Friendly Suggestions for the Next SEND Conference

The 2015 SEND conference in Nashville, TN was very good.  I was able to attend with a group of three other guys from our church, along with our Director of Missions.  The preaching, in particular, was exceptional.  Nevertheless, there were some things I think that could be done to improve the conference.

I was excited to get an email from the conference organizers asking for feedback.  But when I opened the survey, it only contained questions on how I was going to apply what I had learned, and nothing pertaining to the conference itself.  So here goes.  I submit these as friendly suggestions.  Maybe by some miracle it will get to someone at NAMB:

Me and the Crew at the SEND Conference
1)  Have Open Seating:  The seating at SEND was apparently based on how large your group was.  Groups of 25 were allowed to sit on the floor.  In contrast, our group of five was confined to the upper deck.  (Although they did open the middle deck to us later on.)  I understand why they do this I suppose.  But it rubs me the wrong way.  Don’t get me wrong, I would have sat in the upper deck anyway.  I’m a back row kind of guy.  But it seems like a caste system.  Basically large churches get good seats and small churches get bad seats, even though we all paid the same for our tickets. 

2)  Print a Program:  It was very frustrating that no agenda was printed.  I assume this was by design so that people would not pick and choose which speakers they wanted to hear.  But quite frankly, we drove a long way and spent a lot of money to be there, and it seemed disrespectful (if not manipulative) to keep us in the dark.  I understand if there are certain elements that need to be kept as a surprise (i.e. Crowder Band).  But that should be the exception rather than the rule.  Trust people enough to give them the pertinent information and let them decide.

3)  Give SEND Cities a Forum:  Our church is currently discussing/praying about partnering with a particular SEND city.  I was planning on that city having its own information session for potential partners to attend, much as the SEND conference did in 2013.  So I was disappointed when I was told there would be no opportunities like that.  There was a “Next Steps” area in the arena designated for people to get more information, but at any given time I would say most of the SEND city directors were not present.  Not to mention there was no formal opportunity to meet the church planters serving in a particular city. 

4)  More Steak Less Sizzle:  I was a little put off by all the fog, lasers and lights.  Not because I’m opposed to those things necessarily (at least not in that context), but because it seemed like an outrageous waste of CP dollars.  I know the SEND folks want to create an “experience” that motivates, inspires and otherwise “wows” the younger generation.  And make no mistake, it was top notch.  But did it strike anyone else as ironic that on one hand we’re talking about how desperate we are for a move of the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand we’re putting all this emphasis (and $) on fog machines and laser shows?  (David Platt even acknowledged as much in his opening remarks.)  Give the younger generation some credit.  There’s a lot of substance there.  They don’t need the show.  I’m not saying it has to be a backdrop made out of plywood, but surely there’s a happy medium there somewhere.

5)  Be Careful You Don’t Narrow Your Audience:  I know NAMB wants to attract and inspire the younger generation.  I get it.  But is SEND targeting them only, or does it want to reach out to a broader cross-section of Southern Baptists?  If the former is true, keep doing what you’re doing.  If the latter is the case, you might want to scale it back just a tad.  I’m not a fuddy-duddy (at least I don’t think so) but I’m telling you right now the music was LOUD.  The lasers were shooting everywhere.  It was pretty intense.   Again, that’s cool if you’re primarily interested in 20 somethings.  But if you want some other guys to come (senior pastors for instance) you might take it down a notch.  I would not feel comfortable recommending SEND to most of the guys in my association.  It would simply be too much for them.  I’m not saying put the Gaithers up there.  I’m just saying turn the volume down a bit, and aim for a little more of a compromise in the music department.  (Casting Crowns was a nice touch on the second night.)

6)  Keep Politics Out:  Aaron Coe and Russell Moore tried valiantly to build a bridge from a missions conference to a political forum, but it just didn’t fit.  It created a lot of drama leading up to the conference as well.  In the end, it wasn’t horrible.  But let’s just save the politics for the ERLC conference next time.  Please.

7)  Be Sure You’re on the Same Page:  IMB was brought in as a partner on this year’s SEND conference.  And, at times, there seemed to be some mixed messages.  For instance, there were a couple occasions when a NAMB or local guy would stand up and say, “You don’t need to go to another continent to be a missionary.  God has brought the nations to our doorstep!”  Then David Platt would stand up and say, “You need to be willing to go to India!”  Obviously it’s a “both and” situation.  Maybe there’s a way to communicate that a little clearer?

8)  Less Concert, More Worship:  The great majority of the music at SEND was in a concert format.  There’s nothing wrong with that in a conference setting.  (And I’m sure many will say they DID worship.)  But it would have been nice to have a little more emphasis on leading the participants into intentional corporate worship, rather than merely performing.

As I said at the beginning of my post, all in all, SEND was a very good conference.  I am glad I went.  I could list all the good things, and the list would be much longer than this list of eight items, but many others have already touched on the positives.  My goal with this post is to provide some (hopefully) constructive criticism for future consideration.