“I feel like I’m drinking from a firehose.”
We’ve probably heard that countless times from our own mouths or from other exhausted conference participants. My past two trips to The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference were no exception, as I wavered between excitement and my tired brain reaching overload.
As the 2021 conference looms close, excitement for the workshops and plenary sessions we’ve waited even longer for is coupled with the pressure to remember it all. How can you make the most of the short yet full days at TGCW this year?
Here are four suggestions.
1. Remember your church.
One of the most important things you can do is to attend with your church in mind. How might you use your new knowledge in your discipleship relationships? Could a discussion from a workshop be helpful for a Sunday school class, or help form how you organize a ministry event?
Much of the content will be useful for encouragement and conviction in your life, but the seeds of what you learn will blossom even further when you have your ministries—formal or not—in mind.
The seeds of what you learn will blossom even further when you have your ministries—formal or not—in mind.
Many of you are ministry leaders and Bible teachers, but many are not. The chance to take what you learn and hear to those in your church is still vital. Every conversation, text exchange, and welcome on Sunday morning is a chance to build up and encourage your sister in Christ (1 Thess. 5:11).
This practical step doesn’t begin at the conference but in your prayer time during the weeks leading to it. Ask God to show you how TGCW can equip you to better serve your church, and pray for open ears to hear.
2. Talk to strangers.
If the last year of isolation has taught us anything, it’s the importance of community. At TGCW you have the chance to hear some great teachers. But even more than that, you have a chance to meet and learn from the sisters in Christ right next to you.
I witnessed this firsthand in 2018 as I served as a volunteer, which forced me to be around strangers the entire time. That weekend I realized that the speakers on stage weren’t my only teachers. I was encouraged by the women I met who were studying hard in seminary, leading women’s ministries, and faithfully serving and praying for their church among difficulties.
This year, look for opportunities to reach out to strangers. We can do this in small or big ways—whether it’s drumming up conversation by asking for a book recommendation in the bookstore, or inviting someone who looks alone to lunch. Often the simplest bridge is asking, “Hi. Where are you from?”
In the body of Christ, every member is an important teacher and encourager—those on the stage and those in the seat beside you.
3. Compare notes with friends.
The level of information the brain can hold is amazing. Unfortunately there is also something called the “The Forgetting Curve.” The first time you hear something, the curve of forgetting is steep, until it eventually plateaus out.
In the body of Christ, every member is an important teacher and encourager—those on the stage and those in the seats beside you.
How much you rehearse and review the material helps cement it more in your memory. This is why rehashing your notes in the evening before bed, lunch the following day, or even in the following days helps ingrain the information in your head.
In addition to reviewing your notes yourself, you can gain even more helpful perspectives from the teaching if you share and discuss it with others. As the body of Christ, we all hold different positions, circumstances, and stages of life—which is precisely why we need each other.
If you attend TGCW with your church group, then discuss the plenary session, compare notes, and see how others’ studies and life lessons relate to what you’ve heard. And don’t only do this with those who’ve attended the conference. Obviously, the truths of God’s Word aren’t only found in lectures at TGCW, so take some of what you’ve learned back to a trusted mentor at church, or a family member, to see what wisdom they can add.
4. Ask questions.
Have you ever had the opportunity to ask some really great questions, but found yourself overwhelmed and at a loss for words because of all the information you just heard? This is why it’s best to come ready with some questions.
If you know you’ll be in a workshop, jot down some questions you have for the speaker. If you’ve been following along with the James study, make note of your questions so you can listen for answers during the keynote sessions, and discuss them with your friends who are attending.
As you make your list of questions, don’t forget to ask the speakers for their book recommendations. What are they reading? What are some resources you can bring back to your home or your church to further your studies?
Holy Spirit’s Help
These are just a few ideas to help you prepare for TGCW21. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, and it’s OK to not be instantly changed by every session. Some truths might immediately stick. Others may only be small seeds God will continue to grow through the faithful work of the body of Christ.
Our growth before, during, and after the conference is never up to us alone.
Ultimately, we all must remember our growth before, during, and after the conference is never up to us alone. The Holy Spirit patiently helps us work out our sanctification, even if we cannot adequately “drink from the firehose.”