Over the years as a pastor I have gone to many pastoral conferences and seminars. Earlier in my career I found many of them to be helpful and interesting, but as time went by, this was less true. It seemed that the practical truths and benefits were more difficult to find and hidden within a sea of miscellaneous ideas that were either unrelated to my church situation or were things we had been doing for years.
The national organization of our denomination – The Evangelical Free Church of America – has national conferences that are extremely good. There are many break-out sessions of great value. But I’ve never found anything as helpful and practically beneficial as an affinity group that has been put together also by the EFCA – called Team 500. It is for lead pastors of churches with 500-1,000 people in their ministry (there is another group called “The K Club” which is for churches of over 1,000 people).
Over the past eight years, I have attended this on six occasions. As I write this, I am sitting in the session this year at First Evangelical Free Church of Austin, Texas. Right now they are talking about church governance and how to change structures … as they are mostly talking about changing in a direction like we already have and have possessed from the beginning. So I can listen and write at the same time!But there are so many topics over these years that I have found to be helpful, and that is true again this year. But beyond that, this is the best group of guys I’ve ever known in ministry; I love these men and we are warriors in the conflict at the same time and in the same sorts of battles with all of the similar issues that we confront in this age and culture. One of the guys here and I think so much alike and have had so many of the same experiences, that I began to wonder if we were separated at birth. I knew he was of a similar age, so I asked him exactly when he was born … and it turns out that I am one day older than him!