20 June, 2024

Learning From the Regional Conference Experiment

by | 17 August, 2005 | 0 comments

By Mark A. Taylor

I love the North American Christian Convention. I’ve anticipated and attended almost every convention since my first as a Bible college freshman in 1969. And so I’m sad to see the low attendance at this year’s NACC regional conferences.

Attendance at the three regional conferences totaled somewhere above 3,000. As I write this just after the July Jacksonville conference, registration for the August minister and spouse retreat in North Carolina has reached about 300. Even these numbers must be put into perspective. Consider:

“¢ At least 10 percent of the regional conference attendance was from exhibitors (some who attended more than one of the conferences).

“¢ Some registered for the retreat as well as one of the conferences.

“¢ And these numbers include those who registered but did not end up actually attending a conference.

At best, the picture is disappointing. If we thought we would attract more to four separate conferences than to one national event, we were wrong.

We need to ask why. Although I”ve not heard one advocate for trying this experiment again anytime soon, we need to talk about what we”ve learned. Let me suggest a couple of answers.

 

Regional conferences disconnected us. The NACC is “the connecting place.” This is perhaps its strongest reason to exist. Our fellowship of churches sharing a unique plea and an important heritage will splinter and wane without something to hold it together. Three regional conferences, two of them in out-of-the-way places far from the center of our movement”s strength, can”t do this.

After the Lexington event I made a long mental list of friends within two hours of Lexington who almost always come to the convention but didn”t attend this year. I think many in Ohio and Indiana and Kentucky felt they wouldn”t find the usual crowd from across the country in Lexington, and so they stayed home too.

 

All or nothing” squeezed us. Typically, many attendees stop by the convention for just a day or two. They are juggling time demands, but they want to connect. So they find a day and a night to attend””especially when it”s close to home.

But the registration structure this year discouraged that. Attendees paid for the whole conference regardless of how much or little they attended. Many weren”t willing to pay full-price for a partial experience. Instead they stayed home.

Our October 16 issue will contain a full and positive report about this year”s conferences. There”s much good to say about them. But in our free fellowship, without hierarchy or structure, church members and leaders vote with their feet. This year they cast their ballots against the idea of regional conferences. We can learn from their decision.

________

To agree or disagree with this column, or to share your opinions about this year”s NACC conferences, send us your Letter to the Editor at [email protected].

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