I usually attend a couple of church conferences a year for my growth and encouragement. Recently, a conference I was interested in gave an April Fools' Special. For that day only, it was free. And it wasn't a joke. So - with only needing to pay travel costs, I signed four of us up to go (our Senior Leadership Team).
We went this past Monday and Tuesday. Monday night the four of us sat in Starbucks for a couple of hours and talked. We shared our biggest take-away from the day (a habit we have at conferences).
When it came to me, I realized that the biggest take-aways were two conversations I had with consultants. And with one of them, it was about our church. The other one was about me.
Here's the story:
I was in a pre-conference and asked a question. During a break, a man sitting right in front of me turned around and said, "The question you asked - I can give you a lot of information on that."
OK - open transparency here... this is how sinful I am. I immediately thought, "Who do you think you are? I asked the speaker, not you. He's the instructor and specialist." Of course, I didn't say it. I can get too easily annoyed at people who raise their hand during meetings to share their wisdom, when the rest of us want to hear from the speaker we signed up to hear. I'm not proud of that... just being honest here.
So when he made his statement, I said, "Great" (in spite of my normal thoughts). And then I looked at his name tag. It was - Warren Bird. Warren Bird!! (I know that name might not mean much to you.)
Warren Bird is the leader of the Leadership Network. Every pastor I know is familiar with the Leadership Network. Warren is one of the best known church leaders in the nation and has written more books than some may read in a lifetime. He is a specialist in growing churches and multi-site churches. I had talked to him on the phone years before to get advice on multi-site, but I'd never met him (or seen him).
And he began asking a lot of questions about Northridge Church. Frankly, it is rare that a consultant asks as many questions as he did (and we weren't paying him). He was truly interested in Northridge, our story, and me. To make a long story short - he ended up eating lunch with the four of us to ask him about multi-site. But during that break, he focused on me and how I'm doing. After he learned about Northridge Church and recent growth - he made this statement - which is still the biggest takeaway I've had from the two-day conference:
The level of pain you are willing to endure in leadership will be in direct relationship to the growth God is willing to give to your church.
He shared that most people believe that the larger a church gets - the easier it gets for the leader. But he said that isn't true, for the most part. The larger a church gets, the more criticism and doubt can often come to the leader.
It is embarrassing to admit, but as we talked, I started to tear up. I cry easily anyway, but never in the middle of a one-on-one conversation at a conference with a nationally known consultant. It was kind of embarrassing. But it was very helpful for me.