by Alesia Frerichs, LSA VP of Member Engagement
What is the value of the LSA Annual Conference? It’s a question we ask ourselves at LSA in the wintery months as the LSA staff focuses on finalizing the details of an event that brings together Lutheran social ministry organizations from across the country. These are the finishing touches on an activity that actually starts many years in advance. The dedicated marketing team scopes out a place for the conference and negotiates a venue years in advance. Twelve months out we begin the planning in earnest. An advisory team is formed of staff and LSA members; plenary speaker and session profiles are drafted; and connections are made. The months move on as we craft and refine a program that we hope resonates with attendees. Many questions are asked and options evaluated, such as:
- Jonathan Reckford is doing inspiring work with Habitat for Humanity International – do you think he is available?
- The Y-USA is really changing the way people think about population health, will our members see parallels with the LSA potential?
- Kathryn Edin just published a thoughtful book on poverty – would she be able to speak?
We travel to Minnesota in July and October, experience picture perfect weather and meet with many local members including Anne Long, CEO, Plymouth Youth Solutions; Shirley Barnes, CEO, Crestview Senior Communities; Robin Dunbar Balck, Senior Vice President of Administration and Chief Strategy Officer, Ecumen; Jodi Harpstead , CEO and President, Lutheran Social Service of MN; and Sandra Aslaksan, CEO, Our Savior’s Housing. They identify the key examples and rich heritage of service and innovation in their communities which are woven into the conference.
Excitement grows as winter becomes spring and the date draws nearer. The LSA office is abuzz with activity and anticipation and the conversation centers on the big event as it draws near:
- Will attendance validate the work we have put into the programming?
- Do we have the right balance of working sessions, learning and networking?
- Will it snow in April in Minnesota?
And then conference begins and we come together – building the path, shining the light. Pre-conferences, receptions and a learning tour precede an inspiring and motivating opening plenary by Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. The 2015 Provider Exchange Cohort, a working group launched the previous year, celebrates success and develops plans to continue. A new working group is formed focusing on permanency for older youth. The senior services working groups explores ways to impact population health. The first LSA national VISTA grant addressing community resiliency is announced at the Annual Meeting of the membership. Panels of peer leaders and industry experts share their expertise on topics as diverse as the future of senior services, CEO and board relationship, church and community partnerships, the Department of Labor rulings and innovative healthcare partnerships. Receptions and meals offer opportunities for attendees to connect, reconnect and network.
Once the nearly week-long event is over, and we have time to reflect, we are reminded it is not just the program that makes the event successful. It is the connections made inside and outside the LSA network, the opportunity to learn, share, take action and worship together all while lifting up those we walk alongside. And as May slips into June and working groups, webinars, meetings, advocacy analysis and connections continue, we are reminded the LSA Annual Conference is just one of the many ways Lutheran social ministry comes together - building the path and shining the light throughout the year.
To view the materials and resources from the LSA 2016 Annual Conference and learn about upcoming activities, please visit our website’s Events section.