Last Thursday and Friday was the inaugural CM Expo in Lexington, KY. I don’t often get to attend conferences because of my other obligations (namely my other job), but this one was close enough (3 1/2 hours) and cheap enough ($25) to make it worth it to make the trip. Plus, my wife came along, and we were able to turn it into a long weekend. It was interesting to see all of the different exhibitors. There were some common peddlers, but the clear majority of the stuff was from people who clearly have a heart for kids. Whether that was the guys from Kidz Matter, Seeds Family Worship or Kidz Blitz, it was fun to walk around and see it all displayed in one room. There were also Scoops and Sit Ins to learn from, though frankly I didn’t make it to very many of those in the end. All that to say, the single thing which I enjoyed most was the chance to meet so many people in person who I knew from online. I will forget some, no doubt, but here are some of the people who left a lasting impression on me. I enjoyed talking to, and learning from, them so much, that I thought I would take a day just to tell you all a little more about them:
1. Tony Kummer (@TonyKummer). Of all the people I was planning on meeting at meeting at the CM Expo last week, Tony is the only one I have actually spoken to before. We have had a number of telephone conversations (during many of which Tony has talked long enough to totally deplete the battery on my cell phone). I have always admired Tony’s website – Ministry-to-Children.com. For the last six months or so, I have been working with Tony to try to promote interest and activities in the forums on his site. About three months ago, I started to write article for Tony’s site as well. I’ve enjoyed our phone conversations and talking blogging with Tony, and I was looking forward to meeting him in person. I was not disappointed. Tony is a great guy. It didn’t hurt that he has a similar sense of humor to me and enjoys causing a little bit a good natured trouble here and there. Despite all of the success with the website, he is humble and quick to remind you that he is “just” a new children’s pastor at a reasonably sized church who happens to have a blog. In addition to his dedication to children’s ministry, Tony is also clearly a devoted father. Although younger than yours truly, he’s got one more kid than me, and I found it just as interesting to share stories about being Dad with him as talking about children’s ministry. One thing I didn’t know about Tony that I learned at the Expo is his outgoing nature. I tagged along a bit as Tony made his rounds of the Expo and was amazed at his ability to carry on a conversation with just about anyone. I also noted that, because of Ministry-to-Children.com, people were chomping at the bit to throw free stuff at Tony to review on his site. I appreciate his willingness to pass some of that along to us minions to review. My conversations with Tony, and others, sparked a number of ideas for blog posts which you will see here on Dad in the Middle, or on Ministry-to-Children.com or Kidmin1124.com, in the near future. I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Tony as time goes on.
2. Jim Wideman (@JimWideman). It won’t be any surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I have a great deal of respect for Jim Wideman. After meeting him this past week at CM Expo, that respect has only grown. Jim had what had to be the best idea for a booth at CM Expo. Some people has full scale architectural masterpieces. Jim had a couple of chairs, a couch and some odds and ends from the garage for ambiance. His booth was designed for people to just sit and chat with him, and it worked well. In fact, Jim was so busy with people on the first night of the Expo that I didn’t actually get a chance to say hi. I did have some time to hang out with him on Friday. As well known and respected as he is in the world of children’s ministry, what struck me the most about Brother Jim was his friendliness and humility. I didn’t actually get a chance to talk children’s ministry with him, which I regret, but we did get to “shoot the breeze” and talk a little bit about parenting. One of the things I have always appreciated about Jim is that every time I have ever heard him speak, and in everything I have ever read from him, his family is prominently featured. It is clear from everything he does that next to God his family is his highest priority, and I feel like I can learn just as much from him about being a husband and father as I can about children’s ministry. It was also interesting for me to listen to Jim talk about his tendency to take a perfectly good hobby and turn it into a job/chore. I had to laugh as I was sitting there with my wife who has told me the same thing a number of times. If you are in full-time ministry, I would definitely encourage you to check out Brother Jim’s Infuse group and/or his one-day seminars coming up this fall. You can find out about both on his website. After meeting Brother Jim and talking to him for just a very short period of time, I understand why people line up to learn from him. If you ever have that opportunity, I encourage you to jump at it.
3. Amy Fenton Lee (@AmyFentonLee). I had corresponded with Amy prior to the Expo and was really looking forward to meeting her. I have enjoyed reading her articles in various publications and on The Inclusive Church blog, and we had corresponded prior to the Expo to make plans to get together to chat. I had the chance to sit down with Amy for about an hour while she waited for her flight. Her flight delay turned out to be my gain. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation about children’s ministry, her blog, Kidmin1124, blogging in general, children’s pastors, and challenges facing those in children’s ministry (I’m sure we talked about a lot more, but I can’t recall it all right now :)). I learned quite a bit about special needs ministry from Amy who is clearly an expert in the field. It was interesting to talk to her about writing as well. She clearly takes her writing very seriously, and she is really good at it. In addition to the encouragement that I got from her, I think the thing that struck with me most about our conversation is how much it sparked the rusty gears in my brain to get cranking. Our conversation challenged me to think through issues and positions which I have held for quite a while but have not really taken the time to articulate. I enjoy listening to and learning from people. It’s one of the reasons that I read as much as I do. That said, I really enjoy and article or conversation that not only teaches me but also forces me to think. My conversation with Amy fell into that category, and I look forward to talking to and corresponding with her much more. Sometimes you just click with people, and I know that Amy is one of those people that I will continue to learn from and be challenged by when it comes both to children’s ministry in general and writing in particular.
4. Gina McClain (@Gina_McClain). Like almost everyone else on this list, I had not met Gina prior to the CM Expo. I did participate in a think tank that she put together several months ago which was very thought provoking and edifying, but we hadn’t yet met. I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to talk to Gina, but the conversations that we did have were very enjoyable. She clearly takes the prize for the best story I heard at the Expo which I wish I could share with you here, but it just doesn’t seem appropriate. How is that for a build up and let down? In all seriousness though, in my short interactions with Gina, I noted four things about her. First, her Iphone is less like an accessory and more like an attachment. I think her ability to talk and tweet on her Iphone at the same time is second to none. Secondly, she has a passion for children’s ministry which is undeniable. Third, I understand why she is in demand as an author and speaker. When you’re talking to Gina, you just feel like she knows what she is talking about. She exudes expert. And, finally, she’s just a nice person. I look forward to continuing to converse with her on all things children’s ministry.
I have at least six or seven more people on my list to write about, but it’s been a long weekend, so I think I will save those for tomorrow or Wednesday. Needless to say, I had a great time, and met a lot of great people. Don’t miss Tony Kummer’s recap of the Expo and especially his video which features the four people above, and many more. You can find that article here.