Worship, Bible Study, and Speakers Seminars are just the tip of the iceberg in the Urbana experience. You also have a unique opportunity to access some of the foremost experts in missions and representatives from over 250 missions organizations. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Urbana can be a strategic next step in your journey into missions where you make significant progress in discernment and the decision-making process. Here’s how to make the most of it.
First, take stock of where you are now and consider where you want to go. Maybe you have some questions for God. Maybe you need to learn some specific things from others. Whether you are a ways from graduation or just a few months, it’s worthwhile to consider where you would like to be a year from now and begin to identify how your time at Urbana can get you there.
Frame some clear expectations for what you will take away from Urbana through prayerful reflection and some bold dreaming! Are you are looking to define your ministry direction or location? To choose a missions agency or study program? Or do you need some clarity or confirmation about a direction you have already chosen?
Once you’ve done some reflection, make use of the tools Urbana has made available on urbana.org to help you connect with the organizations that will best suit you.
Besides the resources for preparing yourself spiritually for the conference, urbana.org can help you get familiar with the Urbana program. Since Urbana offers so much, it’s worth it to look at the choices that are available to you. After you’ve spent time in reflection, explore the list of seminars available to you and make a list of what you don’t want to miss. When you’ve spend time in reflection, your own goals and desires can be a great guide.
The seminar schedule is still being finalized, but keep in mind, you’ll only be able to go to six seminars at most during Urbana, however, all seminars will be available to listen to online after the conference.
If you consider yourself “ready to go” the Exhibit Hall will be perhaps the most strategic place to spend your time. Here too, Urbana offers you a great tool to refine your focus from 250+ exhibitors down to a more realistic number through Ministry Match. Answer four questions and Urbana will recommend exhibitors for you. The more specific you are, the better this tool will serve you to visit in the Exhibit Hall.
But even before Urbana, you can scope out your matches’ Exhibitor Profiles on urbana.org and plan your interactions with exhibitors. You might want to consider two or three critical questions that reflect key values in your life, missions and ministry to have really productive conversations with exhibitors. Read Questions to Ask an Exhibitor.
As you research, talk with your local church, your family, and your friends. These people will likely be key partners along your missions journey. Honor them and the role they’ll play in your journey by getting them involved in your preparations for Urbana now. Ask your pastors, campus leaders, and other people you trust and respect for recommendations of missions agencies. If you don’t know much already about the missions vision and strategy of your local church, it is worth exploring now.
Make a Plan
Your reflection and research will inform your plan of action. Using the Ministry Match and researching exhibitors, you can target your time in the Exhibit Hall. Knowing you can’t make all of the seminars; make sure that you have a list of what you feel will best serve to equip you to move forward. Also, consider attending one of the Ready to Go Meetups, where you will find onsite support, networking, and resources for making the most of your time at Urbana.
In the midst of your planning, be prepared to be flexible. Be as open to God’s voice during the conference as you are in seeking his direction before you go. Know that you may learn something during your time at Urbana that may redirect or surprise you.
Recruit a Support Team
God never intended you to walk this journey on your own. He is with you, but he is also preparing you other companions. As you involve your church, family and friends in the research you’re doing, ask these same people to pray specifically for you and your time before, during and after Urbana.
Connecting with others who are planning to go to Urbana is also a great idea. You can pray for and learn from one another. Also, once on-site, share the experience with others who are at the same place as you. Pray for them, seek them out, and learn from their experience as well. Together, you can make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
Expect to Keep Going
Urbana doesn’t end with New Year’s Eve. The way you spend the next several weeks after Urbana can make the difference between a mountain-top experience that just takes up space in your memory banks and an experience God uses to help you join in his global mission.
Right after Urbana, make sure you sleep. As James Bryan Smith says in his book The Good and Beautiful God, “You will never come to a point where you are above the need for adequate sleep.” Chances are you'll have some difficulty getting adequate sleep at Urbana. Set aside time to make up for the sleep you lost. Everything will be better if you do.
Also, plan to share your Urbana experience with others (including that support team you recruited). Take time to prepare a 3 minute version of your experience for those who are more interested and a 30 second version for those who don’t yet know they’re interested. Thinking it through like this will help you own your experience and help you see more clearly all the good that God will have accomplished.
Finally, keep visiting urbana.org for Urbana 12 resources like videos from the general sessions, seminar audio and the Ministry Match. Urbana.org will also be a great ongoing resource for you with new articles, Bible Studies, Missionary Biographies, helpful resources, Blogs and of course, Ask Jack.