Monday, July 28, 2008

What are conferences for in a wired world?

Many have been wondering what the purpose of conferences are if many of the elements of a conference are available without showing up.

This discussion has a nice introduction in this post by Seth Godin.

I've been thinking some of these same things since last year when I helped lead the Campus Ministry Days of Campus Crusade for Christ. Today I'm going to be working with Dan Allan on what this might mean for:
  • Fall Getaway
  • Weekly meetings
  • Servant Teams
  • Staff meetings
  • National Summer Project meetings
  • Christmas Conferences and Winter Conferences
  • National Staff Conferences
Initially I think it means one thing: Do at conferences/events/meetings what you can only do or do best when everyone is physically gathered according to the purpose of the gathering.

For example:

  • Instead of having a speaker give a talk, require attendees to listen to the talk beforehand and spend the time at the conference in Q and A.
  • Crowd Activities: In 1984 I was a growing up in LA and I watched the Summer Olympics religiously since it was in my hometown. I will never forget what happened during the opening ceremonies: the capacity crowd held up individual square placards that created an enormous mural of all the flags of the world. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wish I could have been there. I'm sure everyone that was there was amazed by what they had participated in; they surely saved their placard to this day. This is the kind of once in a lifetime group activity that makes attending an event worthwhile.
  • Allowing attendees to help create the content and conversations of the conference (see podcamp). This makes each conference a unique creation and collaboration and increased the value for each attendee.
What do you think?


Chris said...


This is a great question. I think we can capitalize on the embodied aspects of Christianity and the Great Commission at a gathering/conference. E.g., corporate disciplines like worship, prayer, and celebration. We should make more time for face-to-face, bodily interaction with one another and with the community (boxes of love, service, laying on of hands, evangelism, spiritual direction). This last practice -- spiritual direction -- is something I think conferences must offer. Allow students to sign up for 1-to-1 appts with a staff person trained in SD. This could be incredibly meaningful.

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for prompting the conversation.

McRyanMac said...

Good stuff Chris. Do you have some specifics on what you mean by spiritual direction?

Chris said...

Defining spiritual direction is as elusive a project as is defining discipleship. Here's one quote that I think is good: It is "help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, and to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship." (Barry & Connolly, *The Practice of Spiritual Direction,* -- Seabury, 1983. p. 5, 8). I also found (through google) an article dealing with the subject by Eugene Peterson here:

Unlike (CCC's traditional notion of) discipleship, a single appointment of SD can be very fruitful. For instance, help in discerning God's will about the future can be a topic of conversation in an SD appt. Or perhaps help in dealing with spiritual dryness or doubts. This is something that I don't think can be done well online. Also, many students do not have access to staff or others who can offer this sort of help.
I'm only a novice in this area, but I could point you to some good resources if you are interested. I've wanted to talk to Dan Allan about bringing this to DCC.

Interesting Stuff