What do you get when you bring 45 dynamic leaders from around the nation to the windy city during a porn convention over a weekend in the summer? You get a Strip Church Network Alumni event. And that is exactly what happened in early July. Leaders from around the nation and Canada came to Chicago for our annual event. We had leaders who’ve been in the network for years and leaders who in recent weeks had joined the network.
There are no words for me to sum it all up. It was more than I had hoped or planned for. And without a doubt God was with us. So; what exactly is the SCN Alumni Event and what happens there? Every year we invite the first 40 leaders who sign up to come to Chicago to collaborate with their colleagues in ministry. It’s a time to talk about our thoughts and ideas for ministry and the future of Strip Club outreach and sex industry ministry. It is a time of refreshing and renewal. A time to learn, a time to be real, a time to relax, a time to laugh, pray and even cry.
Two things are always planned the first night of the event. Our meet & greet and then as a group we all walk over to the porn convention where XXXchurch has a booth and does their outreach. It was so great to walk into the alumni event and whether or not you had ever met another leader face to face before— you knew her. That’s what is so amazing about our network—we are all connected. We know one another, we pray for one another, we SHARE and COLLABORATE on what is and isn’t working in our ministries. Whether a leader has been at it for years or is just beginning— no one is more or less important than another. We all have something to share, something to give and we all walk away better then when we came.
On day two we learned from Strip Church founder Craig Gross who shared the vision of the network and how we began on the Las Vegas Strip in 2008 after six years of outreach to the adult industry through XXXchurch. Craig then spent several hours talking about non-profits, fundraising and gaining donor support. Strip Church rock star Rachel Ceballos who has been with us since the beginning made her grand appearance (very pregnant with first baby!) to talk to the leaders about sharing their ministries with churches and with others. It was such a great conversation because no matter how passionate these women are about their ministries and outreaches, they all know how tough it can be to get others fully on board.
After a wonderful lunch together where many laughs and good conversations were had we were ready to head back. Nothing prepared us for what God would do for us when we returned to our conference room. Many of us were tired and yet excited to work through the agenda for the rest of the day but as God often does, He completely wrecked our plans. What started as a prayer asking God to bless the remainder of our time and to lead and guide us turned into one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. Some singing followed by two hours of prayer and speaking life into one another. We had an opportunity to share our dreams, our failures our hopes and disappointments and receive life-giving words spoken over us and our ministries.
I was humbled as I watched the humility of strong, victorious, powerful women get before God and each other with such transparency and grace. There were tears…a lot of tears but there was laughter and life. The one thing that God spoke loud and clear was that there is to be NO COMPARISONS or competitions in ministry… He gifts and equips us all in unique ways and calls us to just BE who we are in HIM and to GO where He leads us to go. Just Be & Go.
As we wrapped up the event we all knew that God had been in this place and that we were changed. We were refreshed and renewed and excited to go back to our cities with such a fire within us. We are committed to just be….and go.