I am not at a pastor’s conference. I am at home saving money and serving the Lord.
And judging pastors at pastor’s conferences.
I don’t like pastors’ conferences. This is not because I am opposed to them, I just don’t like them. Here are the main reasons why:
1) I make very little money. If I were to pay for a trip to a pastor’s conference, that would eliminate lots of money for my family’s use. If I’m going to pay for a trip, it will be for the family. “Wouldn’t your church pay for you to go?” See, here’s the thing: the reason I have little money is because my church has little money. They are paying me as much as they can. Me taking time off, which means dumping my kids on my wife while I’m off by myself, would be selfish at this point (and that is not a complaint, it’s a fact).
2) Free resources abound. Pretty much everything ever written or said about pastoring can be found for free or little cost. I take advantage of these resources, to the extent I already know what they’re going to say anyway.
3) I’m an introvert. The main reason pastors like attending these conferences is for the camaraderie and fellowship, two things I’d rather not do! I’m just one of those people who do not get energy from being with people. It drains me. Small group hugging time gives me shivers.
4) Professional Christianity nauseates me. Hobnobbing with cool pastors who all wear the same glasses just doesn’t gear me up. Networking and comparing notes just makes me not like the church more. Sorry. I know. I have a bad attitude. Guilty. I serve in a poor church with non-suburban people. I do not feel like I fit in cool conference atmospheres. Nor will most of the jargon shared be something that would work in my church anyway.
5) Oh, the singing we’ll do. The singing in Christianity is way too much. I like music. I like singing. I think good group singing is fantastic. But give it a rest already. I just can’t do it with the singing and the worship bands and the hand lifting and the mood manipulation stuff. Been doing this a long time. It’s not my preferred form of worship. It, in fact, tends to get in the way of a worshipful feeling for me. It makes me feel like smacking people. Yes, I know, I have a bad attitude. Guilty.
I’ll stop the list there.
My basic impression of conferences is that they are slick and smooth and professional productions designed to make you feel like something is happening when in reality you should probably be home talking to your people.
I know, pastors need breaks. They do, which is another reason why when I get a break I do not want to spend time listening to pastors whine about their churches. That would be reason #6 I don’t attend pastor conferences. Pastors compare notes and complain about stuff. I can complain on Twitter for free.
Conference speakers fill pastors with envy for better congregations, better responses, if only my church could be like that guy’s church (that would be reason #7). I already feel inadequate, I don’t need to spend several hundred dollars and two days having my and my church’s inadequacy drilled into me and making me feel like dropping my pathetic church for a cooler one.
Perhaps a day will come when there will be a Failing Pastors’ Conference. A conference for all the pastors that feel just like I do, because I know I’m not alone. A conference where non-cool pastors without cool glasses and cool facial hair can be taught from the Scripture about how to help people grow in Christ.
Which would be reason #8 I don’t attend pastor conferences: I really am not interested in the latest trends and philosophies of church growth and crowd manipulation. Give me some edification, some challenge, insight and instruction from Scripture. As a pastor, I’d much rather go to a conference where Galatians is exposited than hearing about the new model to copy to succeed at churching by a cool pastor two years away from being accused of molesting children, having an affair, being a jerk, or embezzling money.
In other words, a pastors’ conference where nothing about pastoring was talked about. A pastors’ conference where I was fed and edified spiritually. A conference that focused my mind on Christ and things above rather than on church statistics and fitting in with the larger American Evangelical culture.
Yeah, a pastors’ conference that few pastors would ever want to go to, that’s the one I’d make time and money for. Until then, I’ll be surfing the internet for free content and silently judging all you cool pastors and your cool conferences.
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
8 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like Pastors’ Conferences”
Hey FP love your stuff and read it often! I hear you on Pastors Conf’s …here is why I go to my denominational one pretty much every year…I have found that after about a decade of doing so I have developed meaningful friendships where 90% of our interaction happens just at that annual event. Probably only about 25% of the entire Church Pastors from our loop of about 280 Baptist Churches in Ontario attend. O boy do I hear ya on speakers I’d say 4 times out of 5 it’s celebrity Pastor of the week but once in a while they bring in a guy that really just brings us food! Im 56 now … in another 10 years or so some of those friendships I built may come in handy for “life after pastor”. If I really can’t take the speaker abuse , there are plenty of other things to do while I am there! One friend used to say ” If the speaker at Pastors conf is good it’s a bonus, if he is no good it’s a double bonus!
Apparently many pastors benefit from them, which is why they still have them I’m guessing! I am happy to hear you get benefit from them. I in no way recommend to everyone my approach to life in all aspects!
I’m not a pastor, and clearly out of my element commenting here, but building on Johns comment — maybe if you went to the conference and found one or two other Failure, you could use the occasion to establish your FPC-subconference. Take advantage of their planning and logistics (lodging, food) and do as much or as little as satisfies you.
A subversive marketing approach. I like it!
Good stuff! My main turn off to pastors meetings… it is like watching a group of wild turkeys in the middle of a field…. there is always two or three Toms strutting with there tail feathers out trying to impress the others. Puke!
The whole premise is usually that there are a couple guys who “have it figured out” that the rest of us losers are to copy. So there are the Strutters and then the gaggle following behind trying to emulate them.
Three years from when you posted this and I now find this so utterly relatable.
Earlier today, I was on social media & found out my pastoral team attended a leadership conference with all the fixings you described. Maybe it’s a bit of FOMO on my end (and some other underlying frustration). Technically, I’m also on the pastoral team, but I don’t take a salary from the church: I’m bivocational as a lay pastor for our church & a salaried, staff chaplain at one of our hospital systems.
With my schedule, I don’t have time for conferences that cut into half my work week. Ideologically, sometimes I perceive such conferences as “molly-coddling” & borderline-romanticizing suffering when I’m witnessing & partaking in it day in & day out; let alone, imagining the suffering of loved ones who have to say goodbye while grieving.
So to amend your initial statement: for the past 2 days, I was not at a pastor’s conference. I was at the hospital providing continuous crisis counseling with traumatized hospital staff, serving the Lord.
And for the past few minutes, I’ve been judging my fellow pastors at a pastor’s conferences.
Needed a place to write out my frustrations. Thanks for verbalizing what I think I’ve been struggling with for the past 2 hours. Ok I think I’m done.
I hear ya! Let it out and move on! Serve the people in front of you rather than worrying about gathering more.