I had the privilege this past weekend of attending the men’s conference at our church. I am not much of a retreat/conference guy. My history is a little patchy attending christian men’s events.
- Retreats: By definition, I guess retreats involve “overnight”. As long as ear plugs are in my bag, this is typically not a problem. (My own bed is better. Better sleep typically equals a much better ability to really get into the retreat.) Maybe it is the tiredness they play upon. As people are more tired they can be more emotional. The more emotional, the more effective a retreat. Cynical? Maybe. I will give my testimony and witness to nearly anyone. I am not embarrassed by my faith. At retreats (and conferences but w/o the overnight so they have to go over the top a little higher), they introduce elements of drama to really pull at the heart strings. (examples are having a cross at front and inviting attendees to “nail” their personal sins on the cross, Or, the alter calls are done in such a way that you feel almost like you are without a heart if you refuse to go forward.) I am not saying these methods are wrong. I am not known for wearing my emotions on my sleeve. And, even if I cry easier than I used to, I am not of the school (or I don’t have any skeletons presently in my closet) where theatrics lull me into a hypnotic state.
- So MANY people: At this weekends retreat, the weather was colder than expected. The planners hoped the outdoors could play a more significant role as the men “hung” out. It certainly would have helped me. The first floor was SO crowded. I got my food, snack or drink and headed to the second floor. The crowds were nearly non-existent. I could have a couple of conversations without feeling claustrophobic. (I guess this means I don’t have agoraphobia) If I knew more people, the crowds would not be as overwhelming. Not knowing many, made it impossible to see the trees. I only saw the forest and felt the fear of the unknown. If I don’t engage in any conversations, then I don’t have to be reminded I know so few people at the church. I admit it from the start. Anything socially can then be a trickle rather than a fire hose.
- So much standing: I certainly see where standing can get the crowd more involved. For a couple of songs, I can vote “yes” with my feet. As the songs keep adding up, my varicose veins (not sure if actual or ingrained) say “sit”. Usually, I do. When standing (whine warning), I am usually not one of the clappers. I seem to be able to do 2 of the 3: sing, stand or clap. Rarely, do I neglect the singing. Although I realize I am a victim of my past worship styles, the “singing” is a truly worshipful part of it. Maybe if I did not take as much interest in the singing, I would be a bigger clapper or stander. As long as God grants me a voice that can carry a tune, I will vote with my lips.
- Speakers with their spin: I believe God has gifted certain people to teach others. One speaker may speak to the heart of a portion of the conference. Likely, not everyone is going to “get” him in the same way. For me, I put more emphasis on what a person was before they became who they are. If I don’t know much of who they are, all of their philosophies on being a better father/son/christian/husband/servant are slightly hollow. I would rather hear a guy tell me how he had a misspent youth before being saved. When I hear his testimony, I can say, “I get him.” If another speaker tells me all of the things he has done or I should do but gives me minimum insight into his faith journey, I question whether I want to follow in his steps. The fruit is tastier if I know the type of tree it grows on….
- Music: As much as I may whine about some of the aspects of men’s conferences, the music (with the exception of the standing) is something I consistently enjoy. I love to hear men sing (I say this assuming songs are picked within the right singing range). Music with a “rock ‘n roll” beat and Christian lyrics is the best. My youth was spent with this type of music, but less than desirable lyrics. The choruses and the mix of styles (even some rap can be okay) gives many options for worship. Although I cannot sing them all, I am content to listen to someone else sing/perform. When singing my lips are sometimes on auto-pilot. When listening, the spiritual truths of the song have time to penetrate my often thick, stubborn skull.
Should you go to a men’s conference? (If not a male, the appropriate gender conference.) My kids have heard numerous times what is necessary to say they don’t like something–they must try it. I did enjoy the music at the recent conference. Certainly, I did glean something from some of the speakers. My primary reason for going was to get my son there. It was his first and he REALLY enjoyed it. Would I go again? I absolutely would if HE wanted to go again. Otherwise, I am probably good for a couple of years.