Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It took two bags.

I brought a second bag this year (CPC survival tip #14), but with airlines charging more and more for extra luggage, I was determined not to use it if I could help it. So as I packed my bag, I started stuffing every square inch with catalogs, brochures, cd’s, dvd’s, toys, props, illusions, everything I got from my week in San Diego. I was satisfied with my progress, until I looked over at the corner of the bed and saw another pile of items. Not to be deterred, I began stuffing some more…reorganizing, shifting, pushing. My now rock solid bag groaned under the strain. I grabbed the zipper and laboriously sealed the cover. I smiled, satisfied that I had bested the airline in the baggage wars. Until I looked back on the desk in my room and saw yet another stack of materials I had overlooked.

INCM’s Children’s Pastors’ Conference has often been compared to getting the proverbial drink of water out of a fire hydrant. Its significance strikes on so many levels, tangible and intangible, that describing it can be challenging. As a matter of fact, as I made my way across the courtyard following the final session, a cameraman stopped me for a sound bite. He asked me how I liked CPC. He said “action,” the light went on, and for a split second, my mind went blank. I think I mumbled something about being “incredibly full” (ahhh, adverbs: love ‘em and lob ‘em!), but honestly, I don’t remember. I wish I had thought of my overstuffed bags, because that’s exactly how I felt all week: filled to capacity and just when I thought I couldn’t handle anything more, another thought, concept, blessing presents itself.

So for this post, I’m going to take a few moments to unpack. Please join me:

The church tours were fast…almost too fast. But even though I have been to all three churches before and even though a half hour is not enough time to even scratch the surface of these facilities, I can’t help but ask, “If my church was on the church tour, what would visitors see?” The point isn’t what one can do with a humongous budget, the point is, what can one do to make children and their families feel welcome?

The general sessions were, as usual, excellent. I appreciated the music of Danny Oertli. There’s something about opening night that siphons out every single emotion in me. I feel totally alone with God, just as I feel so connected with two thousand others. Some of the songs, by coincidence or design, were songs we sing in our children’s ministry. To sing them with adult arrangements with adult voices was incredibly moving. And then, to make sure all emotions were laid bare, the comedy of Tim Hawkins had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt. I went to bed that night exhausted. But the week went on with more general sessions. Josh Wiedemann on faith, Michelle Anthony’s challenging thoughts (as one online observer said, every parent needs to hear it), Austin Gutwein’s vision at age 9 to make a difference in the world, the moving testimony of CeCe Winans, the basketball prowess of Dan Wetzel—every presenter brought a unique element. Add the amazing and moving chalk art by See the Light and the prayer for the continents with Jeff Smith and Rhythm CafĂ©, and it’s no wonder I was filled to overflowing.

Breakout sessions (aka workshops, aka classes) brought the best of the best for the purpose of information, inspiration, and infusion of ideas. I have been long toying with the idea of letting kids lead in worship, so Jill Anderson’s breakout on Kid’s Worship Teams seemed like a good place to start. Not only is Jill a dynamite presenter, but she led the whole group in some of her songs…and motions. The tiredness of the night before gave way to some renewed energy. Throughout the week, I listened to Bruce Barry of Wacky World Studios talk about design and the Kidologist, Karl Bastian, on the subject of discipline (thank you for providing your notes!) And there were others (if I attended your breakout, but didn’t mention it, please don’t be offended. I’m still reviewing my notes).

One of the greatest things about CPC is connecting with people. Some I know personally, some I know from their writings or by reputation. But there is an instant bond among us all. Joni Lum’s posts on the forums are always a blessing, but I finally got to meet her in person, as well as others during the Kidology gathering. It was good to have a mini-reunion with Mike and Karen Puckett of Amazing Truth ministries. They are fellow grads of Christian Heritage College (now known as San Diego Christian College). And to show that it’s a small world after all, Janet, the director of our local children’s ministries network, was at the conference (we attended the reception for those who have attended multiple CPC’s). There are so many more…the “who’s who” in kids’ work and the ones not so famous, all there to encourage and support one another.

So yes, I needed a second bag. As the final session came to a close, I commented to one of the people at the table that one of the hardest parts of CPC is the end. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and nodded in agreement. Yet with the sadness that this must end comes a renewed vision, a refreshed passion, and a rejuvenated energy. As I unpacked my bags and looked at the resources, I remember thinking, “how can I put all of this into practice this Sunday?” Of course, I can’t. The bags are unpacked, but I still have to sort through the stuff.

And that may take me until next March.

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