Monday, February 12, 2007

NON-CON 2008 ...slowly forming

I've started an intriguing conversation online with a fellow in the UK who is interested in possibly helping me to host the "Non-Conference" I've been slowly putting together in the back of my mind.

He's helped me to think through a few of the elements which, had he not contacted me to ask me the questions, I might not have taken the time to type out. That's worth whatever comes of this.

For those of you who are new to this concept, it grew out of my recent realization that I am personally not a conference-goer...and yet my job for the last three years has been to convince others that they need to part with their cash and spend a couple of days at a conference.

Ironic, no?

So, I began to ponder upon what sort of a conference I would actually like to attend. What would that look like?

Out of these musings there came the idea to create a "Non-Conference" of sorts. We'd advertise it as something "For someone who never wants to attend another conference in their life", and with that as our starting point we'd begin to "deconstruct" the usual conference experience into something worth spending time and money on.

FRANCHISE?
One recent idea came to me when the guy from the UK showed interest and that was, "What if I put together a basic template for how to do this so that anyone, anywhere in the world, could sign up and host their own 'Non-Con'?"

Yes...indeed...why not?

KEEP IT SMALL:
By definition I want our "Non-Con" to be small. One friend confided in me that she often feels lonely at a large conference. I agree. We'll keep things small and interactive to increase the dynamic of conversation and community.

I think, at this point, I will charge for the event but it will be limited to just exactly 100 people. No more than that. I want to keep it small on purpose and even 100 is pushing things a little, maybe 50...but it means our "large gatherings" are still manageable and our smaller discussion groups can be more diverse.

I also need to charge something to cover at least one keynote speaker for the weekend, and for our shared meals together.

PROMOTION:
The promotion will be mostly grass-roots. I've gotten fairly good at using the internet and pulling favors from various friends around the 'Net to get a lot of promotional mileage out of a little bit of marketing moolah.

THE DREAM TEAM:
My "dream team" would include Jackie Pullinger, who lives in China, and Dr. Scott Bartchy who teaches at UCLA which is just up the road. Both of them have the fire-power I'd want for a conference like this...and by that I mean they have the ability to speak the hard-core truth in ways that often offend people but usually they hit a nerve because they are on target..and that's exactly what I want for the "Non-Con". I want people to be challenged and to go home from this changed and affected...and ready to change their world in the same way.

Right now I'm optimistic that I could get David Ruis (I've already done 2 local conferences with him in the last 2 years and he's awesome). I also think I might could get Greg Russinger from The Bridge in Ventura to help me out.

WORSHIP LEADERS:
Worship leaders are still a toss-up. I'd love to have Matt Redman (who wouldn't?) or Tim Hughes (again, yes..but..?), and if I could get either of them to agree to something this intentionally small, (which would be the easy part), I'd have to fork over the cash to get them here from the UK (which would be the hard part).

Locally, of course, the options are better. Chris Lizotte is local, and a friend. David Ruis, already mentioned, is also a great worship leader. I also know guys locally who are not "famous" but who are especially gifted and more than capable of leading us into a great time of corporate worship...guys like Brandon Ezell and John Thomas.

WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
Day one of the "Non-Con" would involve everyone driving up to the location, signing in and receiving their temporary tattoo (instead of a hand-stamp or wrist-band). Then they'd take a grab-bag of goodies and a folding chair from off the rack by the front door and head into the open room.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF THE WEEKEND:
FIRST SESSION- DAY 1, 9AM
In the center of the room would be a single chair, a microphone and a music stand...probably an acoustic guitar and a small table too.

People would place their chair in a make-shift circle around the center chair and (hopefully) people would begin to talk to each other as they waited for things to begin...(and we might have to dream up some creative discussion starters...like "What tattoo did you get?" or something...).

Eventually our worship leader would come to the center and lead us in a short opening prayer. Others would be invited to pray too as we get ready to worship and to discover what God has for us this day.

SESSION 1- KEYNOTE SPEAKER 1, 9:30AM
After a few songs of worship we'd invite our keynote speaker up. Let's pretend it's Jackie Pullinger (hey..it's my dream ok?)..and after about 20 minutes of blowing our hair back on issues of justice and compassion for the poor in our own city and street, we'd open things up for reaction and questions from the floor. Jackie would respond and our dialog would continue for about another half hour.

WORKSHOPS 1- 10:30AM
After this we'd take a break and people would be able to choose from one of several different workshops lead by practitioners on issues of social justice/compassion, missional life, spiritual disciplines, the arts and the poor, Poverty in the O.C., or spiritual formation as a way of life...(I've already got several great people in mind to lead these discussion workshops as well. Most are friends of mine who are already living out these values in extraordinary ways...more on this aspect later).

LUNCH BREAK- 11:30AM TO 2:00PM (Shared meal together with everyone)

"WORSHIP SERVICE" - 2:00PM TO 4:00PM
After lunch everyone would show up to one of four different "Worship Service" projects around the city. These would be opportunities to let our "Worship" become our "Service" to others. (I've done this at 2 different conferences in the past and these were always the best parts of the weekend for everyone involved).

DINNER BREAK - 4:00PM TO 6:00PM
(Free time. Eat on your own or with a friend)

DAY 1- EVENING CELEBRATION SESSION - 6:00PM
Our evening session will be opened again by a short prayer where everyone is free to pray out loud and bless our evening celebration.

TESTIMONY TIME - 6:15PM
We'd kick things off by allowing people to share a little about what happened during the "Worship Service" segment of our first day. This would be allowed to go for about an hour or so...we'll play it by ear.

SESSION 2 - 7:00PM
Let's pretend that Dr. Scott Bartchy is our keynote now. He'll blow our doors off with a snapshot of what "normative Christianity" was like in the first three centuries of the early Church for about 30 minutes and then we'd all ask questions and give response. This will rock.

EVENING ARTS INTERACTIVE - 8:00PM
I always love to have a time for people to respond to what they've seen and heard artistically. It doesn't matter if you're not an artist. We just want everyone to take the time to share their "notes" on the things they've learned and experienced throughout the day in some form or another. We'll have a large room set up with paper, paint, brushes, even video cameras and live online blogs for people to post their thoughts for the rest of the world to see and share in.

END OF DAY ONE- APPROXIMATELY 10PM
"THE BURNING"- One aspect of the "Non-Con" I'm personally excited about is the "Burn our Christian Crap" segment. This is where people can come and bring a symbol of their participation in the great Christian Materialsm Machine (i.e.- A Carman Cd, a "Lord's Gymn" tee shirt, a piece of "Jesus Junk" plastic, etc.). Together we'll burn our Christian Crap and make a statement about our intent to separate ourselves from the "Safe" version of Christianity where we try to create a Christian Version of the actual world around us. Maybe we'll all sing "Stairway to Heaven" during this part? Maybe not...

HARD-CORE MOTEL:
One friend suggested to me that we could offer some "hard-core" attendees the option to sleep the night in a nearby park along with the homeless. They could bring their own pillow and sleeping bag and together some of us (even the leaders who were up to it), would make our way after dinner to the local park and hang out with the homeless to sleep the night with them. For the rest of us there would be a hotel option, of course.

SECOND DAY OF "NON-CON 2008"
DAY 2- SESSION 1- 9:30AM
WORSHIP/PRAYER- (20 MINUTES)
KEYNOTE/INTERACTIVE- DAVID RUIS (30 MINUTES TALKING & 30 MINUTES INTERACTIVE)

WORKSHOP SESSION - 11AM TO 12PM
*Again, a series of interactive workshops taught by actual practitioners on topics of interest

LUNCH BREAK - 12PM TO 2PM (Shared meal time together with everyone)

"WORSHIP SERVICE" - 2PM TO 4PM
*This one will be different since it will involve all of us, all together, doing one single act of service as a group of people. Detail as we move closer..

DINNER BREAK - 4PM TO 6PM (Free time. Eat on your own or with a friend)

EVENING SESSION - 6PM
PRAYER/WORSHIP (About 20 minutes)
KEYNOTE ADDRESS - Greg Russinger (30 minutes talking, 30 minutes responsive)

ARTS INTERACTIVE - 7:30PM TO 10PM

LATE NIGHT PANEL "MASSIVE DISCUSSION" - 9PM TO 10PM
*I dream that this will be one massive discussion with Dr. Bartchy, Jackie Pullinger, David Ruis, Greg Russinger and also some of our practitioner/workshop leaders like Jarred Rowland, Crissy Brooks, Becky Zaragoza, Mike Burns, Lo Loughner, Scott Laumann, Heather Wright, etc.

**These are the basics of the sort of conference I would want to actually attend. These are people who have challenged my life and my faith. These are people who continue to live out the Gospel in meaningful, effective ways.

Slowly...slowly the elements allign for the first ever "Non-Con" here in Orange County.

How cool would it be if we could eventually create a "template" for this and then anyone who wanted to could host and launch their own version of the "Non-Con" in their own city?

I can't wait to see what develops on this as things move forward...

Peas,
Keith Giles
**

1 comment:

Mike Burns said...

Keith,
That is more or less the best idea I've seen in quite some time. I too have felt a bit burned out on the typical Christian conference format recently, and have been even more stressed by the amount of talk I hear at those things that never seems to be backed up my action. If you get something going know that I'm down to help out in anyway you'd need.
Hopefully all that comes together, because I know many of us have been longing for an event like that and just didn't know it.