Leadership Lessons Learned from a First-Time Church Conference Manager

by | Leadership

By Stephanie Lippi

In January of 2020, Church Facilities Conference & Expo became a real organization with the goal to help churches grow their ministries by providing educational opportunities and practical resources in the areas of Leadership & Management, Facilities & Operations, and Production Technology through an annual conference.

I joined the small team as the Conference Manager in February of 2020, filled with excitement and nerves because I had never planned such a large event before. Then, almost immediately, the world shut down, and we realized we needed to do something right then to help churches. So, we started providing educational articles, case studies, product news, webinars, and we launched a podcast. None of us really knew what we were doing with these online resources, but we quickly realized that they were serving a need, so we dove in and got the education we needed to do it better.

What does all this have to do with you in your role at your church? A lot. The lessons I’ve learned over the past 19 months can hopefully provide you with some insight that can help lessen the strains of doing ministry.

Lesson 1: Impossible Tasks Can Become Great Accomplishments with the Right Focus

When our General Manager, Ron Procopio, reached out to ask me to be the Conference Manager for this new show he was helping to build, I literally laughed out loud. You see, I’d helped to plan smaller events (i.e. nonprofit fundraisers and an opening launch gala, wedding day coordinations, theatre projects for lighting crew and design teams, etc.). I had an understanding of what went into planning an event. And yet, I thought there was absolutely no way I had the ability to do something on such a large scale as a national conference.

However, I leaned into God, I prayed (a LOT), I sought wise counsel, and I asked Ron a lot of questions. Every single answer he gave me was the answer I was looking for, so I agreed to take on this impossible task.

Let me share a little tidbit with you about myself: I am a very shy person by nature, and I hate cold calling people I don’t know. On the other hand, I love building relationships with people and caring for them in any way I can. Since one of the largest parts of my job is to reach out to people I don’t know in order to see if they would be a good fit as a speaker, writer, or podcast or webinar guest, I was understandably nervous about this major part of my new role.

As I continued to lean into God and seek His wisdom, I began to find that it really wasn’t as challenging or scary as I thought it would be. I discovered a whole network of amazing people who love the Lord and are passionate about sharing their wealth of knowledge with churches to help minimize the pain points we all experience. And relationships have been built that further solidify our goal of furthering Kingdom work.

Now that our first conference is over, I’ve had a chance to meet in person these amazing speakers, and they are just as genuine and authentic in real life as they are on paper or on screen. This task that I thought was a mountain I would never climb actually ended up being an exciting and fun adventure over a well-kept trail. It’s that whole perspective thing: when looking out over a mountain range, you really can’t tell how close or high those mountains are until you’re right up next to them. Then you realize the journey isn’t as insane as you fear it will be from first glance—but this is only really evident when your eyes are fixed on God and the path that He’s set before you.

So, that impossible task that your pastor or elder board has set before you? Take a moment, breathe, pray unceasingly, and then keep your focus on God. You’ll likely see the mountain turn into a journey that is pleasant and not as difficult as you first feared.

Lesson 2: Understanding Your Audience is Vital to Providing What They Actually Need

Having been in church my whole life, I’m no stranger to the challenges churches face in the different ministry opportunities available. I also know the joys of serving in various ministries and how the aspect of community is vital to any church body.

Occasionally in this role, I’ve interacted with a company that sees how they can help churches grow, but in my conversations with them, I realize they don’t truly understand how churches work. As they share their challenges, it’s easy to me to see why they’ve struggled to enter the church world because they don’t have any experience with attending or serving in a church. They only know their specialty, and they struggle to relate it to churches.

One of the things I love about searching for speakers and content providers is that I can see how a company like the one mentioned above really does have an amazing opportunity to educate churches in an area where they’re currently lacking. And because I also know churches, I can help them better understand this new world so that they can provide new opportunities for ministries to grow. Bonus—helping them learn how to work with churches introduces them to a whole new world of Truth that they may not have experienced before. It’s a win-win in my book!

What does this look like for you? Let’s go back to that impossible task that’s been set before you. Do you know what the end goal needs to be? If so, list out the steps required to help you get there. Was one of those steps “Understand your audience”? If not, you need to add that somewhere near the top.

Without truly understanding what your community or congregation needs, how will you be able to create a program or ministry or service to them that actually meets their needs? Seek the Lord and pray, yes, but make sure you also ask around—don’t just assume you know. Set up some interviews with people to discuss ideas with them and hear what they have to say.

And also be sure to listen to what they’re not saying. Sometimes that speaks louder than their actual words. Sometimes people are scared to share what they actually think or feel because they’ve been burned in the past by people who misunderstood them. Ask the Lord for discernment to hear the unspoken needs.

While there are other things I could share with you that I’ve learned in this job, they all boil down to these 2 lessons: Keep Your Focus on God, and Understand Your Audience. In all reality, this is just another way of following Jesus’ teaching of the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, and your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

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