Yesterday, I went to a one-day conference called the Rural Matters Summit hosted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. I went to their bigger conference last year at their campus, and this is a one-day event they hope to host a few places around the country.
I told the directors of the summit that I consider this the most valuable conference or series of conferences for me. This is so valuable because it is small enough to know people and everything comes from and applies to a similar context to mine. I still talk to friends I made at last year's conference. When I walked into this conference, 3 people called my name.
Most books for leaders or pastors are geared towards pastors in cities or suburbs. Principles that work in cities often don't translate to my rural(ish) context. These speakers pastor churches from small to really large and yet they face some of the same realities and issues that I face.
Example: One speaker said that if you pastor in a rural area then manual labor is valued highly, so don't look down on cleaning toilets, mowing the lawn, or working on your building. The pastor earns respect by doing those things. So think of them as an opportunity and not an indignity.
Now that I'm not in school, I take notes a little differently and have found it's really valuable. I take 1 minute at the end of every session and write down one action step that I can take to put this into practice. Honestly, I rarely review notes. If it is just information, then I forget it and move on. So what I do now is write down what I plan to do with the information.
Action steps from two sessions at the mini-conference: Buy a sweatshirt from the local high school. Make a list of all the transitions that could conceivably come this year in my life and ministry.