I love conferences. But like any good thing, if you’re not careful, you can still fall into some traps.
This is a piece I originally ran for last year’s Orange Conference, but human nature hasn’t changed that much in the last 12 months (at least mine hasn’t), so I want to repost it again as over 5000 of us descend on Atlanta to learn together and (we pray) serve God better as a result.
Here are five conference traps I see, most of which I have had some personal experience with:
1. Accepting inspiration as a subsitute for execution. Sometimes you really do need a new idea or insight. And inspiration is amazing! Conferences provide that. But what you absolutely must do is execute. So many great ideas fail for lack of execution. A great conference is not about how inspired you feel, what you did with what you learned (and experienced).
2. Assuming the speakers have it all together. As Steven Furtick has somewhat famously said, all of us compare our B roll with everyone else’s highlight reel. What you are getting from conference speakers is their very best material. They go home to problems just like you do – just different problems. When we forget that – even for a moment – we start to feel badly about our own ministries and begin to imagine how awesome it would be if we worked for another church. Guess what? Once in a while even the best speaker feels the same way. They see all the cracks in their organization too – just like you do. Ironically, good leaders always see the problems. You just see yours more clearly.
3. Poking holes in other people’s success stories. This is the flip side of trap #2. You can believe that some leaders live in a land of bliss, or you can become the cynic who discounts every other success story and comes up with a thousand reasons why they have met with more success than you have. Quite frankly, that’s just envy. And insecurity. And not from God. Just don’t go there. That kind of conversation doesn’t help anybody, not even you.
4. Skipping out. Somewhere on day two, we all get overwhelmed. It’s easy to skip out on sessions and you are on full overload and go for a coffee instead. I suppose if you paid for the conference fully out of your own pocket, you are free to do that. But if you didn’t, you kind of have a responsibility, don’t you? And althought it might be two or three days of intense learning, if you take good notes, you can really benefit from what you learned over a few days for years down the road.
5. Not thinking systems. Sure, we all get dozens of ideas at a conference. But they tend to come from a variety of sources and contexts. Most leaders operate within a consistent ‘model’ or ‘system’. When you hear multiple speakers, you are actually hearing mutiple models and multiple systems. While they are all ‘successful’, they are not all compatible. It’s work, but it’s a great idea to think through the assumptions and systems underneath each idea and then figure out how they integrate together and how they might integrate in your system. Otherwise it’s a bit like taking your MacBook in for repair and fixing it with parts from an iPad, an Android smart phone and a gaming system. They all work within their context, but put them together randomly in your computer and nothing might work.
These are some traps I’ve seen (and sometimes fallen into). What traps have you discovered?