Why conferences (and churches) should include facilitated conversation.

Business Discussion

I often hear of fantastic conferences I would love to attend – but most of them are overseas (I live in Perth, Australia, one of the most isolated cities in the world). I wouldn’t have the money or the time to attend these conferences (and besides, there’s no way my 4 year old and 6 year old would let me go without them!). I sometimes have the option of streaming the main sessions live, or purchasing videos of the keynote speakers – but to be honest, this doesn’t inspire me. I don’t just want to go for the speakers. Ultimately, I want to attend these conferences to meet like-minded people and interact with them. I find the most important time in these gatherings is not the lecture, but the coffee breaks, the conversations and the connections.

The greatest resource of any conference is not the speakers, but the attendees. Sure, the guest presenters are always dynamic, inspirational people with a great take-home message – but the real treasure is when you gather together multiple “regular folks” who share a heart for that message. These are the people who don’t just want to listen to lectures about the topic, but want to put it into action. These are the men and women with the motivation and manpower to make a difference in their unique neighbourhood and setting. Wouldn’t it be great to intentionally create spaces for them to interact, and network, and exchange ideas and information?

This is why I was so excited to read the information page for the upcoming Justice Conference Asia, to be held in Hong Kong 22-24th May. They have a great line-up of amazing speakers, including the widely-respected Shane Claiborne, but what caught my eye was the description of the “Practitioner Day” (a full day of facilitated conversation and interaction).

The Justice Conference is designed to inspire and energise the Justice community in Asia and for practitioners it is a critical time of refreshing, networking and sharing. However with so many interesting sessions to attend, like-minded people do not always find time to meet together to talk, discuss and engage over areas of common interest. This year we are offering an opportunity for practitioners to meet together for a whole day geared around their particular needs and interests. This will be held on Thursday May 22 before the main conference commences.

During this time we will be considering common areas of interest such as; issues and difficulties in the field; how to create a networking platform; sharing resources; and collaboration on new ideas and possible solutions. This time will be facilitated by Viva with minimal formal presentation time in order to give maximum opportunity for interaction and sharing.

I love this! The organizers of this event have seen the opportunity this conference presents. Amazing, talented people with a shared passion will be gathering together from across the world, and it would be tragic not to give them a voice and let them connect. Imagine what long-term impact may come out of this one day?

I think every conference should create spaces for facilitated interaction. I think every church should, too. God’s people are a network of believers called to love and support one another – providing structured opportunities for them to go deeper and have spiritual conversations together should be a major priority for every church community.

4 thoughts on “Why conferences (and churches) should include facilitated conversation.

  1. Pet peeve for me. I’m in healthcare and the conferences with speakers and Powerpoint are painful. Plus the literature is clear that the retention and implementation of concepts and practices from such conferences is negligible. You can find me in the hallways, restaurant or bar meeting and learning from my colleagues.

  2. Yes! Very true. For the Messy Church conference in 2016 we’re doing a lot of soul-searching about how to balance really great talks with really fun hands-on messy stuff and really spacious times for just chatting… We’ve decided the only way is to declare a 30 hour day for three days.

    • Hi Lucy, I’m sure the Messy Church Conference will be a heap of fun. I would love to come – if I wasn’t on the other side of the world. I know you’ll get the balance right between talking, listening, eating, and hands-on fun!


      – Kathleen

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