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hi Jonny. good to see you at the conf. i'm just wondering whether the 'power-less discourse' (the phrase I think you used when we were talking at the conference) which is supposed to characterise emerging church conversations happens primarily through blogs, e mail, relational stuff etc. i.e. more organically. and that actually conferences like the one last week are primarily about getting one person - in this case Brian Maclaren - who a lot of people want to hear - in a room where a lot of people can hear him. i think you're right - we do need some new models for how we do the conference thing, that moves us away from the expert/audience speaker/listener dichotomy but that still recognises the fact that at the end of the day there just are some people that a lot of people want to hear and there's little flexibility possible in the way that we organise that. Matt.


Jonny: love this format. This is very similar to what happened at the emergent gathering in New Mexico, and I gather has been the format for past years. The one missing element is the summary session at the end of the day.

It works really well, for all the reasons you stated. One other reason this format works is that in smaller settings people can explore ideas that they are not as comfortable with. My wife has felt that part of the emerging conversation is crap, and the gathering gave her a chance to talk that out and find people who are like her - at different stages of journey.


matt, i agree with you... maybe there could be some sort of combination of the two? i'm not against people sharing their wisdom. after all we regularly have blah where we invite someone to do exactly that. and like you i was partly there to hear brian (though mainly to meet up with people if i'm honest).
will, good to hear from you - glad to hear you've experienced that format work well.


AKMA attended a conference done in this manner - here's more info: http://www.chriscorrigan.com/openspace/whatisos.html

BloggerCon also has an interesting format:

Blogger Con.

'The format of the conference is four concurrent tracks of 1.5 hour sessions, moderated by a discussion leader. There are no panels. Each room will have experts and leaders, most of whom would be excellent panelists. The job of the moderator is to assemble a story by calling on the people at his or her disposal. They're like reporters putting together a story, but you get to hear, first hand what the experts are saying, in their own voices. Think of Dan Gillmor's adage that the people who read his weblog are much smarter than he is -- that's also the philosophy of BloggerCon.'


really like the sentiment of this open source approach. I didn't attend the inclusive church conference, but mainly because i've been in previous years to emergent events and have been put off by the lack of supposed 'conversation', the 'speaker-centric' approach to knowledge sharing and an assumed 'inner circle' of emerging church leaders that are profiled. The format that is described would definately draw me back in!..


In the tech world there have been a few conferences picking up on that or related ideas which have seemed to go down very well with participants, though they have also tended to be more exclusive in terms of invitation lists than some.

eg. http://www.heyotwell.com/engaged2004/

I liked the way O'Reilly's FooCamp was prepared using a wiki beforehand:


ben bell

love the idea and great to hear that it works,
you say that you've used this model in church, college and corporate settings - have any of these been with much smaller numbers? what do you think is the smallest number of people & spaces/meetings you need to make it work?


Open space works excellently as is a great avenue for creativity and enabling.
At the last YFC leadership team tour Richard Bromley did Open Space with us and the results from those meetings around the country have been very eye opening.
YFC at the cutting edge again!!

dave paisley

Just to be clear - it was me that wrote all that, not Jonny ;)

Thanks for posting it here Jonny. I'm glad there are other similar formats being used and with some success. The MAJOR stumbling block, and the only thing that can kill the spirit entirely is the organizers being unwilling or unable to let go of control of the agenda.

I suggested in a follow up email to Jason that something like this might be worth trying for half a day within a 2 or 3 day meeting. Lots to gain, almost nothing to lose.

And wouldn't it be cool for Will's wife to be able to post a meeting topic of "what's crap about emergent?" and have that discussion with whoever showed up? I'd love to hear the report out of that one ;)


I've heard of this approach too - very Complex! - and it's apparently excellent, though I've yet to experience it. There's actually loads of group facilitation stuff out there, but, as usual, institutions (not just churches by any stretch) are very slow to take them up...

Cheers for putting the book up ;-)

the other darren

Heh, of course, there was an interesting discussion going on between some of us on the Emergent Convention Planning blog a while ago at: http://www.emergentconvention.com/planningblog/index.php?p=6 in which we chatted about open source conferencing.

And I started to ponder about it a little a few months ago at: http://www.livejournal.com/users/punchdrunk/393223.html

For me it almost reminds me of a coupld of folk festivals ive been to...

dave paisley

Well, well (other Darren), very cool to see that conversation. I think I made a comment somewhere on that blog sometime in the summer, but I stopped following it. If something like OS was used successfully at the Emergent gathering and we can keep the idea circulating maybe it'll get used at something big.

The more I think about it though, having some kind of "learning" followed by an open space time to process it and work through the issues would be at least a stepping stone to a more fully open conference.

BTW, an example of a report out from an Open Space meeting (actually a series of three) is here: http://www.arts.wa.gov/progCAD/pdf/forward%20focus.pdf, which has the added bonus that a classmate and friend of mine was the facilitator for the Seattle session. The actual open space summaries start on page 8.

the other darren

Cheers Dave,

I have to be the other darren, because there are four of us (that i know of) and it gets confusing :)

I've tried selling that kind of conference here to a number of people and the common thread that I've received back is "Yes, but how do I publicise the conference?"

The idea is that if it's really open-space (http://www.openspaceworld.org/) then it'll be hard to sell the conference to the church people that you're wanting to come... or needing to come to make it run on a budget. This is because the program and what is discussed is really up to those people who gather.

But the reality of such conferences is that a number, a large number of people just gather for the sake of gathering,sure it may be hard to sell an OS conference to the Pastor or Minister of a congregation, but the idea would probably be taken up by someone outside the church structure...

I'm not sure about the learning then open space time though, sure, it's a stepping stone, but im fed up with balancing on stepping stones and wouldnt mind to participate in a truely openspace program when we gather to support one another and we all bring stuff that forms the conference.

Kind of reminds me of the old TOLLS (tollsonline.org) days where what beople brought with them made up the worship time...

We provide a variety of spaces, an infrastructure, a vibe and the conference starts when people start to share...


dave - thanks for the idea - i did put it in italics and credit you honest!

kester - can't believe you noticed so quick i'd added complex christ to the books! - i bought two copies to give away as well!!!



Well, snuck a look at your blog last night and couldn't resist! Thanks. Cheque's in the post ;-)

On a serious note, I hope people find some inspiration in there for doing things in an open source | networked way. Off the back of the book some people asked me about their situation: wanting to do 'more interesting stuff' in their church, but with a leader who simply won't let any of the reins go... Leaving people stifled and frustrated. It seems the 'layity' (sp?) are not to be trusted, not to be treated as intelligent, mature or thinking.

What is great about the sort of stuff above is that it actually affirms the many as worthy, with intelligent things to say and contribute, not as a bunch of no-brain stipend-funding vegetables.

PS, for those who haven't seen it, there's a discussion board based around the book on http://www.thecomplexchrist.com so if people want to discuss further...

dave paisley

Jonny, I know you know that I know - it just seemed like a couple of readers didn't catch that...

And other Darren (so not the other one from Bewitched then?), I guess as a designer of really, really complicated things (airplanes) I'm used to compromise ;)

the other darren

I'm never flying again...

Steve Collins

after the inclusive church conference i drew a building that would oblige the event held in it to work this way - the spaces prevent you addressing too many people at once! this came out of conversations with a couple of people who thought the platform-led aspects didn't represent what emergent were about.

the drawings will be up on smallritual.org over christmas - only time i've got to do it :(

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