Conferences and Collaboration

I am not sure how your first semester is going, but I trust you are looking forward to the upcoming holidays and a break from school. As leaders, we all need a break once in a while to recharge and refuel. We also need to take advantage of opportunities to connect with others in our industry around the country and world, educators who are trying to serve families by providing a great Christian education. This type of connection can be invaluable, not just for you personally, but for the industry as a whole.

This past summer and fall, I was reminded of the number of different conferences that connect those of us engaged in Christian education. I am so encouraged by conferences such as Engage: Policy, Law, and Christian School Conference in Washington DC at the Museum of the Bible put on by the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE); Best Practices Conference in Atlanta; the CESA Symposium; plus additional Head of School gatherings in Hong Kong and in Florida that created incredible opportunities for growth and learning from others. These conferences all featured leaders from various organizations to enhance the depth and quality of conversation. It was exciting to see the amount of collaboration that is taking place with a vision to grow and improve Christian education as a whole and within our specific schools.

I know that attending conferences can be difficult for a number of reasons: tight or absent budgets for professional development, jam-packed schedules, the time away from your home and family. These are all legitimate reasons why conferences are not pursued. However, attending conferences is one of the most important investments you can make in your school, personal professional development and spiritual life.

Conferences are incredibly valuable for a number of reasons. Most notably, they provide formal ongoing training. Presentations on topics that are relevant and essential for the work of Christian education are highlighted to help leaders in their current reality as well as prepare for the future. I recall my time in Christian higher education when I attended Chief Enrollment Officer conferences. Although there were times I felt overwhelmed by all that I needed to be know, I also learned to focus on a few specific ideas that I could adopt and implement to improve my campus and our processes and programs.

Aside from the formal training, I am more convinced than ever of the value of the informal gatherings that take place at these conferences. These gatherings are essential for us to grow our networks and develop deep relationships. These gatherings provide a great opportunity to building friendships and rub shoulders with people who truly understand the challenges we face in our work–challenges and stresses that no one else on our campus truly understands. Oftentimes we read that being a leader is incredibly lonely; connecting with people in similar positions is one way to combat this truth. Friendships with other leaders can challenge us to think differently about our work and provide a network of people with whom we can share ideas and ask questions based on other people’s experience, thoughts and context.

Most importantly, these relationships provide a safe place to share challenges, fears and frustrations as we work through the year. We recognize that we are not alone in our work and there are others who can rely on for support. Scripture calls us to share, support, walk with, bear each other’s burdens and encourage one another.

This past week I have been so encouraged to talk with school leaders who are investing and implementing exciting new ideas and strategies. It is exciting to hear of schools considering service in different areas or different contexts, as well as schools sharing resources and even creating events with other Christina schools that will serve students such as joint worship nights.

Collaboration can be defined as the “action of working with someone to produce or create something.” Collaboration is essential for Christian schools and all Christian ministries as there are learnings and expertise that we have and can share with one another. Christians should model what true collaboration looks like as we all have the same mission given to us. I have shared a lot of reasons why these gatherings are so important for you as a Christian school leader, but it is just as important for you to invest in your brothers and sisters.

As you build your schedule for 2020, consider what conferences you should attend. The experience and value you will receive is well worth the cost and time for both you and the school you serve.

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