Thursday, March 13, 2014

Making a Memorable Missions Conference

Variety... It truly is a beautiful, aromatic spice of life. I love trying new things, going to new places, meeting new people! Trying new foods? Oh, yes. And entering the doors of a new church the first night of missions conference to me was much like opening a Christmas present. Anticipation and excitement. What would this conference be like? What would we learn about the church people through how they did their conference?

When we were travelling on deputation, seeing the variety of styles of missions conferences was thrilling. (I must admit, I am a little biased since my heart is in missions!) Some of the conferences were more like celebrations than a conference. Some of the conferences were clearly the highlight of the year for that church. It was easy to see they invested a lot of time, effort, and money. They sacrificed because that's where their heart is. Missions. You didn't have to drag the members to the conference. They were excited to attend! They were invested!

And for us missionary women, wives, and families, many great memories were made. Our family STILL sits around the dinner table talking about some of those conferences. They made an impact when we attended. They touched our hearts and lives. They encouraged us and still encourage us today.

So what things really stick out to us missionary women? What brings happy memories and thoughts as we look back at these special moments?

I asked this question to a great group of missionary women:

"What were some of your favorite Missions Conference ideas that you ran across while visiting churches?"

Wow! As we all shared our favorite memories, I couldn't help but get excited at the creativity, passion, and variety. Maybe these ideas will help you create a missions conference atmosphere that is, indeed, memorable.

We Love It When You Have Vision and Passion

It's pretty frustrating when we enter a church and it seems the people really don't want to be at the missions conference. But all those frustrations disappear by entering a single church that is on fire for missions.

"One church at the end of the conference handed out canister style piggy banks for people to save money for an entire year for the following year's conference. Talk about having a vision for the future!"

We Love It When We Eat With You

There is something so relaxing and enjoyable about fellowshiping around the dinner table. Whether it be in a private home or in the fellowship hall, we love taking the time to sit down and talk to you.

"Recently, we were at a small church that is just getting into missions. The Pastor's wife had looked up recipes online that were native to the countries represented at the conference (Ethiopia and Argentina) and the ladies of the church made them for the international dinner. They did a wonderful job! It was delicious! We did Q&A after dinner, so we had plenty to talk about."

"We were at a church where every night we ate together with church leadership. Each night, they served a wonderful dinner that included some kind of a salad bar, veggies, meat, and homemade rolls. It was "clean food." At that time, I remember enjoying the salads, and several of the more elderly missionaries were diabetics and were so thankful for non-casserole-type foods that they could eat. Another thing they did was to serve us on china. It was so nice to eat on real plates!"

We Love It When You Get to Know Us, and We Get to Know YOU!

We don't want to be just another picture on a prayer card. We want you to get to know us, and we sure want to get to know you. It is hard bouncing from church to church meeting so many new faces, but it helps when we can feel like we are part of your church family, even for a short time.

"One of my favorite things was when they break up into small groups and have 30 minutes of small group time to really get to know the missionaries. We presented something for about 15 minutes and then it was 15 minutes of Q & A and letting them get to know us better! The church had the preaching time together but instead of songs and the normal beginning part of the service, they broke into the groups. They always worked it out so that if you came to every service of the Conference you could visit with every missionary."

We Love Playing with You

Sometimes it is nice to kick off the formal attire and just have fun! We love letting our hair down around you and being ourselves! We love to play with you!

"I really enjoyed a mission's conference recently that the church specifically set up times for us to get with a group of families from the church to play board games and talk...I feel like I got to know people better and that they got to know us -that we're real, not church robots."

"[One] church had bikes and scooters in the church parking lot/playground so that our kids could ride bikes. The same church had an informal picnic time at a local playground/splash park (it was summer). It was just the ladies and their children, but we had such a great time getting to know each other outside of church. It wasn't a busy schedule, but there was a lot of impromptu fellowship...The people actually WANTED to be with us. Meant the world."


We Love It When You Shower Us with the Love of Christ

We see the sacrifice. It is humbling when you commit so much because you love Christ. It pushes us forward through even the hardest of situations. It sure feels good just to be loved on!

"At one church, the moment we entered the door, a woman named Anna walked up to me and said, "Hi, my name is Anna and I am your personal Pheobe for the week. If you need anything, I am here to serve. Need someone to watch the kids while you talk to people at your display? I am here. Need me to do some laundry, mend some clothes, run to the grocery store, find something in town? Just ask!" Then the rest of the week, she was true to her word. She often approached me and volunteered to help with things. She made a point of observing me to see if there was ANYTHING she could do. She was truly a great Pheobe!"

"At one of our conferences... they sent all the missionaries out of the auditorium and then came back for us one family at a time. There were 4 families and we were last. A man came to the door and escorted me into the auditorium with my family following. He said it was because they wanted to honor the wives that night. When the doors opened, the entire place erupted with people cheering and clapping. The pastor's wife handed me flowers and a bracelet and and then once we were on the stage with the other families, every single person came up on the stage (there were probably 300 people there), and gave all the families gifts they had bought. They were all still cheering and clapping. Then the "ceiling fell" with balloons and streamers and confetti. It was overwhelming at how much love and fore-thought had gone into the conference and how we were 'loved' on by everyone there. (Just a funny to go along with this...they passed around a microphone to everyone to say something, and when it got to my 3-year-old daughter she said, 'This is the best birthday party EVER!' )"

"[One] church assigned us a babysitter for the week, and we had several dates. We were staying at the church and the pastor came by once and took our kids out for ice-cream and told us to take a walk, or a nap."

"My husband and I were talking not long ago about missions conferences. I had a few friends from here that went to some mission conferences in the states.They posted photos on FB and I found myself missing all the conferences. I could not understand why. I mean I am in my own house,in my own bed, with my own schedule. Why would I miss all that craziness. My husband told me it was because at the MC, they make us feel like heroes. Right away I knew he was right. And I made up my mind that I would do what ever took this year to make sure our Missionaries here in Mexico feel like heroes."

"I had our church ladies put together some things specifically for the missionary wives and older daughters. The main speaker's wife started crying and sharing what it meant to her. She said most of the time she and the girls are totally left out and proceeded to share a couple of horrid stories. By the end all my church ladies were sobbing. She is so sweet and married to a very well known speaker so I was surprised. A little thought and love goes a long way and is never forgotten! One great thing about deputation is it teaches you how to treat your missionaries once you start a church on the field. The bad experiences (we're all had a few) are just as valuable as learning tools to us and our children of how "not" to treat our missionaries. I love treating our missionaries like royalty!"

"We were assigned a 'helper' at one conference and it was SUCH a blessing! They also had a few different families provide dinner each night so we got to know several families a bit better that way."

"Our home church would buy a suit for every missionary husband, a dress for every missionary wife, and shoes for all of the missionary kids every single year of Missions Conference for as long as I can remember!"

We Love It When You Commit to Praying for Us

Prayer... we NEED it! And it is so touching when we visibly see you investing your time in praying for us!

"We were in a church years ago that had all the missionary families line up on the platform with the head of the household holding a lit candle. The pastor made an announcement to his church people and told them that if they were willing to pray 'daily' for a missionary family for 1 year to come forward with their unlit candle and light theirs off of the missionary family that they would pray for, for the coming year. It was a very serious service and the folks took it very serious and so did we!!!!!!!! So very thankful as they looked us in the eye and promised to pray for us!!!!!!!!!!!! Many, many tears were streaming!!!!!!!!!"

"My parents' home church [has] people [come] up and committing to pray for a missionary family... they give a Bible to the missionary family, and all the church members who commit to pray for them sign their Bible."

"[One] church had a program the last evening of the conference where their youth marched forward each carrying a flag from a country they had a missionary in. Then the pastor listed each of their names by country while their flag was raised. Then he took the list of prayer requests they'd had us fill out and prayed for each member of each family by their by name. (While we stood by family up front.) Very encouraging!"

We Love It When You are Creative

It is difficult going from church to church, hearing the same songs, seeing the same DVD presentation, and many times hearing the same presentation over and over and over. We love a change of pace.

"At [one] church, we were scheduled to teach the Junior church. The church wanted the children to go on a trip to our country. They set up the entrance to the Junior church room like the inside of an airplane, rows of chairs and all, and we showed pictures of our flight into our country on our survey trip. They brought the children on the plane a group at a time. It made them feel like they were really going on a trip! Then when they exited the plane, they had passports that had to be stamped. Then we took them to the 'church service' complete with removing shoes before entering, men on one side and women on the other, and everyone sat on the floor just like we do here in our country."

"For the international banquet, one church had their youth group set up different booths for each country represented. They had to research each country, set up a display, and even fix some typical snacks/drinks for that country. It was amazing!"

"[One church] does a 'hand choir' each year at their Missions Conference. All lights are turned out and the choir wears all black with white gloves. A special light projected towards the choir makes their hands look blue and they 'act out' a song with their hands.... I had never seen anything like it! They did the song "My House is Full" the year we were there. It was completely unique and very touching! It definitely left an unforgettable message."

 "I love the village they make at the church where we attended college. The village represented different countries and people dressed up and acted as people from those countries. You could walk around and learn about those countries, try different food, play was really fun!"

We Love It When You Include Our Flag

Seeing the flag of our new country is moving... especially for those of us whose country is little known. It was so rare to see our flag that every time we saw it, our whole family got excited! There is just something special about seeing our country's flag.
"We were called to the Indigenous People of Australia and they have their own flag. I remember the first time we were in a church and they did a parade of flags and they got the Aboriginal flag to represent us. I cried. It meant so much."
"We were at a conference in Arkansas and they had all the missionaries carry their countries flag up on the platform. It was very stirring and exciting to do this."

We Love It When You Allow Us to Teach the Fire God Has Put in Our Hearts

 God has placed an intense passion and fire in our hearts, and we love to spread that fire around.

"Growing up in a large missions-minded church with a Christian school, the thing I looked forward to the most was the sessions where the missionary ladies would speak to the girls at school. I also loved the HUGE fellowship hall lined with tons of missionary boards & display tables. I could stay in there and look for hours!"

"Every service missionaries do a children ministry. They had all missionaries for 10 min piece with different age groups. One room was craft you did with kids, then you switch to another group where you share 10 min about a country like display table stuff, next was 10 min of snack from that country. And you had to sign passports. [It] was fun."
 "Teach Have a MISSIONARY or former missionary as the head speaker!"
"Hudson Taylor" came to speak at this missions conference.

We Love It When You Include Our New Language

Including the language of the people we are going to work with... music to our ears!

"I loved hearing the missionaries sing in the language of their field... so fascinating! And then I became a missionary's wife and learned to sing in another language myself!"

"One church had their teen/college group prepare 5 different songs in 5 different languages. One of the songs, In His Time, was sung in Japanese... on the day after the tsunami. Not a dry eye in the place!" 

We LOVE LOVE LOVE It When You Get the Youth Involved and Excited

We love it when youth get involved. We can just picture there are some future missionaries in the crowd.

"There were a couple of conferences where the children all dressed up in the traditional clothing of countries around the world, carried flags in during the parade of nations, and then sang a special missions song."


Most of ALL, We Love It When You Get A Hold of This Thing Called Missions

When it boils right down to it, we would trade all the creativity, all the activities, all the play, food, fellowship, gifts, and more for this one thing. That is our heart.

"Two years ago at our missions conference here in Mexico, my husband built a very tall light house he put it up front . The light house represented our church. He then had flags all the way around the church building. He first called up the missionaries one by one and gave them a candle and had them go under there country's flag he then started asking for help for someone to take the light to this country and that country until all the flags had a light under it and the church was lit up by candle light. Then my hubby started talking. Things are tight we can't make it so no more money to this country and he ask the person to blow out the candle he went on and on until we stop supporting the missionaries and the church room ( the world) was dark all but the light house up front. Then he start saying how we stop going to church and giving our tithe and then he blew out the light house. He let us all sit in the dark for a few minutes to think. I do not think there was dry eye in the building. He really drove home the point of missions. To this day the light house he built is in the church as a reminder."


Thank you to all the ladies who took the time to share what made the most memorable missions conference experiences. We pray that your next missions conference will be unforgettable, making an impact around the world.

by Charity, Southern Asia












Cat T said...

Thank you so much for this. I'm the mission's secretary for our church and I plan the conferences. I've never been a missionary, so it helps a lot to hear the missionaries side of it. I love to learn anything I can that will encourage them.

proud2Bmomma said...

This was interesting to read. We have many missionaries come through our church and I always wonder if it gets boring for them . . . The same presentation, the same testimony by their dad, standing again to have the family recognized, answering the same questions . . . . I would guess that is a struggle at times but it's nice to see that missionaries are excited at missions conferences, too. Our famous.y looks forward to missions conference every year.