Cultivating Community, 5

Once I had the courage to try something new, to bring a small basket of loaves & fish, I learned to then prayerfully watch the Lord do the blessing & multiplication.

Within just one month I had a business license, created an LLC, purchased the website domain, designed a logo, and was fully in the planning phase of the inaugural event… which I brazenly scheduled for just three months down the road! As I said over at Paideia Northwest, “Registration opened at the end of August for an event called Courage for the Daily, held in November 2018. With 200 women in attendance at that first event, the need for this blessing was solidified – and Paideia Northwest began to put down real roots.” I could hardly believe the variety and depth of positive feedback I received after that event. Truthfully, I was genuinely surprised that it didn’t flop. It’s only because God is good, and He was the One at work.

The community which we seek at Paideia Northwest is an atmosphere of principles over methods, and simply raising kids for Christ is my goal in encouraging regional mamas. Practically everyone calls it a homeschooling conference, but in practice it is really much more broad than that. I never mind when people refer to it as a homeschooling event. Yet homeschooling is one method of raising and educating kids for Christ… and the principle beneath it is much more graciously broad. We have so much to learn from each other, regardless of educational niche. Unity in essentials (Christ!), diversity in non-essentials (methods), charity in all things (brotherhood).

The mission with this annual event continues to be a desire to build bridges, create community, encourage camaraderie, and facilitate fellowship in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. I know that each year there are a couple of attendees who have flown in from other corners of the country, which honestly surprises me. But it also delights me. While the goal for Paideia Northwest is to keep our events local to our region, we not only welcome people to attend from other areas, but are eager to see this mission & vision take root in other locations on the map. I love how the annual conference has built a new sphere of community for Christian mamas in the OR, WA, ID corner of our country. But I also love that I receive emails every single year after the conference, asking if I would be willing to “take it on the road” and do the same event in other locations (short answer: nope) or willing to “share the vision” by helping other Paideia Communities form (short answer: you bet).

So, why me? Because God called me to it. That’s really it.

Why an annual conference? Because that’s what God put on my heart, and what He has equipped and enabled me to pull off at this point.

Why in the broader Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area? Because that’s where I live, and where I have personally felt a need… and the attendance of the conference which increases year over year has confirmed that I’m not the only one who felt the need.

Going back to the question Brandy Vencel asked: is it worth it? Again, I can wholeheartedly say YES. But what’s really interesting about that question is that the people who ask that question have no idea what it costs. Financially or physically or emotionally or time expenditure – none of it. So I can say it’s totally worth it, but that still honestly gives you no clue (zip, zilch, zero) about what I invest in the process each year.

I know that you have no idea… because I had no idea prior to jumping in and just figuring it out on my own.

So what DO you think it takes to put something like this together? What would you imagine goes into the planning of a one-day conference, just once a year, for 200, 300, or 500 women? What kind of team is needed? What kind of finances? What type of organization setup or practical administration is necessary? How is the creativity side orchestrated? What about advertising and social media? Who plans the themes and books the speakers? How do you know who to ask and what to pay and how much to plan for?

As far as I know, there aren’t really classes to teach this. Or maybe there are, and I was in too much of a hurry that first year to bother looking around. Also, I didn’t have money to put toward that kind of thing! Any furthered education I needed in order to learn how to be a conference and event planner, I had to seek for myself. I researched what I could, Googled what I imagined might be helpful (again: so many weeds to weed through when you do that), and just went by faith into trial & error.

I am not a master gardener, but I do have a vegetable garden every year. I do my best. I iterate. And there is always fruit (actually mostly veggies, but you know… idioms). And it is fun to stand back and see what the Lord brings up for harvesting each time. Some things do better than others. I take notes and learn from them for the next season. Each year, I have more notes and experience to build upon, so it feels less like trial & error and more like practice & iteration.

I am also learning that cultivating community by myself as a one-woman-show is more exhausting than cultivating larger community as a small community. This is what’s known as teamwork, delegation, working together, sharing the load, bearing one another’s burdens, partaking in one another’s joys. Yep. I’m still growing. Still learning.

There is more cultivation to do.

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