Here we are at the beginning of another school year which also signals the beginning of the fall conference season. It seems that now would be a good time to consider how to get the most out of the conference, or conferences that you may attend. Since this is a Prepare for Impact blog post we will begin with saying that step one is to do some preparation before the conference actually starts.
This may seem obvious but so many of us forget to really spend time here. Prayer prepares our hearts and minds for what God may be wanting to say to us. It is a critical weapon in the area of spiritual warfare which always accompanies steps toward more kingdom involvement. Prayer is also important for the event itself, that God would be glorified through everything that happens.
Contact the mission’s leadership at your home church.
If you are considering getting involved in global work, it is important that your sending fellowship is with you 100%. Find out if they have agencies that they already partner with or ones that they would prefer not to partner with. This will save you time and energy when you do get to the conference. Have them be praying with you as you go, that God would give you discernment.
Query missionaries that you know.
Find out how they feel about where they are, what they do and what agency they are with. This will help guide you to which agencies to connect with and also help you consider what you might do and where you might go.
Do some self-assessment.
Take some time thinking about who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and what things have led you to this point in life. What are you bringing to the “game?” What experience do you have that may apply to kingdom work (actually, it all does but it is good to think through what you have done anyway). Do you work best leading or following? Would you prefer to work on your own or as part of a team? Do you like to be the starter of something or join a work that is already in progress?
Predetermine what questions you should ask.
Spend some time writing out questions that will help you gain the information that you need. This may take you some time but if you have done the previous four things you should have a good grasp of what you want to know.
Now that you have prepared to go, how should you spend your time when you are at the conference?
Keep an open mind.
Chances are you may not find exactly what you are hoping or expecting to find. You will hear and understand more if you keep your mind open to what God has to say through the people you connect with.
Be focused in your listening. Ask the questions you have planned to ask and others that come to mind as you listen to the answers given. Take notes or brochures to help you remember what was said. Don’t get side-tracked in conversations that aren’t going anywhere. Once you ascertain that an agency isn’t a good fit for you, politely move on to another display.
Consider your fit with an agency.
Fit with an agency is more important than where you will go or what you will do. An agency’s mission, philosophy, strategy and values need to be a close match to yours. What you do and where you are may change. It is nice if you don’t also have to go through an agency change.
Give them a way to contact you.
Either leave your contact information with representatives from the agencies you are interested in, or make sure you have their contact info. If you leave your information, be ready for lots of communication from them.
Attend plenary and breakout sessions.
Pick ones that relate to what God is leading you toward. Use your time as wisely as you can. It may be a better use of time to talk to representatives during a plenary if the speaker or topic doesn’t really relate to you.
Connect with others that are in the same place along the path as you are. Usually lunches and break times are good for opportunities for that. Community makes the journey more productive and more enjoyable. Exchange contact information and stay in touch.
Once the conference is over and you are back at home, take time to review and plan next steps.
Once again ask God to direct you as you debrief your time at the conference.
Review the material you collected.
Go through the brochures you have and remind yourself of the agencies that seemed to be fits for you. Go to their websites and investigate them further. Contact the representatives from those agencies and ask follow-up questions.
Take time to debrief with mission leadership personnel at your church or school. Also share what you are thinking with friends and family. Wisdom often comes from those who know you best.
Plan your next steps.
Outline what is next for you. Maybe it is to complete some orientations that agencies offer. Maybe your next step is to consider a vision trip to a country. Perhaps beginning the application process with an agency is next. Whatever the next step, commit to get it done in a timely way. Set yourself a deadline and then share that with friends and family.
Conferences can be a great resource for helping you find your way in global kingdom work. Make the best of the opportunities you have!