Bruce Mullan attended the Global Leadership Summit and came away surprised and impressed.
From the moment you were greeted in the car park of Newlife Robina Uniting Church it was clear that this event was going to be something special.
A team of over 40 volunteers welcomed 250 people to hear video presentations from experts in leadership training and church management, blended seamlessly with live input from the local host organisation.
The packed auditorium was welcomed by a video clip featuring faces like Nelson Mandela and John F Kennedy, and telling us that “leadership is hard work”, before the live band pumped out a rock version of “How Great Thou Art”, complete with a subtle light show and a hint of smoke machine.
Host pastor and chair of Willow Creek Australia Rev Stu Cameron offered a prayer thanking God for the privilege of being leaders, and we were off to join 260 000 leaders from around the world in over 120 countries and in 55 languages participating in the 2015 Global Leadership Summit (known by enthusiasts as the GLS).
The speaker line-up (all on screen) included pastors of churches where membership is numbered in the tens of thousands, authors and academics, a multiple Academy Award winner and a hotel manager, but some of the best learning came from what was happening off the stage.
The level of hospitality offered by the host congregation was little short of exceptional. As Stu Cameron put it, they had been trained in the understanding that “excellence honours God and inspires people”.
More like a series of 50 minute TED talks (Google if you haven’t heard of it) than a church conference, the content was at times predictable but mostly inspirational.
A Uniting Church member undertaking a period of discernment Ryan Degroot attended the GLS for the first time and came away energised by the experience.
“I didn’t just learn about leadership, I was inspired,” he said. He wasn’t on his own.
With most of the content coming to us on an enormous video screen, from time to time I would ask myself if I felt like the presenters were actually in the room and decided in the end that it probably didn’t matter.
While I found I couldn’t applaud the video “speakers” (most did) or put my hand up in answer to a question, I was absolutely engaged by the content and the process to the extent that I was able to forgive the advertising and allow the GLS to inspire me to believe that leadership is important—and that I could do it.