Today I'm honored to have someone I truley believe God has placed in my life. She is more than a student or even a friend. She's like one of my kids. Not only is Jenny Funderburke one of my past infusers she is now one of my coaches and a big part of team Jim.
I hope you'll checkout her blog @ http://jennyfunderburke.com/blog/
I love conferences. I really do. When the opportunity to do the Infuse mentoring group with Jim Wideman, I had a big choice to make. It wasn't cheap, but I realized that for the money I could spend at a conference (after you add in flight, hotel, conference, food, etc...), I could participate in Infuse. I made the choice to do Infuse and without a doubt, it was the wisest choice to make. See, I quickly discovered that the things I loved about conferences were present and much, much better in a coaching environment. Here's a few:
- Quality teaching: Infuse includes group phone calls each month and two retreats which all include concentrated and targeted teaching from Jim Wideman. But, you aren't learning in a group of 200 or 2000. He intentionally creates question and answer time and you can email questions in between occasions. I learned so much about leadership, ministry, volunteers, structure, relationships, priorities, time management and more! But I also got to ask for advice about specific situations and problems I was facing.
- Networking: I love meeting people at conferences, and I had no idea the impact of the relationships I would form through Infuse. When you meet someone at a conference, you might have lunch or exchange email addresses. But, through Infuse I was connected for several months to kidmin from all over the country, from all sizes of churches, and from a wide variety of denominations and perspectives. This opportunity did a couple of things. First, my eyes were open beyond my own little world. Hearing what others were doing, their challenges and their successes, was inspiring. Second, I formed ministry friendships through my group and coaching other groups that I now can't imagine doing ministry without. In ministry, Spencer Click is like the big brother I never had. Jen Galley and Sara Richards are constant sources of encouragement. Sam Luce always has wise and encouraging advice. Kenny Conley is always ready to tell me what to do. :) These and many, many others are invaluable friends who celebrate during good times and pray during tough times. I had no idea how much I needed this community outside of my own church.
- Resources and new ideas: Don't you love going to conferences and discovering what all is out there? During Infuse, I do think I found out about more ideas, resources, and tools that I could really use than I found at conferences. And I didn't have to go through an exhibit hall. The difference is that I learned from people who were not selling, but were really using and trying and implementing these resources in their ministries. When I encountered a problem or needed a resource, I had a wealth of people to ask about what was out there and what their opinions were. When we began multi-site, I had people that I knew I could call and ask about what to buy and what was out there.
- Getting away: Let's be honest that one thing we enjoy about conferences is that we get to get away. We can unplug from church world and normal life for a few days. We can be fully immersed in kidmin for that amount of time. The two retreats that are part of Infuse provide that. Lots of good food, laughter, and the opportunity to think kidmin for two days straight gave me the chance to be refreshed and go back to my ministry excited to go forward.
- Made better at what we do: Sometimes we go to conferences looking to learn or buy that "magic bullet" that is going to make our ministries better. In Infuse, we spent months focusing on the small and personal things that we can be better that will in turn make our ministries better. The benefit to Infuse being more than a three day conference set up is that it is a process. Through teaching and growing with others, you have the time and opportunity to evaluate yourself, your calling, and your ministry. And you learn hard things that you've got to do better. There may not be a "magic bullet", but it is change that sticks because it is change that comes from a process.
Let me encourage you not to think "I can't do Infuse because it is too expensive". Consider what you can sacrifice to make it a reality. You may be stuck like i was. You may need a network of kidmin friends to learn from. You may need the process of determining how you can lead better. We all need a coach and people speaking into our lives. I challenge you to find a way to make Infuse happen. You (and your church) will be glad you did.