Chicago Ideas Week

Teri Peterson - headshotby Rev. Teri Peterson, Pastor, The Presbyterian Church of Palatine

Chicago Ideas Week is an annual, weeklong gathering of global thought leaders created to drive ideas into actionable results. In 2013, it will take place October 14–20 at locations around Chicago for just $15 per event.

Last October I spent several days sitting in cafes, studios, conference rooms, and auditoriums with people who ran the gamut from never-been-to-church to pretty-regular-but-still-surprised-to- meet-a-pastor. Together we heard about how to listen so that people will tell their stories, how to build community in surprising places, how to hold meetings people want to attend, how to structure our human-resource time in such a way that creativity flourishes along with productivity, and all kinds of other topics.

Two things made this different from the average conference experience.

  • One: I was the only one explicitly making connections to the church—everyone else was getting ideas for their small (or large) business.
  • Two: We didn’t just hear about these things, we actually did them.

Chicago Ideas Week seems, on the surface, to have nothing to do with church. A few moments scratching that surface, though, reveals an event teeming with opportunity. Through hands-on workshops (called “labs”) and lectures (called “talks”), we can practice looking for God’s story and presence, meet people who will open our minds and hearts, and experience a shot of creative energy. While I am the first to say “the church is not a business!!” I will also be the first to say “but we have a lot to learn from the creative people who are running or starting businesses these days!” I have spent the last year pondering how Agile methodology might apply to church board and committee infrastructure, training our elders and deacons in the kinds of listening and questioning techniques that ensure people feel heard, and encouraging people to look for the Spirit’s movement beyond the initial “that won’t work” moment.

While I didn’t get a chance to blog about everything (mostly because I was busy trying it all out!), what I did write about may help you get some flavor of Ideas Week.

I can’t recommend enough spending several days in October with some of the most creative and interesting people invested in the community and future of the city, and who want to put amazing ideas into action. I guarantee you’ll come back excited and renewed for 21st century ministry.

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