Rethinking Church Conferences

January 8, 2009 by

The resident expert on church staff burnout, Anne Jackson, started a conversation this week about church conferences. It started with a Twitter post and turned into a blog entry that currently has 49 comments. The essence of Anne’s post and the feedback she’s receiving is questioning whether or not conferences are worth it. Do you come away with anything helpful or do you just feel inadequate?

Redefining the Conference
That’s why I like the new breed of what I’ll call “un-conferences.” They’re experimental events that are trying to redefine the typical conference. Two that come to mind are on opposite ends of the spectrum: Q and Idea Camp. I say opposite ends because Q is pricey and Idea Camp is free. But both events are about getting people together and talking about ideas. Both events banish the garish exhibit hall, so no booths or bozos with their hard sell. (Full disclosure: We’ll be attending Q and hope to have a CMS meetup. And we have some connections with the man behind Idea Camp, Charles Lee. He’s cool.)

Do It Yourself
Another complaint about conferences is just getting there. And one of the main benefits of a conference isn’t the big name speakers, it’s the small-time connections. So why not get both? Connect with like-minded folks without leaving town. Our Local Labs might be able to help. We’ve intentionally made our Local Labs a do-it-yourself affair. All we do is help connect people and spread the word. You determine what your meetup looks like, whether it’s a monthly coffee shop visit or a once-a-year all-night party.

It takes more work and initiative, but maybe instead of traveling halfway across the country you should connect with fellow church communicators in your own backyard.

Either way, maybe it’s time to get more out of getting together.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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8 Responses to “Rethinking Church Conferences”

  • Kevin Rossen
    January 8, 2009

    I just left an un-conference: Church Tech Camp Dallas. It was fun and fulfilling.

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  • Mark Burleson
    January 8, 2009

    We do that with
    Church IT Roundtable. I work for a larger church in the U.S. and a lot of us seem to learn more from the smaller churches. It’s a great community and experience.
    More often than not, we talk to each other everyday via online means and bounce ideas and struggles, both tech and life related.

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  • gavin richardson
    January 8, 2009

    in satire world, it reminds me of this prophetic message.

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  • David Szpunar
    January 8, 2009

    I know Mark above from the Church IT Roundables (CITRT) and in addition to being a great un-conference twice a year (which is also inexpensive), many attendees keep in touch year-round through Twitter, blogs, a TalkShoe podcast, and an IRC chat room (#citrt on Freenode). For Church IT people, whether volunteers or one-man IT depts (where it gets lonely…I’m one of the latter), or large multi-IT-staff churches, you can usually find someone else who can help you out and/or listen to you vent!
    I consider most of the people I know through the Roundtables to be good friends and even unofficial coworkers!

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  • Charles Lee
    January 8, 2009

    Thanks for posting this Kevin (and the nice words)! I’m so excited to see where this kind of tension about conferences lead us in the next few years. Keep up the great work. I’m going to check out your local labs idea.

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  • Tom
    January 9, 2009

    I worshipped in a church last nite
    in the Dallas, Tx. area. You couldn’t notice any signs of marketing, but at the end of the prayer meeting, an offering was taken. All the people came from their seats in a very orderly fashion, starting from the back row.
    Each onr put their offering in a nice gold container.

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  • Bradley Cochran
    January 11, 2009

    Great post Kevin. Didn’t know you were posting on this website. Keep em’ coming!!

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  • Derek Iannelli-Smith
    February 10, 2009

    here is my point about conferences… your using tithe money so you can steward a learning and networking experience…
    many of the fees for conferences are just that fees… for what, paying the speaker? the doughnuts?
    I get frustrated with conferences because my wife and I spent 3500 of our savings to go to something that we ‘had’ to go to and there was no benefit (resources, connections, or what we ‘had’ to go there for) yet that was 3500 lost… here is what I learned about conferences… I can do alot of ministry for $3500

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