2018 Canadian Church Leaders Conference - Highlights and Conference Notes

June 20, 2018

2018 Canadian Church Leaders Conference - Highlights and Conference Notes

This year, along with two staff members from our church, I attended the Canadian Church Leaders Conference held June 14-16th at Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario.

This is the second year for this gathering and its primary attraction for me is its focus on the Canadian church. Though I appreciate the wealth of material and conferences that our friends south of the border provide, they have little to no understanding of the church dynamics in Canada.

The Canadian focus, coupled with the conference theme of 'Change is Good', produced a much needed shot of inspiration and encouragement. We are in the throes of some significant changes at our church and this conference helped to affirm and validate many of our decisions.

I've gathered various quotes and nuggets from each of the main sessions. If you have been considering the conference or are in the midst of some changes in your church, I hope this summary will help you in some way.

As I mentioned above, the conference theme was 'Change is Good.' Each of the main speakers dealt with some aspect of change as it pertains to ministry.

Jeff Brodie

Jeff is the lead pastor at Connexus Church and the one who introduced the theme of change.

  • Change is either a threat or an opportunity.
  • Tesla took the opportunity to create something new when other car companies were in survival mode.
  • You cannot dream when you're in survival mode.
  • You cannot dream and survive at the same time.
  • What part of your church/life is in survival mode?
  • What needs to change so that we can start dreaming again?
  • Let's not be about who we are keeping but who we are reaching.
  • Connexus was told they would lose 20% of their people if they started an online ministry.
  • That fear never materialized and they are reaching people they were unable to reach before, like family members.
  • Where do you start? 1) Pick a numerical goal  2) What's the dream that will get us there?
  • The Canadian Church has been in survival too long.
  • Let's start dreaming again!

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey is the founding pastor of Connexus and is their primary communicator. His podcast and books are one of the best resources for those in the church world. You can find him at www.CareyNieuwhof.com. Carey spoke on how to lead change without losing it.

  • People change when the pain associated with the status Quo is greater than the pain associated with change.
  • A leader understand the 'math,' who are the early adopters, the early majority, the quiet majority, and opponents. Typically, the opponents to change are about 10%.
  • The greatest mistake most leaders make 1) Confusing loud with large 2) Assuming that volume = velocity.
  • Find a filter - without a filter everything sounds compelling. Stay focused and on mission.
  • Learn to attack problems, not people.
  • Keep at it - most leaders are tempted to quit moments before their critical breakthrough.
  • Keep changing. Don't let success make you conservative.
  • The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

Jeremy MacDonald

Jeremy is the pastor of the Orillia campus at Connexus. He talked about leading above your weight class.

  • He began his session by asking 3 questions
    • What do you do when you're too young?
    • What do you do when you're too new?
    • What do you do when you're too inexperienced?
  • For older, experienced leaders - How do you coach the young, new, and inexperienced leaders?
  • The 2 things every leader is called to be and do: 1) Work on our competency. 2) Work on our character.
  • Your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you.
  • Your competency is what moves us to a new place.
  • Competency propels us, but character sustains us.
  • Ways of increasing your competency - Ask the following questions.
    • What outcome am I pursuing?
    • Why is it important?
    • How will I tell others when I achieve it?

Jon Thompson

Jon is the Preaching and Vision Pastor at C4 Church in Ajax Ontario. He spoke on a Christian leaders life cycle and how our calling is integral to leading change.

  • How do we thrive in a cultural storm?
  • What kind of leaders do we need today?
  • We need to recapture our sense of 'calling'.
  • There are 4 kinds of 'Calling' in the Scriptures:
    • I have no choice calling (Jer 1:5-10; Acts 9:15)
    • Calling by spiritual gifts (2 Tim 1:5-7; 1 For 12:11)
    • Calling given by family (1 Sam 1:27-28)
    • Calling affirmed by community (Acts 14:23)
  • God given calling is the bedrock of leading change.
  • We now need to communicate well and work with other groups in a unified way.
  • Calling is the heaven-given authority to lead in the first place.
  • The apostle Paul affirmed his calling and his authority (1 For 4:1-2).
  • Calling is held in check by love.
  • We-as leaders in Christ's church-do not own any of it-it all belongs to Christ.

Rich Birch

Rich is a pioneer in church multi-sites and is a well-know author, speaker, and consultant. He blogs and podcasts at www.unSeminary.com. Rich spoke on change dynamics at your church.

  • 'Our only security is our ability to change' - John Lilly.
  • Change Myths:
    • The Movie Premiere - If we make a big splash the change will be okay.
    • The field of dreams - If we build it they will come.
  • Change Mindsets:
    • The merry-go-round. In the beginning its hard pushing but as momentum comes it gets easier (from pushing hard to hardly pushing).
    • Bigger or better. Taking small steps that lead to big gains by applying the same strategies over and over. 
  • 94% of churches are losing ground against the growth of their communities.
  • It usually takes a 1000 days to change a church.

Shaila Visser

Shaila is the National Director of Alpha Canada. Her session was one of the more inspirational messages of the conference. Her leadership has been instrumental in bringing the changes needed to revitalize Alpha. She spoke on How to Let Go and Hang On?

  • A lot had to change at Alpha, and they really needed God.
  • Change requires a lot of listening:
    • Listening to God.
    • Listening to the 'customer'.
  • The leader is the first one to change.
  • Leaders don't grow in isolation, they grow in community.
  • Suffering leaders are re-oriented leaders.
  • Leaders are failure tolerant.
  • Leaders are risk takers.
  • Leaders are reliant - reliant on the Spirit and lean heavily on God.
  • As leaders, we let go of 'ourselves', and hang on tightly to God.

Dr. Laurel Buckingham

Laurel is founder and CEO of Buckingham Leadership Institute founded in 2013. He pastored Wesleyan Church in Moncton from 1969 until 203. He brought years of pastoral leadership and insights into his session.

  • An older leader has to unlearn as much as learn new methods.
  • Leaders need to be statesme - defined as people who work for the greater good and not for personal gain or preference.
  • Insecure leaders don't see things as they really are but as they are.
  • My success does not depend upon people's response to me, as much as it depends on my response to people's response to me.
  • Don't bottleneck the many because of fear of the few.
  • As the leader, I am responsible to find solutions to the problems that exist.
  • Being Christ-centered is about being other-centered.
  • When we blame, we abdicate.

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey closed out the conference with his session on Engineering Change. 

  • The difference between how quickly things change and how quickly you change is called irrelevance.
  • Change bridges the gap between what is and what should be.
  • Change bridges the gap between your situation and your imagination.
  • The first step to engineering change is to create a team.
  • The second is to audit your situation. This means every aspect of your ministry and being truthful about the results you are seeing.
  • The third is to plot your trajectory. Consider where you will be if you don't change versus if you do.
  • The fourth step is to create a place. This would include Mission, Vision, and Strategy.
  • The fifth and final step is to communicate the vision. This is the 'why' of change and when communicated well, it will unite others around the changes.
  • Change can be well underway in a year and be complete within 5 years.

This was a conference worth attending. The theme, at least for us, was timely and the sessions instructive and inspiring. A final comment given by Carey Nieuwhof struck a cord with me and summarized the spirit of the conference. He said, "Sometimes people come looking for God and find us instead." It certainly spoke to the necessity of the church to not only seek change, but to do so for the sake of the mission we claim to embrace.




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