For about 10 years, I attended an annual Christian women’s conference. As a state and local leader, I was expected to attend the national conference (it was international every other year) and the time and dollars required were substantial for a stay at home mom of three like me. The sacrifice to make the trip included my husband having to take on the care of the household and the children, sometimes having to take time off from work.
The value in attending these conferences was not just my husband’s grateful embrace upon my return (stepping into a spouse’s shoes for five days goes a long way in understanding the value of what he or she does in daily life), the speakers (we had several Christian “celebrities” in the nineties like Joni Eareckson Tada) or even visiting a new city (we had very little time to see the sights; my favorite place was Nashville and watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry). It was the opportunity to connect with my local team in a deeper way, away from the daily grind, and to experience teaching and worship with over 3,000 women and men from across the nation and around the globe.
For believers who belong to megachurches where thousands are gathered each weekend, perhaps that is not such a big deal, but for a girl from New England where the average church size is around 60 people, it was awe-inspiring. Also, this was not a gathering of one church or even people from one region. These conferences were a blend of dozens of different denominations who laid down theological differences at the door to embrace the mission of helping to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
God showed up in a special way at these conferences and the music/worship was powerful. I really don’t remember many of the speakers (Benny Hinn was at one conference, but I have no recollection of what he said, which is probably for the best), but I will never forget God’s presence in the worship. These women were free in expressing their love and adoration for Jesus and He was lifted up as the only reason we were gathered. It was not about the speaker that would soon approach the podium, it was about our Lord who had gathered his warrior women who wanted to make a difference in their communities and countries.
Attending conferences may not be fruitful for everyone. Depending on the organization, conferences may be more concerned with generating income for the organization than actually providing a deep benefit for the attendees. I would attend events expecting God to show up, to speak something through the speakers, special sessions, or the worship, to help grow me up in Him and expand my understanding of what was happening around the globe, and He never disappointed. Over the years, I have found that attending smaller, more intimate gatherings can be just as impacting and special. And guess what? God shows up.