I’ve been at Fresh Streams annual conference this week where the theme was ‘Developing leaders, developing leadership’. Danielle Strickland was booked as the main speaker but had to withdraw and so a different person spoke at each main session. Roy Searle and Chris Duffett are well known in UK Baptist life; Ali Summers is on the staff of Rising Brook Baptist Church, Stafford; Eddie Lyle works for Open Doors and Roy Godwin leads a network of Houses of Prayer. The variety of speakers works well and is something conferences might do more often, rather than bring in ‘names’. Nicole Brown led us in times of worship.
For me the main benefit of going is the opportunity to think about vision in church life, my own growth and be open to fresh direction. It is an affirming and encouraging event rather than somewhere to learn lots of new things; somewhere to be empowered rather than exercised. And, as someone who is a charismatic at heart, I enjoy being in an environment which values this without worrying about incorporating other things or feeling the need to appeal to a broader Baptist constituency. [There are other places, notably the Union’s annual assembly, which rightly do this].
I enjoyed some helpful conversations with other church leaders who have worked to create missional communities. I’ve been attracted to the idea but felt that that the wholesale changes required were not right for us as a church. However, all these church leaders had used the MC’s to create new things, adjusting rather than stopping their existing programmes. This more creative approach is something that could work here and create a flexible framework for us to do some of the things that we would like to develop.
So if it’s a good event what would make it a great one?
1. Tighter Seminars. The best ones include 30 mins of high quality input to get to the heart of issues quickly and ensure that discussion gives people ‘take aways’ even if there are not clear conclusions.
2. Structured interaction around topics of interest. Each year people ask loads of questions about topics which others think of as old hat. Some structured opportunities to share experiences and ask questions might help lots of people think about new ways of doing things in their context.
3. Bible. Having a theology track has been a great addition over the last couple of years. But, while every speaker made use of Scripture in their talk, overall there was little detailed interaction with the Biblical text.
Overall it is a good event but a few tweaks would help give it greater impact in enabling people to take ideas and use them in the local church.