Bartley Sawatsky, executive director of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC), has sent this report following FellowShift, the 2014 national conference which was held in July in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve never had such nice people. And such clean people!” – Omni hotel staff
“A conference we would have loved to bring our (young adult) kids to.” – long-time FGBC missionary couple
“Very high production value! Made me think of Exponential.” – young adult attender
“It made me emotional to see how many new friends our kids made with other kids in the Fellowship.” – FGBC pastor’s wife
“I actually felt a ‘shift’ this week.” – conference speaker
“I thought it would take 3 years to see this kind of momentum start to build.” – FellowShift planning team member
“The conference has me thinking about starting a church.” – young adult attender
“I wish I had brought my staff!” – FGBC pastor
“I’ll be bringing my young leaders to NYC.” – FGBC pastor
I want to thank everyone for making FellowShift a smashing success! Attendance was up by more than 100 people and there were lots of young leaders and first-time attenders present. I thought our creative team did an amazing job and our speakers brought a fresh new look and feel with the TED-talk format, to which people have been overwhelmingly positive. I want to especially thank Jeff Bogue for his final message. It was moving to see hundreds of our people come forward and sign the Declaration of Interdependence, promising to celebrate each others’ achievements, to collaborate together in ministry, to catalyze the fruitful things that are happening among us and to commemorate our tribe. I want to give a special shout-out to some of our organizations for their partnership, in particular Grace College for their sponsorship of the Michael Jr. event (we laughed a LOT), CPR-3 for the Night to Remember on the National Mall (it was just a perfect, feel-good event), and the Grace Brethren Investment Foundation for their invaluable help in getting young leaders to D.C.
The survey results we received were very positive and very helpful. Virtually every score was 9/10 or higher but we were still able to glean some valuable feedback. Thanks to everyone for your kind and insightful words. Probably the biggest suggestion was to try to incorporate more scripture into the session talks. We knew that would be a challenge with the TED talk format, but we will work harder on that for 2015. Obviously, we have a lot of vantage points to consider, but we will continue to work hard to make sure the conference reflects the values of the FGBC and the mandate that I received in taking on the this role, namely to help make our Fellowship relevant and attractive to young men and women who can join us in the Lord’s work.
I’m optimistic that Flinch Conference in New York will allow us to build on the momentum that has been generated. Expect a lot of talk about risk, exposure to people who are taking risks in NYC and in the FGBC, and some good times together in prayer as we seek God’s direction. Expect an even better kids program that encourages young families to attend. And expect continued upbeat and energetic sessions and more good belly laughs. Our people work hard in their local churches all year, and I think you deserve to be spoiled a little bit when you come to conference, so come ready to have some fun as well. As I explained in our first session at FellowShift, a “starfish” organization like ours really needs to cultivate the proper culture, so the trust that is built from even a few days having fun together at conference has incredible value. I’m already seeing some awesome new collaborative efforts taking place. Praise the Lord! Let’s keep creating a culture for movement.
Let me make a few requests as it relates to Flinch Conference NYC 2015:
- Please encourage your staff and lay people to come. The session talks, round table discussions and workshops are extremely powerful training opportunities for your people, not to mention the invaluable connection to our larger FGBC family. Start talking it up now!
- Encourage young families to come. We’re going to invest more than ever in our kids programs this year to make conference more accessible to families with young kids.
- Don’t be afraid of New York City. The city has changed a lot in the past 30 years. A few years ago I even let my 14-year old daughter wander the streets of Manhattan by herself while I attended meetings. (No hate-mail, please.)
- Please pray for the new creative planning team and the success of next summer’s conference.
If there was one thing I walked away with from FellowShift, it was that I’m proud to be part of the FGBC tribe and happy to be able to serve in this way. See you at Flinch Conference, July 23-26 in NYC if not sooner!