2023 Leaders to Go Conference
Assembly Intergenerational Consultant Chris Barnett reflects back on Australia’s premier conference for children and families ministry leaders
September 20, 2023
By Chris Barnett, Assembly Intergenerational Consultant
Leaders to Go is Australia’s premier leadership conference for paid and voluntary leaders-of-leaders of church and school-based children and families ministries. It is also the key biennial opportunity for those in paid Uniting Church roles focused on ministry with children and their families to gather together.
This year it was held over 7-10 September at the Collaroy Centre on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
“Leaders to go is always a place of encouragement, equipping and challenge.”
Leaders to Go offers a unique experience of ‘iron sharpening iron’. It is not just about content, but facilitates the development of relationships that are stimulating, stretching and sustaining.
The 2023 conference provided 60 participants from across Australia and New Zealand the opportunity to engage with forward-thinking input, facilitated open learning spaces and community-building times focused on the themes of The Domestic Church, The Gathered Church and The Scattered Church.
The conference was attended by a number of Uniting Church participants, including Courtney Heyden and Nicola Robinson who are part of the ministry team at Gordon-Pymble Uniting Church in NSW.
Courtney is the Family Ministry Coordinator and said that Leaders to Go offers a vital place of connection and sharing for people in ministry with children and their families.
“Leaders to Go was the perfect way to connect with others who are in similar roles,” she said. “We enjoyed discussing our highs and recommendations for kids’ ministry for the future. We shared ideas, resources and had plenty of time to learn from specialist speakers.
“The conference space gave us plenty of time with pray, reflection and inspire thoughts to take back to our Church. Next time I will encourage other churches to attend.”
As the Ministry Coordinator at Gordon-Pymble Uniting Church, Nicola appreciated the opportunity to reflect on what intergenerational ministry is all about.
“The conference allowed us to grapple with issues of how as a people of God we can journey as a community of faith.”
“We are encouraged to intentionally develop intergenerational worship. The goal is NOT to solely bring families into the church but it is for whoever is in the space to journey together. Worship is not for us to sit passively but to be engaged with it and to explore our own faith with those around us.”
Leaders to Go 2023 also featured Rachel Turner as the conference’s Author in Residence. Rachel is the pioneer of Parenting For Faith, resourcing and equipping parents to nurture children and teens in faith.
“Rachel Turner’s keynote talks reminded us of the importance to walk alongside parents and children, to share our faith practices, model our faith and be ready to answer those tricky questions,” said Nicola.
“So often we are happy to answer the everyday mundane questions with our children but find it difficult to talk of God or show how we connect with God. We need to acknowledge the wisdom of children and youth and help them to discover their own faith by giving them the scaffolding to allow this to happen. Rachel Turner had excellent suggestions to allow this to happen.”
Alyce Gardner attended the conference as the Children and Families Pastor at Malvern Uniting Church in South Australia.
“To spend a few days amongst 60 other children's ministry leaders is invigorating and thought-provoking. It allowed me to spend time amongst other leaders from different states and denominations and build connections I may not have otherwise made.”
“I have come away encouraged and with many new ideas and wonderings. I am already looking forward to the next one in two years and will greatly encourage other children's ministry leaders to attend. It really is the best children's ministry conference I have been to.”
This was the seventh Leaders to Go conference for Melissa Neumann, Intergenerational Discipleship Developer in the Synod of South Australia, who said she continues to leave the event inspired.
“Leaders to go is always a place of encouragement, equipping and challenge.”
“Encouragement by being in a room full of passionate leaders in ministry with children and families, from across Australia and various denominations and organisations, hearing their stories and sharing in quality conversations. Equipping and challenge as we engage with new ideas, frameworks and practices alongside reflecting theologically in all of this.”
I have once again come away inspired by God's people who are called to lead and grow disciples through ministries with children and families.”
The next Leaders to Go national conference will be held in 2025.
Images L-R: The telling of the story of the Lost Sheep; Uniting Church participants Jess, Courtney and Melissa; Rachel Turner presenting.
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