Every now and then I attend a pastor's conference of some sort. I usually pick ones that are outside of my normal circle of influence because I want to be exposed to something that will make me think and interact with ideas that I may not have come across elsewhere. Of course, I know some think you should only go to "fundamental conferences." And some give you "the look" when they hear where you went. (I got "the look" recently ... at least I think I did.)
I attended such a conference this past week which proved to be interesting. The track I was in was a less than I expected. It was pretty "bottom level" stuff that perhaps would be good for someone who has little exposure to ministry. There were other tracks that I would have rather taken, if I had been given the opportunity. The interaction with other pastors was enlightening however. And enjoyable.
The best presentations were one on small groups and one on evangelism. They both tended towards the "nuts and bolts" end of things, which was helpful. Quite frankly, I am not all that interested in picking up theology at most of these conferences. I am more interested in picking up ideas and more importantly, seeing how other places do things.
Here's the danger of these kinds of conferences: They can lead to franchising the church. I think I have mentioned that elsewhere (though perhaps I meant to and never got around to it). Making hamburgers is the same in every city. Building churches is not.
A "best practices" kind of conference is dangerous because what is a "best practice" in one place or culture might not be in another. Furthermore, best practices are focused too often on pragmatism. "We did it and grew to 56,000 members in just five weeks" is not a good warrant for adopting a technique. For a church planter or pastor to try to wholesale implement somenoe else's vision or technique could be very damaging.
It also may tends towards self-reliance or organizational reliance rather than Spirit dependence. Such an approach may draw a crowd, but it will have a hard time building a church.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the two days was listening to these men defend their view of elder government. Trying to figure out the distinctions drawn between kinds of elders and whether or not they are on the elder board or not was ... well ... confusing. If I will be persuaded to elder rule, it will take a great deal more than was offered in these conversations.