Writings on Christianity

My Experience of TEDx Naperville

My Experience of TEDx Naperville

Last week I attended a TEDx conference in Naperville. It was my first time going, and I’m glad I went!

If you’ve never heard of TEDx, it is a regional/local gathering of volunteers who host a conference in the same mindset and approach as TED talks—informative, engaging lectures and presentations designed to promote “ideas worth sharing.”  The conference included a variety of speakers—both local and global, video and in-person—who spoke on an array of topics: from social issues, to learning, to social justice, to creativity, to vocation, to youtube stardom. There were also several musicians performing who shared about their journey into music (I appreciated the music of Bob Rychlik and Subhi).

As a pastor of a church here in Naperville (Cross of Christ Fellowship), it was a very educational experience for me. Some of the speakers shared about life experiences which appealed to shared cultural values and stories of redemption—Daryl Davis, an African American musician, shared about how he befriended a Ku Klux Klan member who later left the KKK (it was a story of courage and hope); Tim Ryan shared about his experience from being a substance abuser to leading others away from heroin addiction (this raised awareness of substance abuse around us and the importance of compassion). Others spoke on more practical ideas of social interaction and learning—Lynne Franklin on how understanding other’s body language helps you interact and not misunderstand others; Hazel Wagner on a way of taking notes called ‘mind-mapping.’ Perhaps the most sobering talk was Richard Wistocki on the dangers of internet sextortion of teenagers and the need for parents to be proactive in helping their children think through safe use of technology. Some of the speakers were more engaging and persuasive than others, but I think I benefited from hearing them all. And Jeff Ash did a great job hosting and all the volunteers who ran the event made everyone feel welcome.

One thing in particular I enjoyed about attending TEDx Naperville was the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life. The conference did an excellent job at encouraging everyone to meet and connect with others around them, and between sessions there were food and exhibits which made doing this really easy. Another way they helped us to do this was through a “wall of conversations,” where different questions were put on cards on a wall, and you had to fill out your answer and find someone else fill out their answer. This allowed me to meet a couple people from the community and engage a deep topic quickly–it was also interesting to read other people’s questions.

The question approach to learning is something I personally find very helpful in ministry as a pastor. It allows for genuine connections with others and can open up avenues of education and engagement that mere lectures miss out on. We use questions to explore topics in a twice a month discussion group called “Coffee and Conversations” here in Naperville; a wide variety of people from the community (Christians and non-Christians [mostly non-Christians in fact]) come and talk about the deeper topics of life together and we help them explore the topics in a welcoming environment (at the Barnes & Noble Cafe). As a Christian, I’m persuaded that Christ gives us a window in the truth about reality (John 14:6) and that he calls us to love those around us; we want our discussion group to be a place where people can have those deeper discussions together no matter where they are coming from. Our church also uses questions in some of our outreaches to the community (like a question board [with a different question asked each day] at a booth in Naperville’s Last Fling Festival).

“Pic from our Coffee and conversations meetup

At a time when there is so much mindless entertainment and addiction to the trivial,  TEDx invites us to use our minds to explore ideas that are transformative, liberating, and inspiring. As a Christian, I appreciated the emphasis on using one’s mind (here’s a booklet I wrote on ‘A Christian Thought Life‘) and seeking out innovative ways to help others around us. Even though I would not agree with everything was said at TEDx, or all the approaches advocated, I feel much more informed and educated from the experience, and thankful for the new acquaintances I made.


By Tom Schmidt

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *