Deciding to write, in lots of ways, is the easy part. Actually sitting down and having something to say is often much more difficult, at least for me. Maybe you are an endless source of interesting, original, and subtely nuanced ideas, but I am not. In recognition of that fact, I decided to go easy on myself and write out some of the things I learned at the General Conference of the Wesleyan Church. This is the once-every-four-years, lets-make-all-the-big-decisions, wow-you-like-holiness-ME-TOO! business meeting for my denomination and it was my first time attending. Here are some of the things that I learned:
1) The Power of Telling Your Story – If you can tell people their own story well, you can construct their identity in the present and shape their direction for the future. This works for individuals as well; in the church it’s called testimony. (Note: Dr. Bud Bence gave a great little speech titled “Who Are The Wesleyans?”. For more info, go here)
2) The Power of Knowing the Process – Parliamentary procedure ruled the day at General Conference. Knowing the difference between amending a motion and amending by substitution became a powerful tool for getting things done. The chairperson had an extraordinary amount of influence on proceedings simply by making use of procedural quirks. If you want to get something done, especially in large organizations, you need to learn how to make the process work for you.
3) The Power of Ambiguity – Sometimes, on matters of lesser importance, it pays to keep things vague. More specific definitions inherently describe smaller and smaller sets of people (perhaps even none!). It is important to have an identity, but defining that identity too narrowly will only exclude people from joining you.
4) The Road to Influence goes through Humility – I’m 26. I’m just out of seminary (Princeton, people!). There’s a larger part of me than I would really like to admit that thinks I have the best ideas and the greatest answers that any Wesleyan (and maybe Christian) has ever had. I found myself studying those people who seemed able to influence those around them, wondering how to become that kind of an influencer. It hit me around day four that perhaps the best way to cultivate influence is to first seek to be influenced. I need to follow well before I can lead, I need to learn before I can teach, and I need to listen before I can speak. I suspect that this was the most important lesson I learned.
Not ranked: Conferences make me tired, working a conference booth is an unappealing way to spend a day, Lexington has a cool little hotdog place named Sam’s, elevator rides involving holiness pastors and cross-dressing convention attenders can lead to a tense 30 seconds, Kentwood’s drummer in high heels is AWESOME, IWU Seminary hands out addictive mints.