I spent last week at the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN) (www.poamn.org) Conference in Orlando, Florida. At some point during the conference, I heard POAMN called the best kept secret in the PC(USA). I’m not sure what other secrets we have, but I agree.
I have learned to go to conferences with low expectations — at least 1 good workshop, one good concrete tool to bring back with me, and one solid new contact, in addition to worship that has one session that I find filling. This is because workshops are created to fill the needs of a wide range of people — what makes a good workshop for me may not be a good workshop for the person next to me, and my amazing worship experience may put someone else to sleep. POAMN far exceeded my expectations. I am still sifting through notes and handouts, trying to make space in my brain for new ideas and ways in integrate what I learned, but I am already hoping to go back next year.
The best workshop for my professional needs was a workshop about communicating with people who have Altzheimers Disease and dementia. It was a solid outline of how the disease manifests and progresses, and then some good ways to communicate with someone who has the disease. There were good resources offered, and I feel like a gap in my knowledge has been filled.
The theme of the conference was “Connecting the Generations” and one of the ideas I am putting together is what that really means. I went with the obvious expectation of connecting youth and children to seniors, but am realizing that it may mean how do we connect individuals in their 40’s to individuals in their 60’s. “Older Adult Ministry” can span 3 generations – in my church it does. While I got some really solid ideas for programs to do with Youth and Older Adults, I am still working on some of the translation for the adult intergenerational stuff. A conference that leaves the attendee thinking is always a good thing!
The smaller size of this conference was also good for networking with those who do the same thing I do. We were able to have good conversations with workshop leaders and keynoters about their work. Rev. Dr. Eileen Linder and Rev. Jon Brown put together a presentation that discussed the movement from modern to postmodern that finally explained it in a way that made it make sense to me and did not leave me feeling totally discouraged about the future of the church and the denomination. For once, I did not see the movement of society into a Post-modern age as a reason to become a tent-maker or worry about having a church to serve in 5 years. That 30 minutes alone was worth the entire registration fee.
It is also worth noting that there were a lot of chaplains in attendance — from hospital and settings and Presbyterian Retirement Home settings. There was even a chaplain workshop/breakout session. I have friends and colleagues who work in hospice settings who have struggled to find fitting continuing education events, and I commend this event to them.
I hope to post more about the week as I sort through it all. Overall, I am very glad I went — it was time well spent.