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What Jenni Said About The Art of The Gathering: Fantastic

Priya Parker's book The Art of The Gathering (TAoG) was recommended to me by a friend from church who knows how much I enjoy putting together events for others.
As I began reading TAoF, I was quite inspired by the rich meaning Parker ascribes to gathering, and the significant possibilities of making a concrete difference in the world through our gatherings. Yes, I nodded to myself, the events I put together do matter. Nice ego stroke. But as she laid out a step by step methodology for ensuring those gatherings have purpose and are effective, my kneejerk reaction was that her approach felt overly controlling and I worried my guests would resent the kind of manipulative engineering she describes. What happened to organic gatherings that are completely open and free from any sort of direction? Isn't that where happiness and change can take root? Turns out, not so much. She makes a very good case for why proper planning and execution of gatherings under thoughtful leadership make for the best gatherings. I recalled the best events I've ever been to, and had to admit Parker was right - those that were carefully planned with purpose and direction, where the guests and activities were curated, turned out to be the most impactful.
So I've made it a goal to put the principles she's laid out in TAoG into practice, and it's going well so far. I set an intentional purpose for each gathering. I curate the invite list based on that purpose. I choose a setting that aids the purpose (the right density; the right locale). I actively manage the event - not heavy handed mind you, but not laissez faire - to protect/equalize/connect my guests. I aim to always create a temporary escape from the world during my events. I work hard before each event and prime my guests for the event. During the events, I include activities that encourage people to open up with each other. And I close the events with a recollection of our purpose, summarize the event, and try to leave my guests with something memorable.
If you are responsible (or enjoy and would like to be responsible) for organizing and hosting events (for work, for pleasure, as a volunteer, etc) I highly recommend this book. Life is too short to just go through the motions of meetings and events; they should be infused with purpose and Parker can teach you how to make it so. I especially encourage this as a read for those in the Christian community who have been given the gift of hospitality and want to refine and improve their event hosting, understanding that showing God's love to others through event planning and hosting is important work in the kingdom.


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