Monday, January 23, 2012

Why I Go to Conferences...Revisited

I started to entitle this post “Confessions of a conference junkie!” You see my name is Jim and yes I am a conference-a-holic! This is where I hear you say “Hi Jim!” I’ve been attending conferences a long time, a really long time. Now that I add it up, I’ve been attending some type of conference every year for almost four decades. Big ones, small ones, one day ones, multi-day ones even “come spend a week with us ones” and then if that was not enough I started speaking at conferences in 1980. You would think this would scratch my conference itch but then not only did I keep attending conferences and speaking at conferences I started hosting conferences that only lead me to the hard stuff , organinizing and putting on conferences. Yes you could say I have a serious conference addiction.
            Conferences have played a big part in the formation as well as the success and longevity of my ministry to children.  The first conference or seminar I attended was shortly after being drafted to minister to children, it was a puppet seminar put on by Puppet Productions and it immediately made a huge difference in my ministry. There was something about the experience that just made it easier to grasp the concepts being taught. Seeing what they were presenting in action plus being able to purchase much needed supplies and props was a huge benefit for me. I started seeking out other conferences to attend locally in my city. It didn’t matter to me what denomination or group was putting on the event if I could learn just one thing that I didn’t know before the conference I viewed it as a success. As I started applying what I was learning the next thing I knew others where asking me to come teach what I was learning. The first additional benefit I realized was that not only conferences where a great place to learn they were an even better way to help you connect and network with others who shared similar interests and callings and who where also on a quest of growth and excellence.
          The first national children’s ministry conference I heard about was the Fellowship of Christian Magicians Conference. (It was much more than magic, there were workshops on every type of ministry performance methods to children there where back then) I wanted to attend so badly but my church did not have a conference budget so I remember getting the brochure listing the workshops and workshop speakers and after the event I looked up some of the presenters phone numbers and called them and asked them about their workshops and asked for any notes or cassette recording they had I could get my hands on them. One of the people who took my call and sent me his notes was Dick Gruber. Dick thought I was some” country bumpkin” from the south calling him up asking him to teach me “how to do clown ministry over the telephone.” Not only did I find out what I wanted to learn but it was the start of a wonderful friendship. (32 years later I got to mentor one of Dick's sons in infuse for a year and a half, what a honor!) In fact, most of the dearest and best friends I have on this earth I met at a conference. 
more to come...

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