On Saturday we knocked out our first Illuminate of the 2011-12 year. It was a huge hit! Not only was it super successful, I learned so many things about hosting a conference, especially in a city where you don’t live. One of the biggest things I learned is that starting a conference in distant location is a lot harder than you would think. The Austin event came together incredibly well with seemingly little effort, but the Birmingham event required a lot more work to get the word out. Like I said though, I learned a lot from this first event which I hope to put to work in future events.

However, this last saturday was almost 100% void of stress. I had an immense amount of peace and I remember walking around at times thinking, “should I be running around or fixing an emergency of some sort?” Let me share with you two reasons why the Birmingham event was so successful (there are several other reasons as well, but these may be the biggest).

Cathy Harwick and Corey Schwarz. Period.

Cathy Harwick and Corey Schwarz work for me at Gateway and are also good friends to me and my family. Having them in Birmingham was strategic since we’ll be putting on a nearly identical conference in Austin in a little more than two months. Most of the work that we were scrambling to get done right before the event last year is already done now that Birmingham is behind up. I’m just so grateful that they were willing to come. There is no way that I would have been able to pull off what I did without their help. Cathy took care of all the details around registration, customer service and speaker care. Corey took care of all the details around the production, audio/video recordings and technical aspects. That left me with little more to do than just walk around, shake hands and welcome people to Illuminate. This is probably why I didn’t experience any stress at Birmingham. I just had fun.

I’m not sure if I’ve said much about these two team members here at Gateway. I hired Cathy Harwick as my McNeil campus Children’s Pastor about 2.5 years ago. After looking for a Children’s Pastor for nearly 9 months, Cathy sought me out. She came to Gateway with incredible experience leading a larger Children’s Ministry at a larger church. I’ve met very few people who have the ability to recruit, lead and care for volunteers like she does. Because of her gifting, I have her operating in two roles. In addition to being the Children’s Pastor at our largest campus, she also oversees the process for recruiting, leading and caring for all volunteers to kids at Gateway.

I hired Corey just a little over two years ago to be the Children’s Pastor over the Children’s
Ministry at our South Campus. He’s a total rock star. For several years he had been the children’s pastor at a smaller church in the area. When he joined our team, he was able to use his gifts as a part of a larger kidmin team, not having to do everything himself. Corey has a big passion for large group ministry, so he also operates in two roles. In addition to being the Children’s Pastor at our South Campus, he oversees production, environments and curriculum for all of the Children’s Ministry at Gateway.

I thought I’d just brag a little on Cathy and Corey. They were significant in Illuminate’s success and they are significant to me, very much like family.