Just got back from the first day of the conference proper which was excellent. One thing I love about the Willow conferences is that you get such a variety of speakers, from church leaders to business leaders to politicians to rock stars! Well today was no exception with four very different speakers.
First up was Bill Hybels on 'Vision to Die For'. All about the importance of vision, and that the vision must not just live with the leader but must be owned by the people, such that if necessary they would be willing to die for it. He challenged churches to ask themselves "What does God want our church to look like 5 years from now" and to take the church through a process of asking ourselves that question, such that everyone owns the vision. Very relevant for us and an exercise I'd like to kick off once we've all had a chance to see this talk at the DVD summit in Bracknell (if you're not going to be there at the end of the September then why not!).
Second up was an interview with Carly Fiorina. She was the CEO of HP, until she was sacked by the board, and at that time was the first woman CEO of one of the top 20 US companies. She spoke very candidly about her whole life journey, from the impact her parents had on her to how it feels to be publicly branded a failure. Lots of stuff about overcoming our fears in order to get into all that God has for us. One other quote I loved from her reflecting on her experience of being sacked - "There is a gift in everything if you can only see it". Very Romans 8:28. I really hope this is chosen as one of the sessions at the DVD Summit (only 8 of the 10 talks we see here make it to the DVD event) as I think it will speak to all sorts of people. She was also very good on women in leadership.
After lunch we had Rev. Floyd Flake who leads a big church in New York which is heavily into urban regeneration; running schools, building retirement homes, helping people to buy their own homes and getting involved politically. He spoke about identifying the problems in society and then becoming part of the solution, persevering even though people will oppose you along the way. Really made me think about what we are beginning to see with Kerith in the Community, reaching out to unchurched people through the respite clubs that we're running over the summer, through Christian's Against Poverty, through Lee's schools involvement and through Oakwood. There's so much potential there for us to have huge impact. Floyd said that the estate agents in his area now put in the details for houses they are selling how close they are to his church as the impact of the church on its neighbourhood is seen that clearly.
Finally a talk from Marcus Buckingham, an Englishman who used to work for Gallup (the market research organisation), and who invented the StrengthsFinder tests which we first came across when we went to Mosaic (Erwin McManus's church in LA) and quite a number of people in the church have now taken. The basic message is that most of us think that to succeed we need to grow in our areas of weakness, whereas what we really need to do is to grow and concentrate on our strengths. For me the whole StrengthsFinder thing has been so helpful, showing me what I'm good at and helping me to build around my strengths and manage my weaknesses. If you haven't done it before then I'd encourage you to get a copy of the StrengthsFinder book and do the online test. You should then get much more out of this session at the conference in September. If you do the test then I'd love you to email me your results, as we're building up a spreadsheet at church of all the people who have taken the test.
So a great day, no tornadoes and a real expectancy about tomorrow. Hope you found all this helpful (why not leave a comment if you did!), book into the DVD version of the conference if you haven't already and I'll see you again tomorrow for an update on day 2.
Well done for getting all the way to the end!