?

It seems that our conference time has become together but separate. We join together at the same location but do that separately, connecting only with our own faculties and people we already know. In other words, we have not harnessed the power of being together. If all we are going to do is be together but separate, is that really a reason to have a face-to-face conference? Or should we be seeking to leverage the fact in new ways that we have incredible personalities and talent in one room?

Perhaps this is what those who do not participate in the conference sense, the fact that we do not clearly use the blessing of proximity for a few days. To that end, here are some thoughts on how conference time might be used to take advantage of this proximity:
  • Be intentional about making connections with others outside our own faculties. Meet with people that teach our grade, that are experts in our academic disciplines, that have the same ministry interests, and build opportunities for these connections.
  • Be intentional about utilizing technology to connect with these folks beyond these three conference days. Use Twitter. Use Facebook. Do what it takes to maintain these connections through the year in mutual support of ministry. Then, when we return to conference next year, it is much more like a family reunion. 
  • Use the talents of the group to build something for others. So often we go to conference and complain if we don't "get something" out of the conference. What if we were to change the focus to giving instead of taking? Can you imagine what a group of talented educators could create collaboratively for ministry? Materials for mission schools? Lesson plans and activities? An entire curriculum? Joining together to give and share with the church at large has impact and power!
There are those who say that we should do away with face-to-face conferences -- that technology affords us to do the same thing at a far less cost. While that is true in some cases, I argue that there are still very good reasons for continuing to meet together. What we need is greater intentional purpose to make the best stewardship of that time. What do you think?


  1. Conversations about today and tomorrow can be continued before and after and started at F2F conferences. The problem is we're still so used to sit and get rather than share and create/produce.

  2. Agreed, Andrew. I would love to see us talking about that change, because the face to face conferences become much more relevant that way, and we all become better stewards of the resources God has give to us through that as well.

  3. Excellent post, Dave. I love and admire your constant desire for improved collaboration, innovation, and learning/development opportunities. Funny cause I was thinking many of the same things this afternoon- you thankfully took the valuable time to articulate it in writing! :) Well done, brother- looking forward to future conversations around this...

  4. That's what I'm trying to get our summer conference to focus on...the conversation. We have to position ourselves to remain relevant. That's a challenge for some (many) to think that way.