Pastors need days away from the pressures of ministry in the churches they lead. We need each other, new scenery, good friends, encouragement, r&r, and the whole host of other things which conferences give us. Residential conferences in the course of ministry are a gift from heaven to the church’s leaders.
Not all church leaders can get away, of course. Bi-vocational ministries, home-life demands and other factors mean that leaders sometimes just cannot get away. These men deserve our extra support. They should be the exception, though. Most pastors should be getting away.
We must stop seeing conferences as a luxury, but as an essential pitstop for a successful ministry.
Pastors need each other. Too often, our meetings are short and time-pressured. A good residential conference is the perfect time for really catching up and investing in and being blessed by friends.
Here are seven reasons why conferences are so necessary:
Preachers need to hear
Ministry which is received, not given. Pastors need to hear preachers. Sermon downloads are great, but real live and gifted preachers are essential. Pastors need to feed on the word, not just give it to others. Conferences are perfect for this.
Ministering to people involves hard mental work and plenty of creative energy in bringing a fresh word to the pulpit, week in, week out. How easy it is to get stuck in a rut, recycling the same sorts of ideas.
Pastors need stimulation, for their pulpits as well as for the many different aspects of ministry. Conferences can be rich in new ideas for us.
Space to breathe again
Ministry can sometimes be short on oxygen. The pace of the work, its difficulties and heartbreaks, the loneliness of it at times, the pain of pastoral situations – all of this can leave us gasping for air. Conferences bring a necessary distance for a few days from our pressures. We breathe, and we regain strength and perspective.
Food and sleep
Conferences are time for lots of each. Sometimes what we need most in the world is eight hours sleep after an unhurried meal with friends. Conferences are for rest and recuperation. Extra helpings of food and sleep were the Lord’s gift to Elijah, and they are for exhausted pastors, too.
Books are ministry fuel. Without the stimulation of books, ministries become predictable, dry and dull. Books stretch us, and refuel our ministries. Pastors should always go to conference with some amount of money from the church to buy a book or two which will help them to preach and pastor better.
Conferences are places to tease and be teased. They are times for laughing at innocent, silly things. Ministry can be stressful in the extreme, and pastors struggle to find helpful pressure-valves from the stress. Laughter matters, and conferences should have a good degree of plain-old silliness thrown into the ingredients.
We all need space to pray, and stimulation to pray. Conferences are great places to rediscover an appetite for prayer, alone as well as with others.
So, is your pastor going to a couple of residential conferences a year? Is he supported by your church to do this, and is the church enthusiastic about his going? They should be – and so should he. Everyone will be the richer for it.