Conference Rhythms

Last night as I packed for Following Christ 08, I reflected upon how conference preparation can suddenly turn from a marathon to a sprint.  No doubt the race to the finish begins at different times for each of us based upon the complexity of travel plans, conference responsibilities, family size, past history at similar events, personality, support community/friends on site (and back home), etc.  And varies from conference to conference, based upon the above factors and our current state of being (i.e., heart, soul, mind, and strength).

In order for my wife and I to both serve as members of Following Christ’s intercessory prayer team, we’ve spent months ironing out travel details.  The most complicated involved arranging the best possible airline scenerio for flying with our six month old and accommodating our other three kids while we’re gone.  Several days ago we started focusing upon care-giver confirmations (along with notes of instruction), laundry, packing, wrapping up our simple Christmas plans, and year end tasks.

How does one maintain a proper conference rhythm?  A couple starter thoughts, please share some from your perspective as a participant, planner, speaker, etc. …

  1. What a blessing to have InterVarsity’s Black Student Leadership Conference, Following Christ 08, National Staff Conference, and Urbana Student Missions Convention as one year closes and a new one dawns.  Why?  Because they’re preceded by Advent/Christmas and the conferences remind delegates to live every day in the Reality of the Person, Work, and Kingdom of Jesus the Christ.   But no matter the time of year or the direction of the conference (sacred, secular, or a mix of the two), I begin by offering the conference and my participation to God the Father as an act of worship.  In prayer, I seek the direction of His Word, Spirit, and people as I prepare, participate, and take next steps.
  2. Recognizing the significant energy expenditure of the upcoming conference, I’m scheduling some time for rest before, during, at, and afterward.
  3. I’m praying through my travel and conference schedule to discern must attend versus optional sessions/activities so that I don’t overdo it.  Why?  My wife and daughter are coming with me and cannot become dwarfed by attractive optional sessions/activities.  In addition, it has been my conference experience to spend significant time picking up unfinished conversations left from previous conferences and communications.  As such, I’m arranging must have appointments ahead of time and scheduling open blocks of time for picking up these conversations.
  4. I’m packing some material which I find restful and/or stress reducing, particularly for the delays which I anticipate and praise God for when He answers my prayers to have them pass over me.   Where’s my stress ball to go along with my book, letters to read/respond to, and magazine?
  5. Before my feet touch the floor at 3:45 am on 12/27 to begin travel, I’ll offer the day to the Lord and ask for his palpable Presence each step of the way throughout conversations, meals, and presentations.  I’ll do such each day of the conference and wrap-up each day offering all that has gone before to Him and asking forgiveness for when I have not followed His way, i.e., sinned.
  6. I ask friends and family to pray for me while I’m at these unique and challenging settings which offer novel possibilities for both growth and temptation.  If you’re joining us at Following Christ 08, I’d encourage you to do likewise.  In addition, I’d encourage you to set aside time to visit the prayer room and receive prayer (information will be available on-site).

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.  —
Psalm 118:24

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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