The countdown has begun! In a little over 30 days, I will be in sunny San Diego for the annual (deep breath) International Network of Children's Ministries "Children's Pastors Conference" (CPC for short). CPC is, in my humble opinion, the rolls royce of conventions.
I whole heartedly believe that those who minister to kids should take advantage of training, refreshing, and equipping opportunities. Every year, most of our church's KidServants attend a regional "Children's Ministries Conference" in southern Oregon, where we are blessed by a variety of workshops and top-notch general sessions featuring impressive and motivating speakers (Craig Jutilla, Thom Shultz, Dick Gruber, and others have come to southern Oregon for the RVCMC). Dozens of regional seminars, workshops, and conferences are held throughout the country--I would encourage those of you in children's ministry to check them out.
But the CPC is, well, incredible. I've had the privilege of attending twice (2003 & 2004) and I'm still gleaning information and concepts. I haven't been able to attend the last two years, but I'm finally getting back to San Diego for the 2007 CPC in February. It's somewhat of a homecoming for me (in more ways than one...I'll explain shortly).
My very first Children's Pastor's Conference was in 2003 and it was partially a family affair. At the tme, my sister-in-law lived in Oceanside, California (just north of San Diego). So we took the whole family down--wife, 3 kids, and mother-in-law. We left early on Super Bowl Sunday, drove straight through, and arrived late that night. I remember the sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic between L.A. and S.D. and wondering why it was so thick late Sunday night. Then it hit me...the Super Bowl was played at San Diego that year....these were fans heading home! I was glad we were going the other direction.
Because my wife's sister's place was so small, we pitched a tent in the back yard.
We stayed a couple of nights before my wife dropped me off in San Diego for the conference. But before the conference itself, we took a side trip to El Cajon to visit my alma mater: Christian Heritage College (now known as San Diego Christian College). It was there that I met the woman who would be my wife. Oh yeah, and get a degree and all that. My degree was in Counseling Pyschology, which is interesting given that I entered pastoral ministry for a number of years and then finally children's ministry. Following the CPC, my wife picked me up, we spent the night in town, and then attended the morning service at the church where the college is located (a tiny little congregation known as Shadow Mountain Community Church...yes, the same one where the radio and television ministry of Turning Point originates.). During our visit, there was a major construction project going on next to the main sanctuary. I learned that this project was to be a new children's building. This will become significant later on....
CPC '03 was like getting hit with a fire hydrant of the most refreshing water known to humanity. From the moment I entered the registration area to the general sessions to the workshops, I felt like I was in another universe.
"Building His Kingdom, Reaching His Kids"...the theme that keeps giving!
Not only did I get motivation and inspiration, I discovered a whole new world of Christian resources and artists that I never knew existed. I took the church tour, in which we saw Saddleback Church's children's building and the facility at The Crossing in Orange County. I met some amazing folks and discovered something I guess I knew intellectually, but didn't realize deep down: I was not alone! A thousand others shared my same desires, my same hopes, my same frustrations, my same doubts and fears, and my same joy. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
The following year, the church sent me to CPC '04. This time, I flew solo. I arrived a day early to take advantage of some "me time" before the conference. It was the first time I got to do absolutely nothing important in a long time :-).
"Making Him Their Hero" C'mon everybody, all together: "Stand up and shout...HEY..."
Like last year, my conference experience started with a church tour. Our tour facilitator this time was the indescribable Karl Bastian, aka "The Kidologist". We returned to Saddleback and then over to Skyline church in San Diego. Mr. Bastian took a ton of pictures of both places (I'm even in a few of them). I'm sure they've since been removed (I couldn't locate them on Kidology), but they give an excellent sense of both facilities. My other memory of the church tour is having a ton of granola bars left over...Karl kept offering me more and more (I guess he had a lot left over).
And like last year, the experience was nothing short of overwhelming. I ran into a man who used to emcee the regional children's ministries conference I talked about earlier. I also got to sit at the same table as some folks who work with children's ministry at a church not far from where I live. It's a small world after all! The workshops and general sesssions were all top-notch. (My only regret is that somehow I missed "BibleMan!")
And now that brings us to CPC '07. After a two year absence, I will be returning to San Diego. I said this was a homecoming of sorts. First of all, I'm coming "home" to the Children's Pastor's Conference. I look forward to seeing old friends and new friends. If I can figure out how to do it, I intend to blog and send photos from San Diego (first, I need to replace my digital camera).
My second homecoming involves the aforementioned "Shadow Mountain Community Church." I discovered early last year that SMCC was one of the stops on this year's church tour! The building that was in the throes of construction back in 2003 is now finished and functioning. So I get to return to my old stomping grounds...not only to see this building I've heard so much about, but to be "on campus" at my alma mater once again (of course, if I had the extra time and extra money, I could attend homecoming the weekend before CPC. Maybe next year....).
Anyway, thank you for bearing with my rememberances of CPC's past. I'm excited and eagerly anticipating more challenge and blessing. Stay tuned....