Welcome back to the conclusion of my story about speaking at the Engage Conference last weekend in Mechanicsburg, PA.
There wasn’t much time between the first and second workshop (about 10 minutes). I was hopeful that like many conferences people might be trickling in late. When the smoke settled, the second workshop had two people in it. I was planning on laying out a justification for changing attitudes in the church and a plan for doing that, and we covered some of that, but mostly we just chatted. One young woman in the class was a child of divorce herself and provided some valuable insight into how the church treated her and her sister after her parents’ divorce. It was a nice conversation, but it definitely wasn’t the workshop I had planned.
I stuck around for 60-90 minutes after the conference was over until they started to turn out the lights. I was trying to work out the technical issues I was having so that things would do better in the morning. If I am being honest, I felt deflated. I had poured all of this work into a cause that I was quite certain was near and dear to God’s heart, and the people just hadn’t come. It was definitely not a “Field of Dreams” moment. Had all of that time been wasted? What had I done wrong? I did what any normal person does these days under those circumstances – I put it on Facebook.
My moment of discouragement was quickly replaced by resolve and a clarity about the need to trust in God. Despite the fact that turnout hadn’t been what I wanted and the workshops hadn’t gone quite as planned, I did have some good conversations with the people who did show up, and if God worked through that to influence the life of one child of divorce, then the work was all worth it. Also, the fact that people would not voluntarily choose to come learn about the issue just strengthened my resolve to go out and beat the drum even louder. Perhaps, just maybe, God knew that this was exactly what I needed.
I stayed up until 2 that morning reworking the three remaining presentation to make sure they would work better with the presentation software I was using. The first workshop in the morning was about seeing divorce through the eyes of a child. I had the technical difficulties worked out, and whether there was only 1 attendee or 10, I was ready to go with a renewed vigor and determination.
When I looked up to get started, there were well over twenty five people in the room and more shuffling in as we got started. Yes! Once I finally moved past the whole “numbers game,” God was faithful in bringing the people. The technical snafus were gone, and we were on a role. That is, until the whole building lost power for just a split second causing all of the electronics to reboot. The end didn’t go as planned, but if you’re going to have issues like that, a room full of children’s pastors is certainly an understanding audience. We trudged on, and things went really really well. By the end of that workshop, all of those “extra” copies of notes from the first two workshops were virtually gone as people wanted that information as well.
Our fourth workshop only had four people, but we were able to sit around a small table and just talk. I all but threw away the planned presentation, and we talked about all things related to ministering to children of divorce. They told me their unique situations and I was able, I hope, to speak into those specific situations. Again, nothing like what I had planned, but perhaps the best workshop of the whole two day conference. Unlike the prior night where I had been discouraged about “throwing away” all that work, I was energized by this conversation. After all, this wasn’t about me.
The final workshop, on ministering to these kids in a traditional Sunday morning setting, was also very well attended. The conference definitely ended strong! I was exhausted, but it was a good kind of exhaustion. God showed me several things through this conference, and I am looking forward to talking to even more people about the need for ministering to children of divorce. Here’s what I learned:
- God is not about our planning but His purpose. We need to be prepared, but He may take it in an entirely different direction. I already knew this, but like any kid I need reminders from time to time.
- It’s not about numbers. It’s about impact. I am still praying that some of those who attended took this information back to their churches and will use it to impact children of divorce in their community.
- God has a plan for these kids and for this ministry. Sometimes I just need to step aside and let Him work His plans. That is not to say that He doesn’t work through us, but we need to make sure that we are not serving as a hindrance to His plans.
- This (ministering to children of divorce) is an important issue that people just don’t think about. We need to find ways to get the issue front and center in the minds of influencers and decision makers at churches around the country.
- God will provide opportunities, and it is our job to take advantage of them.