Children’s ministry conferences can be fundamental assets to anyone working with children in the church. Knowing how to get the most out of the trip is important, however, not only to maximize a ministry budget, but for the leader and their ministry as a whole. Here are some thoughts on how to get the most out of a children’s ministry conference, before you go.
Before You Go.
It is critical to decide which conference best suits your personal and ministry needs. Unlike when children’s ministry was first gaining a foothold in churches, there are now a multitude of options, ranging from the East Coast to the West Coast and from family ministry to children’s ministry. Evaluating your needs is an important step in the decision process. Numbering the following list from most important to you in your conference experience to least important may help you when making your selection:
___ Denominational affiliation
___ Ideology (Family Ministry/Children’s Ministry)
___ Length of conference
___ Networking opportunities
___ Skill development
___ Worship experience
Each conference may be stronger in some areas than others. Giving these categories some prayer and consideration and doing your research when selecting where to attend will help ensure you have an overall enjoyable experience.
Planning to attend a conference is not difficult, but it is always best to begin early. If the conference you want to attend is offered at a convention or conference center, chances are likely that there is a hotel connected to the same building or in the same vicinity. Planning, registering, and booking early will ensure that you get convenient accommodations, so that you will not have to walk five miles back to your hotel every day or arrange some type of transportation. Booking early also helps you to get a secured seat on a plane, should you need to fly to your destination.
Pack your bags.
What you should pack will be largely determined by the length of your stay, your mode of transportation, and how high or low maintenance you are (just being honest). Still, these items are indispensable when attending a conference.
- Note-taking Accessories. As expected, you will come away with loads of new thoughts and ideas. The best way to capture these is by taking notes in the lectures. How you want to do this is up to you, just make sure you arrive prepared to do so.
- Empty Space. Here is an important fact to remember about conferences: you will always bring home more than you took. Vendors will give you loads of merchandise to take home—pens, cups, balls, bags, fliers, and anything else you may purchase. Making sure there is empty space in your bags when you pack will allow you to fit in all the gadgets for the trip home.
- Business Cards. One of the greatest benefits to a conference is networking (more on this later). You will meet people who are “in the trenches” doing the same activities, lesson plans, games, and crazy ideas that you do. It’s not every day that you find someone else who values ping-pong balls, cardboard boxes, and other Minute-To-Win-It essentials. Having business cards on hand will allow you to stay in touch with those you meet and to continue sharing ideas and encouraging one another year-round.
- Personalized Address Labels. If you have already attended your first children’s ministry conference, chances are that you have learned this lesson the hard way. Most conferences have an expo with numerous vendors and publishing companies waiting to put resources into your hands. In fact, many give out prizes, such as free products, iPads, and Kindles just to get your contact information, so that you can get their awesome resources (talk about a win-win!). The only down-side to this is that you must fill out a contact information card for each vendor. This can be very time consuming, even torturous on your writing hand. Sticking pre-printed address labels on these information cards can be a huge time saver. Plus, it will help the vendors accurately read your information, if your handwriting looks like chicken scratch. When you print your address labels, be sure to include your name, position, church name, preferred mailing address, phone number, and email address. Any other additional information that a vendor may need can then be written on the card.
Tomorrow, I will be continuing with part 2 of this series- While You’re There. Have any other tips for conference goers to know before they go? Leave them in the comments or add to the discussion on social media.