Developing a Conference Program During a Pandemic
Six months ago, I would have laughed at you if you had told me I would be helping to put together a national conference for church leaders and volunteers. I would have laughed even harder if you had said there would be a pandemic in the midst of my endeavors. Yet, here I am, trying to do just that, and it has been an amazing journey.
As someone who worked in professional theatre and who participated in church worship/production teams for many years, I have a broad understanding of what it takes to put together a worship service that provides minimal distractions while trying to stay within budget. Therefore, when I first started this job at the end of February, I jumped in with abandon, researching who the experts are in the world of church production, facilities management and leadership. The world was so exciting as I began reaching out to people, telling them about this amazing opportunity and asking them to be a part of everything. And at first, things were going so well! People were responding, and sessions were begin submitted for review. The world was my oyster, and I was enjoying every moment of it!
Then these conversations started slowly popping up about this strange virus that was causing so much trouble in China. Like many people, I figured I should be concerned about COVID-19, but I didn’t think it would affect too much of anything here in the U.S. I’m usually right when planning for outcomes, but this was a BIG miss on my part! I had absolutely no idea the entire world would go on lockdown at all, let alone for as long as we’ve been quarantined!
So, what did that mean for me in my new job? It meant that a lot of people I needed to connect with were suddenly consumed with personal survival and with helping those they served to survive. Communications went from steady to almost complete silence in a matter of moments. After a few weeks of this extremely limited contact with anyone I was trying to connect with, all while my deadlines were quickly approaching, I began to fear that there was absolutely no way I was going to have a program to announce when registration opens in June.
And then my job changed a bit in the midst of everything. As an organization, we recognized that people were craving education now, and we realized that we could help provide that education on a more frequent basis than just a few times a year at live events. This led us to start creating monthly podcasts, newsletters and now webinars, all with the goal of helping people get the information they want, especially during a time when they can’t go out and get it themselves. This meant that I not only needed to find people to speak at our conference, but I also now needed to figure out what the topics are that people want more information on, and I need to help find people to present their expertise on these topics in these new formats. It’s been very gratifying to know that I’m part of providing these educational opportunities for churches!
I’m finding now, as certain areas are beginning to slowly reopen, people have begun to start thinking about the future again. Yes, there are still people who are unable or unwilling to participate in September due to limited finances or the unknowns of what things will look like then, but it’s encouraging to see things slowly start to move again. Sessions are being submitted more frequently, and we finally have a program starting to take shape. Webinars are being scheduled, podcast guests are being confirmed, and our newsletters are proving to be great ways to connect and get educated.
All along, I have been working to find the right people to provide a well-rounded list of topics that cover many different areas within the three tracks that CFX focuses on—all with the overarching goal of providing experts to educate church leaders and volunteers so they can be better equipped to further the Kingdom of God. This means that I’m looking for topics that help churches be more successful in communicating their worship in ways that modern technology and systems can provide. If there are ways to think about things differently, or understand how to use the equipment and fixtures that people already have or need, that’s my goal. If people are looking for ways to better understand how to interact with others in their churches, I’ll find someone who can speak to that. And ultimately, if we can provide a platform for the Church to be more connected and educated so we can be our best for the glory of God, then that’s what we aim to do.