Several of us on the ACWM team just returned from the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum in Nashville, and we all had an amazing time! As I meditate on all I learned last week, I feel overwhelmed with joy over the experience. We each encountered God in a fresh, meaningful way. How I wish all women could attend such a conference!
So this morning, let me encourage you to consider the benefits of attending a retreat or conference – aside from the fact that it’s just plain fun! While I have heard a few women indicate that such a thing is not for them (because they are not a leader, because its not their personality, because they can’t afford it, etc.), I believe every woman who loves the Lord would benefit from attending, and here is why.
1. Comfort Zones: New experiences make us braver. As believers, getting uncomfortable stretches us and makes us better people. Every Bible character we read about had to do something that required courage in order to build their faith. Leaving home for a new adventure, sleeping in a new place, driving in a strange town, talking with multiple strangers – it pushes us to be brave and resourceful.
During our trip to Nashville, I knew I would have to do a lot of driving. I have never liked driving in places I have never been because it’s stressful and scary. I wasn’t looking forward to that part of the trip, but after traveling through several highways over Kentucky and Tennessee, I came home with a sense of pride and accomplishment, because I did something I had never done before!
2. We get a fresh perspective on the same old thing. While we like routine in our lives, it can become monotonous, and we often don’t realize that life has grown stagnant. Speakers we don’t normally listen to can put a new spin on the truth and help us see it from a more meaningful viewpoint. A simple change in perspective may be all we need to hear God better.
I’ve read Joshua chapter 1 many times, but this past week, it got real personal. As the speaker reviewed with us the value of returning home determined to tackle our calling with joy and passion, she reviewed what God said to Joshua right after Moses died. While reading over the passage in that church auditorium, God spoke several things to my heart that brought tears to my eyes. The same message I’ve heard many times before, touching my soul in a way it never had before.
3. Visiting places out of the ordinary makes us more alert. There is something about being in an unusual location that makes us sit up and pay attention. In our normal environment, we tend to miss details or take situations for granted. When we go to new places, our senses come alive. We anticipate goodness, and marvel when we encounter it.
When I attend a conference, I’m always excited to meet the speakers and soak up all I can from them. I couldn’t wait to hear the messages the Lifeway Conference had prepared for us. I knew that God wanted to encourage me through these men and women, and I wasn’t about to miss out. Even though He speaks to me at home, this was different because I had a heightened anticipation of what I would learn.
4. Making new friends and connections broadens our world. Meeting new people in our hometowns is limited, especially those of us who live in less-populated areas. To encounter those who have experienced life in ways we have not is vital to growing as an individual. Everyone has a story; hearing the stories of others can inspire and challenge us in ways we never imagined. These stories change us.
Not only did we make some new friends from all over the United States while we were at the conference who want to stay in touch, but we met a really neat Navy Veteran while we were there. He had some amazing stories to tell about his travels and we came away blessed by his generosity (as explained in our post the other day!)
5. Our faith is strengthened in truth and love. Because people who attend conferences are all going with an attitude of learning, growing and seeking, there is a sense of comradere in each session. We’re all there for the same reason: to seek more from our God. We want to know Him more and come away better equipped for our calling. For the most part, large gatherings of believers bring out the best in us; we want to love, give and help. We focus more on following God’s will, and less on ourselves.
At Lifeway in Nashville, I met a nice lady from the midwest, who later lost her purse. I had no idea what it looked like, but I helped her just the same. We didn’t find it, and I still don’t know if she ever did. But she was touched by my compassion and assistance. At several times during the conference, I witnessed women crying as certain words or music touched their hearts. The culmination of scripture, worship, and relationships caused us each to walk away with a new determination to be the best we can be for the Lord.
My hope is that more women would be encouraged to attend a Christ-centered conference. There are so many options to choose from. Let’s set aside all our excuses and ask the Lord to show us what would be right for us! When we go with the right attitude, will always come away changed.