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Once upon a time, Christian conferences were an invaluable resource. They brought together the best speakers, pastors and leaders of the church to a receptive and teachable audience. For most of the attendees, it was the first time to see, hear, and learn from some of the leading voices of the church who dispensed new and original thoughts and ideas.

Fast-forward to today. Conferences have, for the most part, lost their utility and are nothing more than a gargantuan waste of money.

  • They have lost their utility because of the internet. Whereas conferences once provided a platform for some of the leading voices to articulate original or little-heard and inaccessible messages, speakers today simply regurgitate the same old message they have already spoken or written about, and which are already accessible via the internet. The essence of – or the very same message itself – can be found online or in a book. Conferences are reduced to little more than a performance on American Idol: the song is already available online even before the singer picks up the mike. But the audience still wants the speaker to perform live!
  • They are a gargantuan waste of money. For a two day conference: Commuting cost (trains, planes, and automobiles) = average $450 roundtrip. Room & board (at an economical hotel for two nights = $250); food = $ 40/day; conference ticket = $150; Misc. = $70. Total estimate per attendee = $1,000. In addition, the conference organizers dish out $ to the speakers, rental of venue and facilities, insurance etc. At the end of the day, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of $s are wasted spent. And all for messages which could be downloaded online for free, or bought for $14 at a bookstore.

The Q conference is an extreme example of this conference splurging. Held in New York City this year, it cost the attendee $800 just to be admitted, never mind the cost of traveling and staying at one of the most expensive cities in the world. At this conference, speakers are given 18 minutes to show their soul patches, turtlenecks, and articulate entrepreneurial ideas for the church.

Hey Q, here’s my entrepreneurial idea. It will take you only 30 seconds to read:

Cancel Q conference next year. Instead, have new 18 minute presentations available for viewing online. The speakers (who will forego their pricy honorarium) will no longer have to travel. Nobody will have to travel. No money doled out to hotels, restaurants etc. But lessons can be learned, ideas exchanged (through a messageboard etc.). It could be a brilliant success at a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the cost. And here’s the where the brilliant part comes in. Each “attendee” will still pay the $800 to download the messages. And the organizers of Q will still have to fork over the major $ – but not to venue/insurance/speakers costs. Instead, they will use this money to buy an annuity which will, on interest alone, be able to support five foreign, poverty-stricken orphanages/ministries forever. Did you catch that last part? Forever.

What a great idea. Too bad it will never happen. Because why would we want lasting good to come out of a conference when we could instead get the short-lived joy of travelling, meeting old chums, and sounding spiritually intellectual and intellectually spiritual for a few days?

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