Unlike last year where I simply vented my frustration online at WCA’s choice to charge people money to watch DVDs, this time I emailed the CEO and asked him about this policy.
I still couldn’t get it… $179.00 per person to watch DVDs… He advised me that every cost was accounted for and that they may even lose money. He kindly told me I could have a free ticket to assess the worth of the conference and then speak with him later about how WCA could do better if I didn’t feel it was worth the money.
You can’t get any fairer than that, so I took him up on it.
So here are some random reflections from day 1:
– With the trains out of action the freeway was likely going to be horrible. And fully expecting half an hour of singing I aimed to arrive at 9.20 and miss it. I got there at 9.15 and missed the most of it.
– Riverview’s chairs are very comfy.
– Maybe 800 present?…
– Paul Morrison is a huge asset for any church. I knew Paul when he was the quiet shy bloke from Pingelly who could sing with passion like nobody else. With Mark Cullen moving on from Riverview he seems to have become the ‘front man’. He is as earthy and authentic an Aussie bloke as you will find anywhere. His marriage man clips are pretty darn funny too.
– Mark Wilson was our ‘facilitator’ or more accurately compere for the day. He asked us to ‘welcome’ the speakers, to applaud them and to generally do as we were told. I’m afraid I struggle to welcome someone via DVD. If that isn’t weird… The WCA CEO told me they need to fly the facilitators to the USA to train them… Mark and a million other pastors could have done what he did today standing on their heads! I think I figured out one way to save a heap of money.
– “Turn to someone and greet them.” Seriously, if I had a dollar for every person who has told me they find this practice revolting I could feed a small country. This is something we need to lose in churches. It lacks authenticity and people feel pushed. Lets just admit it was a bad idea and if people want to say ‘g’day’ they are quite capable on their own. It reminds me of a marriage seminar I went to where as I entered the first session I was ‘given’ a rose to give to my wife. It was as dicky a concept as I have ever come across! ‘Here honey! That man gave me this rose to give to you to show you I love you…’ (I told him ‘my wife doesn’t like roses’)
– Bill Hybels did a talk on vision. (No really!) He spoke about the importance of getting buy in from the people – not just the leader having a great idea. As he admitted this has been a big move forward for him, from simply getting the vision from on high to engaging due process. He asked us to consider whether we had a vision we would go the wall for, or whether we just had a warm fuzzy feeling that we weren’t sold on.
Hybels is always good and this was no exception. (He is looking older! But then so am I…) I found this talk helpful as I reflected on my own place in life at the moment. I found myself wondering if I am sold out to the dream God has placed in my heart or if I am just interested in it. I have never been one for half heartedness but in the last few days I have been struggling with some personal stuff and this talk was good medicine for me. There’s no question that Hybels was seeing a larger corporate expression of church as he spoke, but the core idea is reasonably transferrable to more simple organic structures.
– Morning tea – a chance to catch up with some friends who seemed to wonder what the heck I am doing there. Some folks seem to hold the view that if I work for Forge then maybe I am ‘sleeping with the enemy’. My objections to this conference had less to do with content, and more to do with the expense.
– Karen Wilson told us that over 100 000 people had participated in the Summit worldwide. I did a quick calculation… 100 000 x $100.00 ( a conservative figure) = quite a lot of money… $10 000 000.00 (10 million) to be precise. Did it really cost that much to run?… I am yet to be convinced on this issue. (Honestly – I am astonished…)
– The second session saw Hybels interview Carly Fiorina an ex CEO of HP who was fired unexpectedly. She shared her story of learning how to overcome personal fears and lead well. She was excellent value and threw out a few gems along the way. She was one of the non-Christian presenters in the whole event and at the risk of being cynical it reinforced yet again that much of leadership in churches today is not based so much on biblical principles as on best practice business management technique.
– Lunch – great opportunity to catch a few friends
– Marcus Buckingham of ‘Gallup’ was next and this bloke was brilliant. He spoke about putting your strengths to work and focussing on developing them rather than worrying about weaknesses. He seemed to have been a stand up comedian in a past life and regularly had people laughing. His presentation was excellent and insightful as he helped each of us consider what it was that were our real strengths – as opposed to simply the things that we were good at. I could rave on about this session, but I’d suggest you get the DVD and use it with any team you are leading. Fantastic stuff!
– And after afternoon tea Richard Curtis was interviewed by Bill Hybels. Curtis was the script writer behind 4 Weddings and a Funeral and Mr Bean amongst others. Hybels was doing a ‘Parkinson’ and trying to swing things towards leadership, but while it was interesting it was not gripping. Compared to the 3 previous sessions this was a little lacklustre. I left at 4pm to beat the traffic home… but didn’t beat the traffic home…
– I left feeling inspired and encouraged having enjoyed the day. I have to say I am grateful for the opportunity to be there and I did find it very helpful.
However I still cannot see the need to charge people that kind of money to watch a DVD. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to catch the WCA CEO to discuss it with him more. I don’t want to simply be a grumpy bugger. I believe there is a real issue here and hopefully my thoughts on it will contribute to a price reduction next year.
– An interesting observation is that I don’t think any speaker used the Bible as their source text at any time. This is not an exaggeration – watch the DVDs and check for yourself. There were one or two occasional references to scripture but these were ‘in passing’ and by the ‘non-christians’. I don’t get overly pedantic about this kind of thing, (because occasionally this critique gets thrown at Forge) but it did stand out to me. It seemed to reinforce yet again the model of church as business and pastor as CEO. Funnily enough, despite recognising the need for organisation, this is not a concept I gel with all that well. I am sure all of us in Christian ministry would be somewhat concerned at attending a conference on Christian leadership and not engaging at all with scriptures… true?
I’ll offer some thoughts on day 2 tomorrow night.