Blue sky is how a former colleague used to describe it. A lay leader called it “getting up in the balcony”. For those of us in leadership in any institution it is so important to take some time and get away from your day-to-day work and think about the future, where your organization is going, how you can “get out front” and look around the corner. It is easy in Ministry to spend all of one’s energy on the day-to-day stuff and soon a possible path in a new direction is missed. It’s like the opportunity to see a new place, if you only follow the routine each day you never find the new places.
Of course there are a lot of colleague who love “to get away”. They like to spend their Con Ed dollars and travel far away to hear gurus, very clever people who do what we do in better and more interesting ways. I get that. I used to do that early in my ministry. And then I found that too was a rut and many of the colleagues I saw at those events were there less to be stimulated and more to “get a break”. It was more of a vacation than a learning time.
I confess I like the day-to-day. I like it more than most and therefore it is easy for me to just keep it going, and focus on the cycle of the Christian year, the highs and lows of church life, or community life. But while I am a task person I am also a person who loves big ideas and vision. So hearing speakers share big ideas is a jolt of energy to my soul. And I am very utilitarian about ideas, I like to put them into practice, and I usually do. 99% of the time, returning from a seminar or conference, I have already plugged my learning into my daily clergy life.
But now that the church is in this very steep decline and money is so tight I find myself only attending seminars and workshops that a) I know are going to be highly stimulating and b) are close by. Luckily Halifax, with many universities, has a wealth of learning opportunities. There is no need to go away. I also work for non-profits who are always after me to spend our annual Professional Development monies. I usually attend these kind of events and have it paid for by groups other than the church.
My struggle with learning events is less the big picture or the application to the everyday but rather the “process” stuff, the way the seminar is taught, the language, protocols, processes, “getting in” of the event. I want to dive right in to the ideas, get as abstract as possible. My mind enjoys ideas, practical applications and plans. My mind balks at process.
Today I was into blue sky territory. I spend the entire day thinking big thoughts thinking and learning about mental health and the legal system. My brain feels very well fed. I can’t wait to put it into practice. And I didn’t have to do any process, just sat in a corner and listened. Blue skies in paradise.