Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Church Development Conference

This past week I attended the New Church Development Conference run by the Evangelism and Church Growth Program area of the PC(USA). The conference was held at the TradeWinds Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

The conference was one of five that was running concurrently. The other four were a Youth Worker Conference, Collegiate Ministries, Church Transformation, and Evangelism. We all worshipped together, heard the same speakers, and ate together. I would guess that at least 750 people were there for the five conferences.

I especially enjoyed the talks shared by Mark Yaconelli and Len Sweet. Yaconelli implored us to share the love and compassion that is inside of us and then share that with the world. It was a simple message, but it’s one that resonated with me. These days many talks share the one or three or five (pick your number) keys to success for church. These talks are all about strategies and tactics. Yaconellis shared that the strategies and tactics of Jesus were not that complicated. He loved people. Our culture will distract us from this foundational task.

Every time I’ve heard Len Sweet I’m always challenged to think about our culture in a new way. He shared the idea of a “narrafor,” a combination of narrative and metaphor. He argued that the Gutenburg culture communicated in words. Our culture doesn’t speak in works; it speaks in narratives and metaphors. He shared some winning commercials from past Super Bowls that communicated its message in images—one commercial hardly used any words.

His message is important for all of us who design worship. Are we more focused on the words we use or the narrative and images we share?

This year we were able to take one workshop that met five different times. I attended a workshop led by Brian Clark, pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church, on Vision/Planning/Leadership. The workshop challenged me to think about how we are developing Spiritual Leaders at Chain of Lakes church. The beauty of being in a new church is we can be intentional about creating our culture—this workshop encouraged me and gave me some tools to be more intentional about teaching and training on what it means to be a Spiritual Leader at our new congregation.

The best part of the New Church Conference is talking to other Organizing Pastors. I love having conversation about what is working, what isn’t working, what we need help with. I wish there were ways that the Organizing Pastors of our denomination could be networked in a more effective way. It’s critical that we are in talk and share with each other and most importantly pray for each other. I’ve started a Facebook page that does a minimal job at connecting us. The networking of Organizing Pastors is falling through the cracks.

I had the privilege of hanging out with Doug Cushing, my coach and friend. Doug and I had lots of opportunities to share what’s going on in our lives. I’m sure in our conversations in the upcoming months we’ll talk about what we experienced during the past week.

I especially enjoyed the seminar called “Uncontained Rapid Fire.” The idea is simple. A person gets up and shares a few practical ideas in eight minutes. This happened twice and I attended both. I was glad that some young NCD pastors were chosen to speak in the second session.

I’ve attended the last three NCD conferences—each one has gotten better. I like the approach of having five conferences taking place at once. With a more focused approach on connecting NCD pastors the next conference would be even better.

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