Not Just an Event to Attend

Bob Seymore   -  

It’s the season of sign ups for the Global Leadership Summit hosted by Willow Creek Association in Chicago. It will be broadcast live this year on August 14th and 15th to 300+ sites in the US and then distributed to over 105 countries in 50 languages which eventually results in reaching 190,000 leaders.

When I started working as a local church leader with the Willow Creek Association team in Chicago about 9 years ago, I remember thinking that we would go back…promote this event like so many other concerts or speakers that came to our church…we would gather a crowd that would learn and grow and it would be a great opportunity for us as a church to offer such an event to our little corner of the world.
But after a couple of years I had a conversion….
I realized that the GLS wasn’t just an event to attend.
While there were some well known names that we heard at the GLS, some of the most profound content came from people that we were not familiar with. We discovered that from beginning to end, the GLS was crafted with a world class faculty that would teach, train, inspire and motivate those in attendance to be better leaders and raise their impact through the local church. We discovered that the GLS was unapologetically aimed at local church leaders, but it gave space for some of the best and the brightest in the marketplace to share strategic ideas that could be used to mobilize leaders at all levels. We discovered that the GLS created a ‘gathering of leaders” in a church and a community that would build networks of relationships that could fuel a leadership culture and collaboration like no other gathering. It was simply the best and only 2 day learning experience that we had ever been a part of that kept the local church at heart, but brought together church, business, government, educational and other leaders from an entire region to learn and grow.
The Global Leadership Summit is not just an event to attend, it’s a resource to be leveraged.
So how can you best leverage the Global Leadership Summit as a church? There are a lot of ways that you can make the GLS a win, but at One Life Church we have reached a point where we “own it” at several levels of our core strategy and structure.
1. Own it in your calendar
As a church, there are events that are non-negotiables in our annual calendar. All of us make sure that we calendar Christmas and Easter and the rest of the year seems to be on-ramps to those special days. The next date that we calendar is the GLS and we look for opportunities to build on-ramps IN AND OUT of the GLS experience. For us it comes at the end of the summer season and it provides great timing to inspire leaders as we launch into our fall plans. We surround it with prayer and even a special meal and gathering the night before as we re-gather from the summer break and prepare for our fall season kick off.
2. Own it with your staff
Not only does our entire staff attend the GLS, but we schedule an entire day very soon after to debrief. It’s an event where you will want to take copious notes and sharing those thoughts and ideas will change your staff discussions for the next year if you quickly connect and look for common ideas and learnings. In fact, last year in addition to our debrief day we took content from one of the speakers, Joseph Grenny and did a staff retreat using the ideas from “Influencers” to discuss our path for new people.
3. Own it with your leadership core
The WCA people introduced us to the idea that in most churches, approximate 15% of your attendance would be considered leaders that have some level of influence in your church. It is very important to note that the 15% goes significantly beyond just elders and deacons.It is anybody who leads people from pastors to group leaders. We have formalized that structure and call it our “Leadership Core” and we have monthly gatherings. They become our number one target to attend the GLS and we work at debriefing GLS ideas in large and small groups settings with our “Core” leadership. GLS changes the conversations and provides a platform for fresh strategic discussions. Last year we even took some of the Brene Brown material with this group and discussed “Belonging” in our church culture.
4. Own it in your community
This has become a very important part of the GLS for us as we serve our city. We partner with our local chamber, local government and of course other local churches to invite and connect for the purpose of helping to build a great city. Every year we do some type of discussion during one of the lunches at GLS that provides insight into our local community and the work that is happening though local nonprofits and other churches with the idea of mobilizing for greater impact.
5. Own it in your Global missions
It’s interesting because many of us listen to the world wide impact of the GLS and applaud the efforts, but rarely connect the dots to our own mission strategy. But we did….and it changed everything.
Several years back, I was part of a team that had been involved in the country of Myanmar for several years. We had been in a village near the largest city of Yangon and at the time had about a dozen orphanages that were doing a highly effective work with kids. As we heard about the work of the global GLS, we had a discussion about taking it into Myanmar. And to shorten the story of an incredible journey, partnerships between WCA and churches in the states and churches in Myanmar began to form and this past year was our 6th year with GLS in three major cities in Myanmar with over 1800 leaders attending. And most important, because of relationships and collaborations that were shaped at the GLS, a new Human Trafficking Restoration Center was built and is serving one of the biggest issues facing this country. Because of the GLS and partnerships we have developed, we have gone from reaching a village to reaching an entire country.
The Global Leadership Summit is not just an event to attend, it’s a resource to be leveraged.
If you leverage the Global Leadership Summit as a point of leadership training and mobilization and embed it into your leadership culture, it is an annual resource that can change your church, your city and your global impact.
Bob Seymore, One Life Church, Evansville, Indiana