Throughout InterVarsity's history, conferences have been one of our most effective ways of exploring the intersection between race, ethnicity and the Christian faith.
Just this month, InterVarsity's ministry to Latino students (LaFe) saw over 350 students attend Encuentro15 in California. Hundreds of students have registered for BCM15, a national conference for Black students. And, on top of all this, InterVarsity Staff from around the country will gather for Multiethnic Staff Conference 2015 (MESC15) to explore "Reconciliation in Mission."
a special potential
if we don't waste them
Conferences happen all the time. But they're different enough from our day-to-day experiences that they have a special potential to transform us ... if we don't waste them.
Here are three ideas that will help you get more out of the conferences you attend.
1) Make friends and follow up with them
Conferences take you out of your day-to-day context and mix you together with people who you don't get to see every day. For a few hours or days, you share a common space. And that space is a space where God is at work.
What could God do with the friendships you form at these conferences?
Over the years we've seen friendships formed at conferences give birth to new student movements on unreached campuses, meaningful prayer partnerships and ongoing opportunities for transformation and growth. And, as if that wasn't enough, we've seen these friendships bring great joy.
Try this during your next conference: pray that God would help you make a new friend. Does that sound too simple?
So often we come to conferences with a group from our campus or our team. We hang out with the people with which we already feel comfortable. And we waste opportunities.
The simple act of expectant prayer can open us up to the new relationships that God wants to give us through these conferences.
When you meet someone new, get to know them but also ask some conference-related questions that will give you space to follow up.
- How's the conference going for you?
- What's God teaching you? What are you learning?
- What do you think you want to take back with you from the conference?
Make an effort to get contact information and friend them on Facebook. After the conference send them a text, an email or a Facebook message. Who knows what God will do with this new connection?
2) Make an immediate effort to share and do
How many of you have ever made commitments to God at a conference? You come forward. You raise your hand. You break a glowstick. You've learned something about God and God's world and you're going to follow Jesus into his mission and live a transformed life from this day forward. You leave the conference with momentum.
A few months later, all that momentum is gone.
We've all experienced this. It's not just you. But it doesn't have to be like this.
Over the years, we've discovered that immediate effort after a conference to share about your commitments and act on them dramatically impacts people's post-conference momentum.
The simple act of
sharing keeps us from losing momentum
- What did you learn?
- What did you God do in you?
- What did you commit to doing?
- Who can you share that with?
The simple act of sharing keeps us from losing momentum. Sharing makes you more likely to remember. It forces you to revisit the conference after the conference is over. And, sometimes, it even provides you with accountability, as the people with whom you share may be able to help you remember and act on what you learned and committed to doing.
- What did you commit to doing?
- How can you start your commitment?
- Who do you need to ask for help?
There was a British preacher, years ago, who said that "Delayed obedience is disobedience." We believe that God is not afraid to call us at these conferences to take big risks for him and to fill us with the courage to obey. But something happens to us when we delay. Our courage falters. We discover excuses to take easier pathways. We forget our commitments.
Making an immediate effort makes a big difference. Will you give it a try?
3) Make time to reflect and review
When you go to a conference, you carve space out of your calendar. You set the time aside and God uses it. What would happen if we carved out time to reflect and review after the conference is over?
Here are four benefits that come with making time to reflect and review after a conference is over:
- Deeper understanding: C'mon. You know you didn't get it all the first time. You may not even realize there were things from the conference you didn't understand until you've gone through and reviewed your notes and the conference materials. Don't leave meat on the bone.
- Richer memory: If you don't remember, you'll forget. Circling back to your conference experience a week, a month or even a year later will keep things fresh for you.
- Broader impact: Reviewing conference material is like going back to a restaurant over and over again and exploring all that the menu has to offer. While you were at the conference, you may have only had room to enjoy only one entrée. Who knows what you'll discover on subsequent visits.
- Quicker recovery: Both introverts and extroverts can benefit from the review process. The quiet can fill the introvert's tanks. The memory of time with friends can protect the extrovert from the full post-conference crash.
What does it look like to make time to reflect and review? Mark 30 minutes or an hour in your calendar. Treat it like an appointment with a friend or mentor. Bring conference materials, notes and your journal with you. Reflect on the conference (use the SHARE and DO points above if you need help).
Don't waste your conference experience!
What practices help you get more out of your conference experiences? Share them below.