This was an inspiring day of presentations from some brilliant people!
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.
Interesting to hear your comment about the non-use of scripture. I spoke to someone who was required to be at the conference today. While he’s not big on conferences he figured he might learn something so he turned up with a Bible and notebook, only to find that no one on the DVDs used a Bible at all.
I am in total agreement with you on the cost issue. If I can buy the DVD afterwards, even for the same price (which would seem ridiculous to me), it would still be a better deal, because then I could watch it at my leisure, show it to friends and our pastoral team (for free), and go back and relisten to things I need a refresher on when I needed it instead of paying that much again (or more, depending on inflation) to hear different speakers at next year’s conference. It seems to me you could do a conference cheaper yourself… or at least the same price, though probably not with Hybels coming down. You’d lose a little name recognition, but, based on what you’ve written hear, I could give you names of people who could do as good a job, and would love to fly to Australia. No, I’m not one of them.
I’d much rather spend my $100 on shrimp, fish & veggies to be cooked on the grill & sit with some of your “Upstream Crew” talking about your community and reflecting on your post about “Essential Components of a Missionary Community”
from St Teresa of Avila…
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
What!?! An organisation charging $190 to watch a DVD espousing the business model of church?!?
enjoyed your insights mate – i went to a conference a couple of weeks ago called Recharge – it’s not a big conference… but it really focuses on Biblical teaching (i did a series of posts on the main speaking session)
However what i’m dissapointed about is that my church seemed to almost ignore the fact that this reletivly cheap conference was on and would be a big help to Young Adults, but now is pushing and trying to get everyone to go to the Planetshakers conference in January. To the point of organising the whole youth group and imposing on the leadership that they should be there.
this conference is probably much along the lines of the one you’ve been to (with live speakers though) and much much much more expensive with what i see as little to no gain over Recharge.
It’s just that Planetshakers music is so well known these days that the church seems to ‘want a presence there’.
Consumerism seems to win the day again
One of the real challenges is that in our economic world the ‘market sets the price’ and the market in Oz and around the world has deemed this conference to be worth the amount people are prepared to pay.
While WCA can make money out of it and sell tickets I guess the thought of price reduction is unlikely.
how to win friends and influence Jesus
$179 = 2 kg of Jamaica Blue Mountain, although you can buy 30 kilos of an equally good fairly traded coffee for that as well (my preference because JBM is overpriced and overrated, a lot like that conference seems to be).
Following the roasting and drinking of said coffee you allow your inspiration to flow and write your own words of wisdom – or not. At least you’ll have plenty of coffee.
was good to run into you there mate. I thoroughly enjoyed Marcus’ presentation aswell, great stuff that got me thinking.
I know that we(Subi) don’t go due to the cost, the fact it is cheaper to buy the DVD than go is ridiculous!
Good summary Hammo,
You explained why I didn’t go. It’s not seeking to lead us back to being a missional people formed by the bible but rather an American business with a CEO leader. And as for paying $180 to watch some DVD’s? I’d rather watch the West Wing for that sort of money!
We can harp on about the cost, but Hamo said the WCA CEO reckons they could lose money on it – so it sounds like the cynicism in these comments says more about us than WCA on that front (issues of philosophy and unbiblicality aside – there, i just invented a new word). None-the-less, not having been to these things I can’t comment on whether that’s actually value for money or not, which is another issue.
I would think flying the facilitators over is as much about inspiring vision and embedding DNA as training. Not defending it, just my guess.
Deano, I went to (admittedly only) one Planetshakers session in ’06. I won’t be sending my youth. (BTW, they were selling ear plugs. I’d take them up on it.)
Last year our church sent our Pastor and he bought the dvd’s and we got together with another local uniting church (yes we met with another denomination….ooooohh) and watched the dvd’s on a saturday arvo.
While I loved Wayne Cordeiro, I would never pay $179 to go to a conference and watch the dvd’s.
Some people may say the fellowship is worth the money and that it is great to meet other people…but since when do we get off charging people to have christian fellowship…sheesh.
The average leader (and I am decidedly average) would simply get depressed by the high roller movers and shakers who they cannot hope to emulate. Not much more than a sanctified Amway conference. And no Bible? Surely not!! I’m so over Christian leaders paying lip service to the Bible without ever opening it. The proof we believe it is worth using is only ever in the using of it. But then again the Bible doesn’t have much to say about corporate success and a whole lot to say about how the things that humans honour, God generally has no time for.
I’ve tentatively started blogging – have a look at http://www.dougosdoggerel.blogspot.com/ to see my comments about the headship of Christ – relevant to this discussion. I’d love to hear some comments.
I agree about the cost…I would pay that to hear someone live though….
And as to scripture reference…so what…..Jesus quoted scripture…some of the time…a lot of the time he just told stories….
we need to use scriptural principals, etc…but we dont have to use scriptural stories….
Yes – I’m not wanting to be pedantic about the Bible thing because sometimes you can teach principles without it. I did find it odd that it got very very little mention though.
Take your point Mark – but the stories he told ARE scripture while ours are not. Biblical principles seems to be the order of the day these days. Perhaps they run of simply being a framework upon which we can hang what we wish? The Bible is a far scarier and less neat story than CEO style leadership allows
I attended last year’s GLS and it was fantastic, but I do agree that it is over priced, especially considering the fact that the majority of the work is done by volunteers (who are not paid anything, and even have to return the t-shirts and lanyards).
I also find the practice of having a non-Christian believer as a speaker very questionable. Not that non-believers don’t have anything of value to learn from, but this is meant to be a Christian conference. We should be learning what the Bible says, and building our principles on that, not just following business best practice and thinking it’s all right as long as it’s not specifically anti-scriptural.