Mar 20, 2017

Collegiate Collective

3 Reasons Hitchhikers Helped Me

Nick Volkening reflects on his experience at a Hitchhikers event and urges you to attend one soon!

From the editor: We’re not just trying to promote Salt Company here, but the value of collaborative learning experiences like Hitchhikers conferences where you can get immersive experience with another ministry and network with like-minded leaders across the continent. Registration for Hitchhikers: Salt Company 2017 closes on April 1, but keep your eyes peeled for Hitchhikers: Resonate coming up Fall 2017.

#1 Hitchhikers gives you wisdom you will use.
I grew up in the church so I, maybe like you, have no shortage of conferences under my belt. (With an impressive stash of lanyards to prove it.) Hundreds of dollars, thousands of miles, and hours of time were invested for what often amounted to notes in a journal that I would never open again. Not to say that the Lord didn’t use all those moments to shape me; He certainly did. Most of what I learned, though, didn’t stick to my heart, head, or hands. It didn’t lead to long term transformation in character or practice. Hitchhikers, I can say with integrity, wasn’t like that. A year later, and some of the central pieces of how I do ministry were adopted or refined while I was there. I regularly use the resources and notes I collected. My time at Hitchhikers helped me see the reality that if I wanted to disciple people the way Jesus, it did would cost me more than the stuff I knew. By grace, I was confronted with this reality: convenience dies when discipleship exits the classroom and enters the living room. I felt the gentle tug of the Spirit while at Hitchhikers, that the people I led didn’t just need my gifts or my knowledge; they needed my heart, both for God and for them. It was a moment that shaped me, I think, forever.

#2 Hitchhikers offers real brotherhood.
It’s hard to walk into a conference without feeling like you’ve got to prove your legitimacy to everyone. I walked into Hitchhikers having to preach the Gospel to myself, knowing that I wasn’t more or less to God based on how my skills stacked up against everyone else’s in the room. With that in mind, I felt a holy rest until I spoke with…the first person I had a conversation with. Frankly, Hitchhikers is attended by some of the most incredible leaders and people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. It was here, in the middle of my own insecurity, that God met me. Jesus gently interrupted my vain attempts at measuring up, and called me back toward His way. I saw the best leaders, most influential voices, and the longest standing workmen of the Word stooping in humility to teach, help, and learn. The people I felt insecure around wanted to be my friend, help me, and learn from me if they could. It reminded me not to stand in the imaginary shadow of “Christian celebrity”, but to kneel before Jesus in humility with my brothers and sisters. At Hitchhikers, I found a likeminded family of humble Jesus-followers. They also happened to be the best in the world at discipling and reaching college students. Those are the kinds of people that I’m glad to call “my people”: the most gifted in the world that either don’t know or don’t care that they are.

#3 Hitchhikers is a dynamic learning and training experience.
Through large group teaching, breakout sessions, and conversations over food, Hitchhikers takes you through a helpful “cross-training” experience. (Pun slightly intended.) Different venues and styles of communication through every session help your brain and heart to soak in all the amazing content being delivered. Last year, the breakout session on “Leadership Pipeline” with Mark Vance, coupled with personal conversations with attendees that were practicing similar systems, profoundly shaped the way Red Hill (the church I serve) trains leaders. I think without the immersive learning experience I had at Hitchhikers, I don’t know that I could have grasped the concepts with the same level of comprehension.

Bottom line: if you’re able, I think you should attend Hitchhikers. (I’m not getting paid to write this; I promise.) I am convinced that even if you’re time there is half as helpful for you as it was for me, it would still be worth the trip. Thank God for what He’s doing through Cornerstone and The Salt Company. Let’s go to Ames and thank God for what He’s doing there. While we learn from them, let’s plead that he does similar things in our cities, on our campuses, and around the world.

Click here for more information and to register for Hitchhikers: Salt Company 2017.

about the author

Nick Volkening

Nick and his bride Erin live in Edwardsville, Illinois, where Nick serves on staff as the Collegiate Director with Red Hill Church. Red Hill is a church plant near the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.