Recession: The Carnival is Over


Really helpful discussion in the comments of the previous post [Recession: How bad is it?] about the recession and how its affecting our non-profits and ministries. I want to continue it here by picking up on some of the comments and questions that have emerged.

Its obvious that the recession is having a huge impact on all of us. On the negative side, budgets are cut, events are cancelled, and job security is soooooo 2007. On the positive side, organizations are forced to reexamine strategy, expenditure, and use this current recession as an opportunity to retool where necessary.

“This is helping us clarify what we are really all about and how to spend not only our money, but time, energy, prayer, and talent.” Michael Kaspr

One of the culprits, as Becky pointed out, are these extravagant Christian conferences (PreacherFests) where participants are asked to pay an exorbitant admission price to go and hear their favorite speaker. Add to that a flight, meals, and a hotel room and there’s not much change from A THOUSAND from which to buy the speaker’s book to support this weird cottage industry.

Thats a heckofalot! Its also out of reach for many young struggling missional entrepreneurs and it sets an unsustainable example for the rest of the world who try to mimic the West.

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The unsustainable lifestyle of some [a small minority] of professional Christian circuit riders is also on the chopping block. I heard about a well known Christian speaker that was invited to fly overseas to share at at an emerging church event in a particular country [not USA]. They managed to appease his life-style choices by putting him in a four-star hotel but he checked himself out and into a five-star hotel down the road . . . at their expense. I wont repeat the word they called him [rhymes with “banker”] but I will say that in today’s climate, God’s five star conference speakers will either have to suffer some two or three star inconveniences or struggle to find gigs at all.

Even better if we totally rethink this conference thang.

Our conferences? Over the past ten years, all of the events we (Boaz Project) have hosted have been free of charge. The only was to do this was to have teachers who could speak with little or no honorarium, invite participants from a smaller geographical location, parasite ourselves inside existing festivals, ask local churches for buildings and personnel, have zero promotional budget and request funding from foundations. Once or twice we partnered with another organization or seminary and there was a minimal charge. And quite often we have hosted roundtables inside existing festivals and the cost of that festival is usually (but not always) met by the participant.

In 2009, I expect to host events [and partner with others to host events] in at least a dozen countries. I am hoping the recession will have less impact than other more high-profile, high-budget events than depend on a high price of admission. Our events are usually smaller, more local, more invisible, especially if they are embedded inside other bigger festivals [like SXSW, Freakstock, etc]. As a rule, I like festivals more than conferences, as I said in a recent post called Festivals as a Way Forward, because they are much cheaper, leave a smaller carbon footprint and are not dependent on one or two Superstar Christian Celebrities who insist on fancy hotels and a hefty honorarium at the end – thus raising the price of admission and reducing accessibility to the people who really need to be there.

I try not to give preference to conferences that reimburse my travel and offer an honorarium over the more organic “emerging” events where there is no budget or funds. At least I don’t think I don’t. And when I am asked to speak, I accept whatever accommodation I am offered. Either sleeping on a couch, some tent space, or sometimes a hotel room when offered. Again, I accept the offer of hospitality and don’t ask for an upgrade. Luke 10 comes to mind.

As a missionary, I occasionally have enough funds to help me travel and teach. Most of it has to be raised from others so I can do my job. So please don’t take this as an insult to those who teach at conferences as a career. But be encouraged when I say that God is faithful – and some of the best opportunities are sometimes the scariest. You might not get home as soon as you want, and sometimes you might not get home at all, but its always worth it.

Sometimes I have been invited to speak at a conference where the admission cost is high and inaccessible to everyone except church and mission executives, but I have gone along anyway. Other times, I have turned down the offer because the conference is so expensive, inaccessible and unsustainable as a model. I figure that most missional entrepreneurs can’t afford to be there anyway and the only people who will attend have an institutional/corporate budget behind them.

Honorariums? I have been speaking in Christian conferences for over 20 years. Probably hundreds of them. I have never once asked to be paid. I have never requested an honorarium. I have never suggested a fee. Highly unusual . . I know . . and maybe a little anal . . but I have felt led by God to do it this way. Yes, I happily receive gifts and voluntary honorariums but I don’t request them nor do I have a “suggested honorarium” figure. In my reading of the New Testament, the financial responsibility lies more on the apostle/teacher than on the students.

Many of you reading this post have invited me to speak at your events and you know that what I am saying is true.

But enough of my whinging and whining about conferences . . . .

– What else can we do to enable training and teaching and gathering during this recession without resorting to unsustainable models?

– What else about the way we do church and mission can we change to be more sustainable and emerge from this recession in better shape?

– Where should we be funneling resources during these lean times in order to keep obeying the Great Commission?


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Lon says:

    great post… now if only we could squash the insatiable demand for five-star speakers…

  • One of the ways we are trying to address this issue is by providing webinars. They are cheap or free. The viewer can view them live streaming or archived. Consider all the implications of this. More accessible for more people as well.

  • Daniel Clark says:

    The end of conferences which exclude the poor and the needy
    The Kingdom of God is at hand!

  • What a fantastic and encouraging post. While our lifestyle has made travel and attendance to most conferences impossible, I have not participated in a few out of solidarity to my neighbours. That is, living in an inner city community, I have tried to limit my privilege to better understand the challenges faced by poor Christians. It has been very difficult, but very telling.
    I think we can follow the trends you suggest- move to smaller, more geographical events that are less formal (which generally means more relational). Sure, we will have to sacrifice our longing for some “celebrity” speakers, but I think we need to give more credit to the grassroots. Further, those events encourage a shift from “receiving the answer” to “wrestling for the answer”.
    While it does not replace face to face, I think we need to become more intentional about creatively using technology to bring people from distant locales together for conversation and community. The technology is constantly improving and innovation is often best seen in the creative use of the technology, not just the creation of it.
    In respect to how we do church/mission, I truly believe that moving towards intentional practices of community are essential. They are demanding (like shared meals/potlucks, etc.), but they not only serve to share our “wealth”, but foster commonality, relationship and hospitality. Christians should be the first to model counter-cultural living, especially in cultures where success and security are equated with the fewest people in the largest homes. If we can suspend the assumptions that our cultural way of life is “normal”, perhaps we will be able to see some radical alternatives.
    Our resources will go a lot further is we step past the good, but ultimately individualistic solutions and embrace collective ideals of life together.

  • stu says:

    In response to your twitter question – the answer is: NO! You’re not being nasty at all. I think you could have said a lot more. It’s a real shame it takes a financial crisis for us to ask questions like these. I have always been completely baffled by the idea of Christian speakers requesting (demanding?) first class transatlantic flights and 5* treatment for them and their ‘team’.

  • Sorry to name names but it is just so popular in Britain. I must ask… I would be interested to know how you classify Spring Harvest. I suppose it is a conference but people see it as a family holiday too. You stay in chalets not your own tents but Butlins does not compare with a fancy hotel.

  • brad says:

    when the “message” of the travel costs the travel of The Message, it’s fair to suggest that the messenger has nothing much worth listening to.
    sorry, but such a bad trajext is neither very Jeesish nor missiony.

  • andrew says:

    David – Spring Harvest invited me to speak in 2000 and I accepted. I dont remember getting an honorarium but they did put me in a chalet and i think i got meal tickets.
    IMHO, they were hospitable, honourable and balanced for the kind of conference they represent.
    And “borrowing” 2 holiday resorts for 50,000 people seems like a pretty commonsense way of accommodating everyone.
    I looked into going next year (where i will have to pay for myself and my family) and i think we could pitch our tent close by.

  • andrew says:

    “missiony” – Brad, are you using Toyesque language on my blog?

  • Charlie Boyd says:

    Some great ideas Andrew.
    The ‘cold turkey’ for 5 star preachers and their devotees will be painful but it is much needed for their sanity as well as those who listen to them.I too have seen where we used to put up our top ‘apostles’ in the 70s and 80s – Northern Ireland’s top hotel!!Part of the problem is the superstar model (American??? – apologies to our US friends) where we try and suck the transcendence out of these guys.On closer observation and reflection I don’t believe they have much of this genuine transcendence anyway – it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes by another name.
    Paul’s model of ministry seems to be that closest to the heart of Christ – an apostle lays his life down and suffers like hell not the comfort of those 5 star beds in 5 starhotels.I would recommend the reading of the Didache from early church times – it has lots of great advise on how to tell the fakefrom the real.

  • andrew says:

    yeah but the apostle Paul also knew how to abound and part of that is accepting hospitality from churches. I remember getting spoiled rotten by the Foursquare denomination when they brought me in to speak to their leaders. hotel room with a big fruit basket and wonderful honorarium.
    all unexpected and all a wonderful gift that reflected God’s generous heart.
    i learned a lot about giving from my Pentecostal friends.
    so i wouldnt say “cold turkey” on the 5 star but flexibility is needed from speakers and the conferences themselves might need to be bump down a notch or two to become accessible.

  • becky says:

    The most egregious expense I heard was a well known Emergent speaker asking (but not getting) $10,000 fee, business class airfare as well as room and board to participate in a panel discussion – he wasn’t even giving a keynote address, lecture, or leading a workshop series. They still invited him to be on the panel but I fail to see what’s emerging about any of this. I made a decision when I heard that not to buy this person’s product again because what his speech doesn’t match his actions – and those are the kind of leaders I want to follow. Shane Claiborne has set up a model I wish others would emulate if they are truly called to this type of ministry and find themselves becoming successful.
    I think the model Greenbelt employed when they asked me to speak is spot on – I got free admission and they asked us to consider donating back part of our fee if we can and I decided to give back whatever money was left once I had my expenses covered. I stayed in an inexpensive dorm, though next time I have enough offers from folks that I’ll camp. They also have ways one can attend for free by volunteering. I paid for my own flight as I was in the UK anyway doing book research – I budget a portion of a book advance and try to land additional article assignments to cover costs such as those.
    After some soul searching, I decided not to go to conferences unless I get a press pass, find a cheap place to crash, can find other reasons to be in the area to do research and extend the trip a bit and I feel the overall conference has some value other than going to hear a few hot shot speakers. I also look for events that webcast their talks either for free or a very lost cost so those who can’t be present in person can at least hear the keynote speakers.
    This extends beyond expensive conferences. I can’t afford anymore to attend gatherings in bars – very seldom is a “cheap” place chosen and then everyone fights for the receipt so writing it off on my income tax often isn’t doable. These days I have to think long and hard if I can shell out even $10 bucks to hear the latest traveling author’ road show schtick. (I don’t understand this concept of charging admission for a lecture unless the money is going to support a worthwhile mission especially if the publisher has arranged for the tour and hence, the primary purpose is to sell product.)

  • Mike Todd says:

    I think Charlie is getting at something here…
    The problem isn’t the conferences, per se. The problem is what these 5-star folks are calling Christianity, that apparently allows this behaviour.

  • AMG says:

    This is an interesting discussion. I tend to agree with you that some people sometimes ask a little too much and the superstar Christian thing is overrated. But I also know that it can be complicated. I know of some Christian ministries that only survive because their big name person is out there constantly speaking and bringing back honourarium to support the organization. This money doesn’t go into their own pocket, it’s an income stream for the ministry. The host organization should also bear some of the responsibility. They bring a big name in to draw more participants in order that they might make a profit or at least break even on the event. Should the big name speaker forgo a big honourarium which would benefit the host or does the big name have more of a responsibility to support their own organization?
    I consider these big names as ‘products’ which can be ‘used’ to help build a movement, but they aren’t necessarily the heart of the movement itself. Their high visibility helps make others aware of the movement in ways maybe nothing else could. These ‘products’ may be expensive, but the cost may be worth it (maybe not in financial return though) if it spreads the spark and helps move people and churches to a place of transformation (that’s where the heart is, imo).
    Considering the desperate state of the culture in which we live, I see using the ‘big names’ as a strategic compromise. I know this is probably the same justification the televangelists gave themselves when they started, but could it be a necessary one?

  • becky says:

    What you’re pointing to here is the need for greater transparency by the big names, so we know why they are asking for the big bucks. But no matter how well intentioned the speaker’s ministry may be, as Andrew pointed out, many of us can’t afford to attend these events. So, this method of fundraising isn’t going to work in today’s troubled economic times.
    There’s also the Q about “requiring” a five star hotel and a first class in the first place. There are exceptions e.g., I know an author who has to fly first class because he has to lie down for medical reasons. But I like Andrew’s discussion of these as gifts that a ministry chooses to make (my guess is some of these organizations hve connections where they can get say free hotel/air upgrades versus a speaker requiring 5 star treatment.

  • I have to agree Andrew – I think you are spot on. I regularly hear of conferences, cruises, etc. targeted at Christians and am then amazed at the incredible cost. I cannot afford most of these conferences and I know many others cannot either. Regardless of the excuses or justifications it is clear to me that these conferences are targeted at financially affluent Christians to the obvious exclusion of those with lesser means. This really seems to fly in the face of New Testament teaching. Thanks for speaking out on this issue. And for the record, I agree with your policy of not specifying honorariums but rather trusting God to provide. I have been a guest speaker for 15 years and have always embraced that position. My Bible college president used to say, “never put a price tag on your ministry!”

  • I have been thinking about these things for several years now. About three years ago I spent an hour googling to see if anyone on the net was criticizing the overpriced conference movement and how the message and the messenger, as well as the listener, often did not mesh. I am very encouraged to finally find a conversation that is publicly discussing this.
    Here are some thoughts I just wrote this morning for a current writing project:
    I am no longer enamored with overpriced conferences. I think they breed greed and self-centeredness. Going to a conference is usually all about me. I know of a group of Christians from a church in my city who spent more than $10,000 to get themselves to a conference to be wowed. The effort they put into making sure they had enough money and people was disheartening. Those who really wanted to go, but did not have money were out of luck. There was not effort to bring along friends who could never afford such an extravagant gesture. It was all about getting to the place of the conference to get filled up with whatever tantalizing sh*t was being sold from the platform from whatever superstar Christian
    {h/t to becky…}

  • I think the economic down-turn could actually help some speakers. Folks might be willing to have regional speakers who don’t have the big name at their gatherings instead of shelling out for the celebs. Personally, I appreciate getting invited to events and paid a little, since it helps me provide income for what we’re doing at Missio Dei. Not everyone can do that, and I never let money alone decide if I’m going to speak, but when groups can afford something, it is only fair for someone to get paid for preparing, traveling, and presenting.

  • andrew says:

    i appreciate those moments when i get an honorarium and my travel covered – as you do – it also balances out those many times when the countries are far too poor to pay for me to come to teach.
    obviously, if i chose where to speak based on income and honorariums, i would move back to USA tomorrow and most of my financial woes would be over.
    but what about the huge majority of the world where Christ’s name is not yet known?
    or those large pockets where new christians are forming church in inner city areas of poverty?
    the early church thought it quite normal to sell their houses and support God’s mission with the proceeds. Giving is an honor and priviledge. Maybe we have forgotten this in the west. there is more talk about God helping us to OBTAIN real estate than people handing it over for teh sake of the poor. or am i wrong?

  • rodney neill says:

    I find it very discouraging when I look at the ‘Christian celeb culture’, book signing tours, conferences designed to sell authors products and promote brands etc that ones finds in some emerging church networks – all the more ironic as the speakers bill themselves as anti-capitalist radicals!!!

  • becky says:

    Actually, Andrew I am seeing signs where many of the income streams here in the US are drying up – there’s always going to be the need for denominational gatherings and some established conferences and festivals where folks all get together off line maybe one or twice a year. As you learned the economy as affected grant giving, which obviously affects the money that nonprofits and academic institutions have to bring in speakers, scholars in residence and the like.
    Now would be a good time for anyone planning speaking tours in 2009 to seriously rethink this strategy – are there other ways you can get the word out? Also, now is not the time to overload the market with product – maybe people can buy one book but if they do that, they can’t pay to hear you speak and then buy book two, etc. The upside is that this economy is giving us all a chance to re-examine this missional monster that we’ve all been feeding and to pray about where the Holy Spirit is taking us next. That to me is the exciting yet scary as heck part of the journey.

  • steve says:

    Since this thread seems to be giving 5 star speakers a pretty good kicking, based on a few anecdotes, can I offer another perspective.
    Not that I’ve ever been a 5 star, but I have done some speaking and teaching. When I do I sometimes think about the costs
    – a life of moulding, reading, thinking, reflecting
    – time to be there, in different cultures with different agendas – exhausting
    – prep – it takes a lot of time to think creatively and freshly
    – travel – jetlag and airports are hard work
    – the family in my absence
    – the existing organisations I work for, both staff who are disrupted and the people we serve.
    These are hidden costs, not often visible when a person speaks for a few hours.
    When you suggest someone speak for free/cheap, you are effectively asking a whole lot of hidden people to pay these hidden costs on your behalf.
    I have no interest in being 5 star, but I just felt the thread might value this perspective,
    steve taylor

  • andrew says:

    Hi Steve. It was a decade ago when we both spoke at the same conference in Seattle. I dont think either of us were paid so I know you are willing to bend a little when needed.
    Some groups in wealthier counties have a budget and its great to be the beneficiary of their planning and foresight.
    but many places around the world – in fact, the places with the greatest need, and certainly most emerging culture groups i have been to – do not have the resources to pay out at the same level.
    i am not kicking the 5 star speakers, but just saying they will have a hard time in this recession. and i am also suggesting we take another look at how we structure our celebrity based conferences – ie, we charge people MORE so we can pay a HIGHER cost for our speakers who fly in from GREATER distances who are speaking so they can [sometimes] keep up an unsustainable 5 star lifestyle. not always the most frugal way to run things.

  • steve says:

    hi andrew,
    i still remember that time. you saved me, gently taking me away for coffee to explain to me that emerging church in US might be different from NZ and that Driscoll does not equal emerging church US. I was grateful for your pastoral wisdom.
    i know you’re not kicking 5 stars, but plenty of commenters in this blog thread are.
    i wonder why we reduce thanks and generosity to pay. in new zealand the Maori have a phrase “koha” – gift. the speaker gifts and the people say thanks with a gift. surely there is creativity in emerging cultures to think of gift in non-monetary ways that will acknowledge the gift of time, preparation, family who release, church ministry coming from a speaker.

  • Andy Rowell says:

    I do not envy the full-time traveling speakers who give their one talk at a different place every night. It seems to me that once on the speaking circuit full-time, their creativity and humility and content starts to wane, even while their books continue to multiply. The travel, adulation, and absence of true friendships take a toll on the soul. They can charge what they want as far as I am concerned because their full-time speaking career probably only has a short lifespan–people tire of you and want someone younger and cooler pretty quickly–plus it wears you out.

  • Gatherings of all kinds can be valuable investments of time and energy for all involved when steered by wisdom. Unfortunately, the reality is that, in the US at least, many conferences are overpriced and many speakers demand a certain level of hospitality. We all have stories, I’m sure, of diva-like behavior from a headlining speaker.
    I appreciate that some people are meant to take their unique message to different corners of Christendom and that takes time, money and effort. From conference organizers to conference speakers and most definitely the conference attendee, we have all contributed in some way to an industry that tends to exaggerate gifting and reputation to get people through the door.
    I am encouraged when I hear about traveling speakers who are committed to appreciating appropriate levels of hospitality and financial compensation. As this post has indicated, the economic climate will force many of us to rethink our practices, consumer or otherwise, and this is a wonderful opportunity to determine to be more otherly in our conference habits, whether we attend them, lead and organize them or speak at them.
    Keith Giles in California hosted a small conference last year that focused on serving the poor. He called it The Non-Conference. He limited it to the first 100 people to register and kept the cost less than $50 which included shared meals.
    I thought that was kinda cool.

  • dave says:

    God discussion.. I wonder if Jesus would check out of a 4 star hotel and pop into a 5 star if he was to speak at a conference .. and would he get called a wanker for doing it?

  • andrew says:

    i think Jesus would gratefully receive hospitality and gifts whether Zacheus’s two-star couch or Lazarus’s five-star couch, getting a five-star meal from Martha and a five-star perfumed foot treatment from Mary.
    what he wouldnt do is say “No” to Legion and “Yes” to Jairus simply because Jairus was a better gig and Legion couldnt pay. Jesus took both gigs.
    But more to the point, when Jesus was in a hurry to get down to Jerusalem for the festival, which speaker did he most want to hear and have autograph a copy of their latest book?
    or were the Biblical festivals – all of them – so far removed from our consumeristic expectations of festivals and conferences that we cant even imagine people walking days to be at a week long event to reeact the history of God’s corporate goodness to his people without trying to pry out something or someone to put us on an emotional/spiritual high and help us feel like we made a wise economic choice by attending.

  • Steve Bufton says:

    The ‘Christian superstar’ phenomenon has bothered me for some time. However, I think you’re being a little inconsistent in your criticism of large events requiring travel and lots of money when you also use them as vehicles for Boaz Project gatherings. You say “The only was to do this was to have teachers who could speak with little or no honorarium, invite participants from a smaller geographical location, parasite ourselves inside existing festivals, ask local churches for buildings and personnel, have zero promotional budget and request funding from foundations.” In other words, someone paid for the event, just not the participants. Whoever paid probably regarded doing so as a service to the Body of Christ and an investment in the Kingdom. That may not be so different to people paying money for a conference, regarding it as an investment in the Kingdom in the hope of learning something for the advancement of their spiritual life or that of others around them. The difference between the two is mainly that if a sponsor pays, the barrier to attending is lower.

  • Charlie Boyd says:

    We seemed to have hit on a very HOT topic here – one that has been simmering away for quite a while I suspect.At the end of the day I wonder what the role of ‘speakers’ are? I was at Greenbelt this year and was highly disappointed and in fact a bit angry about the ‘superstar’ thing and what one actually got for the £70 entrance fee!!Not one plastic seat for an old guy like me to sit on and listen to Brian McClaren etc!Brian had a seat by the way!
    The mystic tradition talks about the Divine Spark within – we all have it (only believers if you take an Evangelical line).Why is there such fascination with ‘speakers’?The ‘sermon’,’public address’,’lecture’ thing has become a god for believers.We could talk all day about the lifestyle of itinerant gurus sorry preachers/authors and whether it backs up their radical Jesus claims.I will leave that to you to ponder on.Rene Girard has it spot on when he talks of us trying to suck the metaphysical desire out of our models.These guys and girls have become our idols – our models – instead of the Divine Father/Son/Spirit within.This ‘false religion’ works great in a market economy where the preachers can set out their metaphysical stalls as long as the money holds out.This may be harsh but not having been to Greenbelt for 20+ years I thought I had walked into Bunyan’s Vanity Fair.Ouch!Did I really say that?Having lived through 100s of intense sermon sessions in my early faith life I do not attend religious talks very often.Usually they are a let down!Lets teach our folk to listen to the Inner Light-George Fox style!
    Of course we need to get together occasionally for large group encouragement but the ‘Conference Cicuit’ thing is not the answer- it is part of the problem by developing dependency and infantile faith in the ‘experts’.Time for the experts to maybe stay home and weed the garden,go shopping with their spouses and love their kids!

  • becky says:

    Charlie – to me the most important part about Greenbelt for me were the personal connections – I finally met people I had been emailing for years – and my network has expanded so much since then I can’t wait to go back and meet more people. You could pick anything you wanted to do from praying by yourself in a meditation chapel to Communion with the entire bunch. Also, I like the fact that the admission fee included camping, one can go gratis by volunteering and they made serious efforts to do green (don’t get me started on eco-fests that send me invites on non-recyclable paper and have no serious recycling program).
    Steve – Sponsorship of some sort seems to have been with the early church from the get-go – hence, Paul’s fundraising campaigns. The evidence of his wise financial stewardship is pretty obvious, as is the message that we’re called to do likewise. The Q is how to go about this in the 21st century given the realities of our economy? What’s gotten out of whack has been the elevation of a select few individuals to the role of religious rock star replete with the necessary accoutrements (e.g., diva like demands, godly groupies). Over the years, I’ve seen my share of instances (as I’m sure have others here) where someone with an meaningful message got a touch of fame and instead of using their newfound clout to build up the kingdom, they became intoxicated with their bit of power and the next thing you know, they’ve morphed into that which they used to protest. I’ve found this odious for some time but in today’s economy, many people can’t afford to hear the dude speak as part of his pub tour let alone pay for the pricey conference. Maybe they can afford to buy ONE of your books but that’s it.
    Andrew – didn’t you say in Slow Church that Jesus took his time getting to Jerusalem? I mention this as I’m quoting you in the book I’m writing so this is fresh in my mind. Just yanking your chain. (

  • andrew says:

    hi Steve. Good to have your comments. I remember fondly staying at your house in Switzerland during some events. Thanks for your hospitality and great coffee. The DAWN events we were involved in there (cant remember which) would have been a lot more expensive if we had not been billeted out to families like yours. Hotels in Switzerland are not cheap. Neither are meals. It felt good to life relationally and frugally (and communally with your family) in order to make that event accessible to more people.
    Imagine if i had said to you and Mary-Anne, “Sorry – I only stay at nice hotels when i travel”. You would be angry at my inflexibility and also angry for raising the conference fee to make up the difference.
    congrats on selling your photo, btw.

  • rodney neill says:

    I have observed and interacted with Christian groups/communities who work and serve day in day out in unglamorious local situations with commitment and devotion whose leaders have not written a book or courted publicity.
    It is these ‘under the radar’ groups quietly getting on with being the church serving in a local community situation that I admire – not the Christian celeb culture figures whose sole aim is to sell as many copies of their latest book they can…..

  • Mike Clawson says:

    1. I like conferences. I think they’re worthwhile. I hope to go to more of them. I do think some are overpriced.
    2. I always appreciate it when speakers are willing to speak and travel for free/cheap. On the other hand, I agree with steve that traveling speakers deserve to be paid for their time and effort whenever possible. There are always hidden costs and just because you don’t want to pay for the service you’re receiving doesn’t mean no one is paying for it. It’s like buying stuff at Wal-Mart: you might think you’re paying a lower price, but really your savings are simply coming out of the pockets of third-world laborers, employee benefits, municipal taxes, or the local environment. Like steve said, in the case of unpaid speakers, it’s usually the speaker, their family or their ministry that ends up paying the cost.
    3. Nonetheless, I do think Andrew has a good point about how the recession is going to affect the way we do conferences, and I do think we need to be more creative and try different things. Festivals are a good idea. Another idea that Emergent Village cohort leaders such as myself are running with is doing a lot more smaller, regional gatherings (like our 2007 Midwest Emergent Gathering in Chicago.) These can be done very cheaply, and don’t have to involve huge travel expenses for speakers or attendees, especially if they’re done in a more “open source” format. I’d love to see a half-dozen regional “Glorieta Gatherings” spring up here in the States next year.

  • andrew says:

    Thanks Mike. I dont think Emergent Village has been discussed yet but now that you bring it up . .
    i really liked Emergent Gathering in Glorieta – it also was free but you had to get there and help out with food and cooking etc. really gift economy at work. fantastic event!
    and it was much better than the Emergent Convention in San Diego that happened a few years earlier which cost many hundreds of dollars and to which I refused to go.
    Back to festivals
    Slot Festival in Poland last year [6000 young people] cost 35 Euros for 5 days and that included camping. I hope to be there in 2009. I wont be paid again but I will make sacrifices to be there because I believe in it.
    I will probably do some others that will pay me and fly me over and praise God for those also – they help balance things out and make it easier for raising money to get to these events.
    I am NOT saying lets do the same thing we have been doing and pay speakers less. I am saying, in response to the earlier posts regarding conferences [please read and get some context for this post] lets move away from celebrity based speaker-fests towards something that is relational, communal, sustainable, accessible and worthwhile. Using homes, kitchens, couches, campgrounds may sound terribly invasive to some who would rather pop into a sheraton and go home again but a conference should and is an opportunity to experience church on a deep level. the recession might open the door for this to happen.

  • Mike Clawson says:

    Glorieta was great, the only downside was that it was still pretty expensive for pretty much anyone (with the exception of a handful of emergent types who happen to live in New Mexico – hi Sarah!) to get there. That’s why, once again, I think we ought to be all about the regional get togethers. The Chicago and Indy cohorts are talking about doing another Midwest Gathering this summer, and now that Julie and I are in Austin, we’ve been talking about doing a Texas one soon.

  • andrew says:

    Great Mike. I think going local is an excellent idea and have always encouraged EV cohorts – just as I have encouraged other emerging church networks in USA and Europe as they meet locally on a regular basis and save up for the big one once a year – so that they can not forsake the assembling of themselves as a larger group inside a yet even larger slice of the body of Christ.

  • The end of these conferences might not be a bad thing.
    Too many “wannabes” attend these conferences and think that attendance at a conference equals a well-rounded theological education or a significant step in spiritual development.
    In addition, many of the faithful attendees that I know can’t be bothered actually to attend worship at their home church or church plant (much less serve, give, or pray) but wouldn’t miss their favorite conferences for the world.
    Something is wrong with that.

  • Steve Bufton says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I wasn’t defending expensive conferences as much as you might have understood me to have been doing. We tend to do things on a small scale, and focus on organic (food and church;-) My points were simply that conferences with big-name speakers are not all bad, and have probably played a part in the spiritual growth of most people reading here, and that the headline speaker is probably not the main cost of any large event. (I hope very strongly that I don’t have to be corrected on that point…)
    I’ve attended four large conferences, and gained something from each of them – partly from the headline speakers, a lot from meeting other attendees. (I don’t count the DAWN conferences as large, but they weren’t cheap, either!)
    Of course, there’s a bed and coffee here for you anytime you’re in town.

  • Andy Rowell says:

    Two links to add:
    Leadership Network’s DJ Chuang announces:
    free conference with top leaders
    Todd Rhoades of Monday Morning Insight with a post:
    Barna Research: Churches Stand to Lose Several Billion Dollars Due to Economic Downturn

  • djchuang says:

    @Andy thanks for link
    I know the rest of the world uses the term ‘unconference’ in referring to conferences with free $0 registration, and there have been hundreds (if not thousands) of them around the world, even in the US of A. Festival is an okay name too.
    One unconference coming up in February 2009 for Christian leaders is – in California at that. Don’t know how many will fly in for that, but I think more than a handful will. Lineup of attendees and presenters looking sharp already!
    As someone else has mentioned, Glorieta has been the site of several Emergent Village gatherings with $0 registration. That event may be too emergenty for some; I think will be friendlier to both emergents and non-emergents. And, non-Christians may show up too.
    @Andrew, would be great to have you there, if that fits in your travel itinerary.

  • Michael says:

    Jesus was born in a one-star inn’s stable.

  • andrew says:

    Yes he was, Michael, but that only because Joseph didnt make it clear on his website what his accommodation requirements were.
    Andy – thanks for links
    DJ – love to come if you could afford me. It might be free but I still insist on a cup of tea from someone.
    And Steve – thanks for clarification. The European conferences are generally much much cheaper than the big USA events where speakers get paid thousands to come. Even the DAWN events.
    i liked what you said earlier about hospitality and blessing the speakers.
    we did an event in uk that was free some years ago but we didnt have any sponsors to bless the musicians and others that worked behind the scenes. i felt bad about that. i should have worked harder to get some sponsorship or perhaps charged a small fee to help certain people with expenses.

  • becky says:

    My comments are US specific – thanks Andrew for making the US vs. Europe clarification.
    BTW-I’m not anti-speaker, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from hearing a wide range of speakers. I’m simply asking given the advances in technology and this current economy, if perhaps we might look into web conferences and other less expensive means to disseminate this information to us moving forward. Seems to me those who are truly interested in sharing a message would embrace any way to get the word across, whereas those who are in this for the bucks and accompanying perks would dissipate. I also see here in the US a faith frenzy because X is coming to speak (one would think the second coming is about to hit) at the expense of building up the local communities.
    Along those lines, I am starting to wonder how many transatlantic flights one needs to take per year – especially if one is preaching an anti-capitalist, pro-environment message. Seems if you’re called to travel to preach the message than as Andrew noted, you go and stay gone for a while. I’m working on multi-tasking by combing visits when I travel and find that staying for at least a week (preferably more) is much more fruitful than a few days here, a few days there, etc.

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