I knew this year’s Tulsa Workshop was going to be a good one, but what transpired exceeded even my high expectations.
First, the anticipation for this year’s workshop was very high. Since the announcement of the speaker lineup last year, there was a buzz about 2013.
Second (and due to the buzz), the attendance was better this year than it has been in a long time. People literally traveled from all over to be there – in many cases decent-sized church groups traveled together.
Third, upon arrival the workshop delivered! Every class I attended was good, and I heard the same sort of sentiment from everyone else I spoke with. While I’m sure there were a couple of duds on the program (surely there would have been since 60 or more classes were offered), I didn’t hear about a single one.
Fourth, classes and keynotes this year seemed to be focused more on doing than on thinking. What I mean is that often much of the content at conferences like this is more intellectual/academic/theoretical in nature – aimed at the head more than the hands and the feet. That was different at Tulsa this year, and while there is certainly a place for the intellectual/academic, I find practical content taught by people who know what they’re talking about to be more helpful to my personal ministry than the headier stuff (but to be fair I’ve spent a large portion of my time for the past eight years in a Bible college/seminary environment, and am certain I take for granted some of the things I’ve learned that others haven’t yet).
Fifth, Francis Chan was there, and God spoke through him powerfully each time he preached. His second message was unexpectedly inspired by our experience together in San Francisco – he hadn’t even planned to speak about that. When he took the stage he noticed he’d left his notes in his seat and simply decided to go with it. Francis spoke as led by the Spirit, and his main point was this: the present generation must empower the next to move forward into the future, and the older you get the more you ought to live as if every second is an opportunity to glorify God (because you’re going to meet Him soon). Let me tell you, it was powerful. I’m honestly still digesting it all – hearing that sermon and witnessing the reaction of others also present was a God-moment for me, and apparently it was for a lot of other people too. I ordered the DVDs of Francis’ lessons and will post a short clip or two here when I get them, but I encourage you to order the set for yourself in the meantime. They’re worth it.
While I’m thrilled with the way the Tulsa Workshop turned out this year, I do have a concern, and that concern is not limited to this event. Maybe you’ve thought about this too, but the crowds at the Tulsa Workshop, Pepperdine Lectures, and various other big events and conferences associated with Churches of Christ are mostly made up of senior citizens (Francis even mentioned the age of the crowd in his first lesson at Tulsa). By bringing this up I do not mean in any way to poo-poo on what was the best Tulsa Workshop I’ve ever personally attended – I’d simply like to point out the obvious: our crowds are not getting any younger.
I would sincerely like nothing more than to continue to build on the momentum the Tulsa Workshop generated this year, and believe the way to do that is to not only continue bringing in world-class keynoters along with an excellent lineup of classes practical for ministers, but also to do something to attract the next generation’s involvement in our workshops and conferences and to help them catch a vision of how God can use them to impact the world. Seriously, it’s not like we don’t already have active young people out there – they’re going to Winterfest (10,000! of them), beach retreats, and various other teen & college events faithfully – they just aren’t coming to our fellowship’s biggest conferences. I think that should change if they’re part of our church, and I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling that way.
Three questions for discussion:
- Why do you think young people generally do not attend the major CoC conferences and lectureships?
- What can and should be done to lower the average age of the conference crowds at our largest events?
- What is the greatest barrier that stands in the way?
Please take a couple of minutes to answer those questions in a comment. I would appreciate your input – others would too.
- The Christian Chronicle: Francis Chan ‘unloaded his heart’ at Tulsa Workshop
- Terry Rush: TULSA WORKSHOP: HISTORICAL MOMENT
- Terry Rush: WORKSHOP RESPONSE: POSITIVE AND OVERWHELMING