It’s hard to believe but a month from today we’ll be starting the Epic Fail Pastors Conference.
The closer we get, the more excited I become – and the more scared I get. I sense this will be significant in the lives of pastors and leaders (including my own). And all sorts of questions are stirred up in me. The primary one, ironically enough: “What if this conference fails?” It seems, in the most paradoxical way, this is a conference that I need just as much as others.
I continue to feel that this is scratching an itch than is much larger than I imagined – evidenced by the fact that it was featured on the front page of the religion section of the Huffington Post last week.
A couple of things that might be helpful to know:
- We’ve just nailed down the speakers, the schedule and the creative elements of the event. I am so excited about this as we’re going to be trying some things that are different (and may fail) but ones that we believe will lend itself to a rich and meaningful time together. [Here’s a picture of us during a brainstorming session last week – taken by Jason Sheffield, director of the Epic Fail Pastors Conference.]
- I’m excited for the variety of topics that will be addressed. They include: a former successful youth pastor telling his story of how we felt God was calling him to plant a church to now working at Target shocking shelves. Someone talking on the idea of the obscurity of the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. Someone from Canada sharing how they wonder if their church will even make it and wonder if he might have to shuts its doors in the future. Someone sharing research on pastors who fail for amoral reasons. Someone else sharing on the difference between the ministry of Jeremiah and Jonah. A sociologist who is not a believer who shares about what it means to handle failure, shame, worth, identity and personhood in a way that is healthy and with our whole hearts.
- We’re also anticipating communion and our times of worship to be rich.
- We do have two well-known individuals coming in to share at the event. Two of our Experts on Failure are recognizable in the Christian community (but we’re not releasing their names publicly so as to eliminate any temptation for people to come simple because some cool people will be attending). They are invited not because they are ‘successful’ but because they have wrestled deeply with this idea of a theology of failure and how it impacts the mindset of pastors and leaders. And I cannot wait for them to share what’s been on their hearts so heavily about this topic.
- So far, from those who have registered, more than half of them are not from the East Coast. We though this would be more regional, but we are finding that people all over the country will be attending. We mentioned it before, but we we even have someone flying from Australia to attend the event.
- We’ll have counselors/spiritual directors available throughout the conference for people who need prayer or someone to listen to them. We sense that this won’t be a time to come home with a bunch of theoretical material on church models, but working through some deeper issues of identity and how the Gospel interacts with our identity.
- The conference will be unrushed with lots of space for conversation and processing. I’m excited about Friday night dinner: people will get a chance to pick a local restaurant with one of the Experts on Failure whose topic they connected with and would like to go further in conversation. We’re hoping for fruitful groups of conversation in restaurants all around town.
- With each person that registers for the conference we are sending them a follow-up email letting them know about their homework assignment (yes, there is homework). It’s two parts: (1) to meditate on 2 Corinthians 4 and (2) to read (or re-read) Henri Nouwen’s classic little book In The Name of Jesus. We believe that coming to the event with our hearts prepared and ready will make our time that much more meaningful.
- We’ve had publishers and organizations contact us about putting free materials and merchandise into goody bags. We’ve politely declined. We’re not interested in goody bags at this conference. We’re interested in honesty in a way that isn’t branded and is free from advertisement (though those materials may be good and beneficial).
Two things to note regarding the title of the conference:
First, even though its called Epic Fail Pastors Conference we’re not here to celebrate failure. The goal is that we avoid celebrating success, for sure. But what we’re after is celebrating faithfulness – regardless of the results. And that’s the hope of it all. The title is catchy. Plus, Epic Faithfulness Pastors Conference just doesn’t have a ring to it…
Secondly, its called Epic Fail Pastors Conference but its not just for pastors. It’s for pastors. And leaders. And lay leaders. And ordinary people. And former pastors. And failed leaders. And ex-church planters. And people feeling obscure and anonymous. The only rule we have is that no perfect people are allowed to attend. The majority of the emphasis will relate most to pastors, but we don’t want anyone to think that if you’re not a pastor you are not invited. You are. If something stirred you as you heard about this idea or as you read about the event, you should be here. Seriously. We’d love to have you.
And we’re still hoping for more people…
So, pastors, leaders, lay people, failed church planters, former pastors, former leaders and all you imperfect people out there: have you signed up yet? Do you know others who need to be at this event? Have you let them know about it?
If not, do it now.