I heard a story from the Extravaganza that I need to share with you. It’s pretty amazing.
If you were there, you know that we rented a Segway for use during the “segue” moments on the main stage. We rented from a local St. Louis company, who would bring the Segway before each general session, would hang around, and then would take it with them at the end of every general session. (hmmm…perhaps they didn’t trust us with it? Ok, can’t blame them.)
They were loading the Segway out of their van into the hotel when Pastor Manuel Retamoza, a member of the Extravaganza Team, was heading out to make an airport run. Dawn, one of the other team members said to Manuel, “could you chat with this gentleman? He has some questions about our church.” “Sure,” said Manuel. Manuel grew up in an American/Southern Baptist tradition, and we were in St. Louis. So he stepped into the conversation carefully. They talked about our theology, our emphasis on grace, infant baptism, and our strong focus on service of those in need. The Segway guy said “what can you tell me about your marital rights?” Oh boy. Manuel, again carefully, described our approach to marriage. It was a pleasant, respectful conversation, and about ten minutes later, they went on their respective ways.
The Segue guy sits in the back of the ballroom, waiting for each general session to come to a close, to take the Segue back to its nest (or wherever they keep it.) So the next day, during the session when Rev. Brenda Bos was speaking about how we in the church welcome LGBTQ young people (Remember? “How do you welcome a LGBTQ young person into the church? You say ‘Welcome to the church.’”). After Brenda had finished speaking Manuel was walking through the back of the ballroom, saw the Segway guy, and made eye contact. He then realized that the Segway guy, while not crying, was obviously emotional. His eyes were filled with tears. Manuel walked over to check on him.
“I’ve been in a committed relationship for over 17 years, and I’ve not been in a church in that time. I’ve never heard this message before and I think it’s time for us to find a church home.”
This is the power of the Word of God, shared in love and grace. It happens in places you don’t expect. It happens in ways you don’t anticipate. The Extravaganza is framed for those who come for our congregations. But maybe…just maybe…at this general session, it was also for framed for someone else.
It was for the Segway guy.
I get this question about once a year: “Extravaganza? Why would I go to that? We don’t have the funds for me to go to something that is extravagant!”
I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit.
First, the history: At our very first, stand-alone event (before that, we had met together prior to Youth Specialties National Youth Worker’s Conventions) we actually needed a super-cheap place to meet. We had no budget…the speakers donated their time, the musicians brought themselves and received no pay, only the income on CD sales, the workshop leaders were volunteers… So we needed a spot with cheap airfare and cheap rooms.
We found the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Really.
And so the first event was called the “ExStratoGanza.” Really. Marketing geniuses that we were. It was a great event. Kind of a miracle that it all pulled off, actually.
And the name concept just stuck. It was never really talked about, but the next year in Dallas, the event just was the Extravaganza. And it has been ever since. Now, the name within the church is a brand. People know it. It has traction.
Is this event “extravagant?” No, not at all. It’s actually very reasonable for a conference of its length and the depth and quality of content.
We’ve occasionally talked about changing the name. But people know what the Extravaganza is and what it stands for. And at the risk of “retro-justifying” our name, I want to reclaim it on behalf of the event. The event and the cost are not extravagant. But the experience is.
- The depth of community one encounters is extravagant. The community welcomes all unconditionally.
- The depth of the learning is extravagant. The wisdom shared in the Intensive Care Courses, in the workshops, from the main stage will change your ministry.
- The spiritual renewal is extravagant. At the E you experience the grace of God and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
- The resources that you encounter at the Extravaganza are almost overwhelming. There is so much GREAT stuff out there.
Most importantly, the grace and the love of God for all is extravagant. We cognitively know that. We teach it to our young people. We name it in the lives of those with whom we work. But at the Extravaganza, we experience this ourselves. I have been to every single Extravaganza since Las Vegas. And every time I am there, I come away with a new and different understanding of what God is up to in my life.
I will not deny it. As a matter of fact, I will proudly claim this adjective: The experience is extravagant.
The more I think about it, the more I think that the name is perfect.
May God’s extravagant love overwhelm you today!
Sincere thanks to all of you who filled out evaluations for Extravaganza 2013 this past January. We’ve completed the process of collating the responses, writing up reports and doing analysis. There was a ton of great data there. The total, final, “full” report was 47 pages long (small print..single space!) Clearly, people care about the Network and this event, and for that we are grateful!
Generally, the feedback for the event was really positive. Two of the questions that we look at, and which carry a lot of weight for us are:
- “Overall, this event was (1=terrible; 10 = awesome).” The response to this question was 8.55. That’s a very solid response. And;
- “This event was worth the money spent (1=not even close; 10=totally).” The response to this question was 8.56. Again, we were pleased with this response.
There were lots of other questions, and lots of responses, including great and very insightful comments. Please know that we will take all of this feedback seriously as the team reconfigures now and ramps up for the 2014 event in St. Louis.
There were also a few questions/comments that showed up throughout the responses that I think merit some response and explanation from the planning team.
The housing at the Hyatt sold out and a group had to move to the Hyatt House. Those of you who had to stay there were inconvenienced. We’ve never had this kind of issue before. When we sign our contracts with hotels, we “guarantee” a certain number of rooms. It has never been an issue before when we have gone over that mark. Hotels have been able to accommodate us without a problem. What we didn’t know was that there was a large, city-wide convention happening at the same time and that the remainder of the hotel was sold-out. We had guaranteed 900 room nights. We actually got the hotel to expand our room block to just over 1100 room nights. But that still wound up leaving us short by around 150. Of course, we would have sought out hotels just down the street, but they were sold out. So while it was unfortunate, we were kind of stuck. We apologize for the inconvenience!
This year the housing links will be live and ready to go on May 15. We recommend that folks book early. Last year, the only people who were displaced were those who tried to book their rooms after December 29th.
There was concern raised about the cost of the event. Some people ask “why can’t we stay at a camp or retreat center.” We’ve had this question raised before. It’s a good question. There are, actually, only 5-7 camp/retreat centers that have the capacity to host the Extravaganza. And none of those are easily accessible to an airport or transit hub. The cost of ground transportation would make the cost of the event much higher. And we do negotiate really good rates from the hotels that host us. I always say, “If I could find a Hampton Inn with rooms for $89 that have 12,000 sq. feet of ballroom space, 8-9000 sq. feet of exhibit space and 8-10 workshop rooms that can hold 50-100 people theater style, I’d book it!” But I don’t think it exists. We are very conscious of the funds people spend to be at the E. We treat them like a sacred trust, and we work hard to be good stewards.
A minority of people struggled a bit with the worship services. Reading the responses, it actually reminded me of the responses we often get when we talk about congregational worship. What can be incredibly meaningful for one person might not even seem like worship to the person sitting next to them. Some thought it was too contemporary…some thought it was too traditional. All of your feedback is being carefully considered.
People generally liked having one speaker (John Roberto) for the 3 general sessions. There were, again, a minority of people who didn’t like the strong emphasis John placed on technology. I understand that. It is where a lot of his time and attention went. Comments like “I’m a youth and children’s minister, not a webmaster” were shared. On one level I understand that, but on another level, I think part of the point was missed. (Please understand, I’m just speaking for myself now) You’re right that we’re not called to be webmasters. However, we are called to communicate the truth and grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the language and culture of the people.
The people with whom we work live in a digital culture, and use digital mediums to learn, to communicate, and to experience their world. We have to be fluent in that language, and our role as people who curate resources has to move into the digital because that’s where people are. This is not in lieu of face to face relationships, but rather alongside and enhancing relationships. Watch the videos again online…there’s a lot of wisdom in what John says about the culture we’ve been called to minister within.
These were themes we heard that deserved to be acknowledged and responded to. There were great comments, both critique and affirmation in the 47 pages of evals. Even though we can’t respond to them all, they have already influenced the planning for 2014.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for your time in filling them out. They are a great gift to the E-Team, the event, and to our community.
Extravaganza 2013 is in the history books!
And, it was a great event. We’re in the process of collecting the evaluation forms now, and we’ll take a lot of time going through them. But overall, the immediate feedback we have received has been very positive, and we’re happy for how it all went.
The Extravaganza is put on by a team of amazing, dedicated and talented individuals, who form an amazingly effective team to plan and carry out the event. One interesting piece of trivia: The E team didn’t meet face to face this year. Not at all. All their planning was done by phone…by email and by online meeting. Before the event the team spends countless hours working the details, listening, planning and thinking about how to best carry out the ministry of the Extravaganza. At the event, they work 18+hours a day to make the event happen.
There are quite simply, not words adequate to describe their dedication, nor my gratitude to them for doing this. All I can say is “Thanks be to God.”
The E-Team is (in no particular order):
- Charlie Roberts
- Debbie Clipson
- Dawn Trautman
- Desta Goehner
- Eric Carlson
- Hal Weldin
- Kare Hairell
- Kevin Dragseth
- Laurie Hoium
- Michael Sladek
- Scott Maxwell-Doherty
- Shannon Savage-Howie
- Tim Huff
- Tom Hoegel
- Manuel Retamoza
And then there are a ton of other folks who serve as E-Volunteers, including Paul Clark, Andy Moscinski, Andy Arnold, the crew from Lutheran Retreats, camps and conferences of Southern California as well as others who helped out with various things. There are not words to describe our gratitude for your time and energy.
And then there are all of our partners, exhibitors and vendors. You came to share what you do with the community. You are a blessing to our community.
And then there is Scott. Scott Maxwell Doherty directs the Extravaganza, and does so with a unique blend of creativity, confidence, leadership and grace. Where do I get my continuing education at the E? It’s largely by walking around and watching Scott do his work. He is a leader of leaders. Scott, there are not words…
And to all who came to participate, to be a part of the event, to renew, to learn, to network, thank you. Thank you for your trust in coming to this event. Thank you for putting up your continuing education funds…your staff development funds, or in many cases, your own money. Thank you for the work and ministry you do, and for being willing to “open source share” that with the rest of the community. There are not words to describe our gratitude for how God is working within your ministry.
There are not words adequate to describe God’s grace, as it was lived out in Anaheim. And so we just say “Thanks be to God…and thanks be to all of you.”
Q: “So what did you do at the Extravaganza this year?”
A: “Learned a lot…experienced spiritual renewal…connected with peers…oh yeah, hung out with an academy award nominee.”
I blogged a couple of months ago about the documentary called “Inocente,” which we will be screening on Sunday afternoon at the Extravaganza. It is the story of a young girl who grew up homeless, and how her art became her escape, that which brought her faith and life. Much like last year when we screened “Blue Like Jazz,” the movie director will be with us to present the film, and to lead a discussion afterwards.
This year, Inocente, the girl who is the subject of the movie, will be with us as well. We are very excited about that. The tagline of the film is “Her circumstances do not define her. Her dreams do.” I am told that this is a very powerful documentary.
This morning I saw in the news: The movie Inocente received an Academy Award Nomination in the category “Documentary – Short Subject.”
How cool is that? Yeah. Very.
Another reason to be excited about Extravaganza!
See you there!
In the last couple of weeks of November, we did a demographic survey of our Network members. We e-mailed our members, inviting them to take the online survey sometime over a period of two weeks. We had a good response to the invitation. Our response rate was 52%.
There are two reasons we did the study:
- We are getting ready to launch a new Network strategic plan in the next couple of months (more on this later, I promise!) and the data from this survey will help us as we work on the plan.
- One of our hopes is to develop new organizational partnerships. This information will help us “tell the story” of the Network to these potential partners.
We learned quite a bit. Here’s a brief run-down.
We are a more mature organization than I expected. Our age breakdown is:
Interestingly, if you lump these age groups into three categories, 19-30 (26%), 31-50 (41%) and 51+ (33%) the age breakdowns are fairly even, if skewed slightly older. This tells me two things: 1) We are an older, and more experienced group than I expected, and 2) The smallest of these 3 categories is our youngest group. This is clearly a place then where we need to increase our outreach and communication efforts.
“I Serve As A:”
|Professional – Part Time||22%|
|Professional – Full Time||68%|
|High School Graduate||12%|
|Seminary – MA||11%|
|Seminary – Mdiv||10%|
|Master’s Degree (other than seminary)||22%|
ELCA Roster Status:
Ethnicity & Multi-Culturalism:
|Multi Ethnic/Multi Racial||1%|
|Arab and Middle Eastern||.5%|
|American Indian/Alaskan Native||0%|
|Non-Congregational Youth Min||3%|
Areas of Responsibility:
We asked the question “what are your areas of ministry responsibility?” and asked people to “check all that apply. The percentage listed is the percentage of the total respondents (321) that replied that this was one of their responsibilities. What we heard back was:
|Young Adult Ministry||45%|
Network Resources Used in the Last Three Years:
|Practice Discipleship Project||35%|
|Video Archive of Speakers||32%|
|List of Cong willing to host groups||12%|
There is a lot of information to process and analyze. What does it teach us? Well, we’re not sure yet. But we’re taking a look at it. Our sense of who we are will help to shape what we think God is calling the Network to be. The draft of our strategic plan will be released for public comment in the next week or two.
In the meantime, if you have comments or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Please comment here in this blog.
This past weekend, the Extravaganza team leaders met at the Hyatt in Anaheim, site of the 2013 Extravaganza, to process the
evaluations from the New Orleans event, and to do the organizational planning for ’13.
We spent quite a bit of time processing the evaluations, and I just wanted to share a couple of observations about your thoughts.
- My first observation is that the overall rating of the event was an 8.56/10. That’s a great number, and I think it reflects the good, hard work of the E-Team, and also the great community that gathers there.
- My second observation relates to the sense of being kind of overwhelmed at the response. This year’s Extravaganza evaluation process yielded a 48% return rate. We had 307 total evaluations returned. And the comments…wow…lots and lots of great comments. (I know because we read every one of them!) Just as a point of reference, when the evaluations were compiled into a single report, and the comments were added (in 8pt. type, font = Ariel) the report totaled 49 pages long.
What does this tell us? People really care about this event and about the Network. It is important to people. They are invested. And for that, we are very, very grateful
People come from very different places and experiences, and have different needs that manifest themselves in the evaluation. Here’s what we heard:
1. People loved the worship style. And, people didn’t connect with the worship style.
2. People thought the schedule was too packed. And, people thought the schedule was too loose.
3. People thought the hotel was great. And, people didn’t like the hotel.
4. People connected with the theme. And, people didn’t connect with the theme.
Sometimes, I’d be looking at the evaluations and I’d wonder to myself “were these people at the same event?” Of course, they weren’t. They were at their event. And because everyone comes from a different ‘place’, every evaluation is going to be different.
- People had mixed feelings about the cost. What we found was that people thought that the Extravaganza itself is a good deal, and they appreciate the team’s efforts at saving money and keeping costs low. The question of “was the event worth the money” scored an 8.59 out of 10. Actually, a higher score than the overall event rating. This tells us that generally people were satisfied. At the same time, the cost of the hotel is high. We knew going in this year’s event that the hotel costs would be a bit higher than normal. We were committed to being in the city of the Gathering because our members have told us that this is of high value to them. But to make that happen, we know that some of the associated costs will pop a bit. We also know that our costs next year in ’13 are lower than they were in ’12.
Interestingly, some folks questioned some of the specific event expenses. They wondered if we really needed to pay for a glossy program book, or if we needed all of that sound and lights in the ballroom. Great questions. Here’s the answers: if we just printed small, simple program books, we would have to pay for all of those costs. By printing glossy, professional program books, we can sell ads in them, which offset the cost, and make for a better looking product. The reality is that our expenses and our income for the program books came pretty close to offsetting each other.
Sound and lights are provided by Big Dog Sound, who we have worked with for years. Basically, we rent sound and lights ‘by the truckload.’ Tom of Big Dog, who is a Network member and a youth minister at Bethel Lutheran Church in Cupertino, California, gives us a great deal. And it really doesn’t cost us extra to have the quality, professional “stuff” rather than a simple sound system and fluorescent lights.
So there are reasons for why we do what we do. That doesn’t mean that we’ll stop being good stewards of your membership and registration dollars. We treat them as if they were our own. And we are very careful on what we spend.
There’s much more…and we’re still processing it. Lots were said about speakers, music, workshops, hospitality, and everything else that is a part of the event. But let me say that we are grateful for your thoughts…all 49 pages of them. And we will take them seriously. If you have any other comments, please post them as a comment here, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’ve got great stuff in the hopper for 2013 in Anaheim. Watch for some exciting announcements for speakers in the next few weeks.
Thank you for being the Network!
Have you ever had an experience where something you were deeply invested in went really, really well, and it’s all said and done, and everything is boxed up and put away, and you sit back and sigh and you realize “hey, that was really cool…it feels really good to have been a part of that.” (apologies for the run-on sentence)
Welcome to my world.
Extravaganza 2012 is in the books. And while it’s not the only thing the Network does, not by a long shot, there is no question that it is the biggest thing that the Network does.
And this year, it was great.
- Are there things that didn’t work quite the way we had hoped? Yes.
- Are there things that we could have done differently? Undoubtedly.
That’s where you come in. We will depend…absolutely depend…on your evaluation forms. And I promise that as a team we will read each one of them. If you haven’t filled yours out yet, you can do so online anytime between now and March 10.
But even knowing that there is constructive criticism floating around out there doesn’t diminish that wonderfully satisfied feeling that we get when we’ve been a part of something where the Holy Spirit showed up and did her thing.
So this week, I’ve been living in the afterglow of a great event.
And there are thanks to be made.
- First, to God for an amazing 4 days.
- Second, to all of you who trusted that this event would be a good way to spend your time and (scarce) continuing education dollars. I don’t care how good a program you have…if no one is there, your program tanks. Over 650 of you were there. It was amazing.
- Third, to the event leadership who continues to knock my socks off. There is no exaggeration when I say that I love these people
and working with them. They are thoroughbreds. They take their area/task/program and run with it. They are creative and thorough. They care about what they do. And they do their work as volunteers, and with an amazing amount of passion. They include: Scott Maxwell-Doherty, Manuel Retamoza, Kristen Baltrum, Dawn Trautman, Shannon Savage-Howie, Charlie Roberts, Kevin Dragseth, Michael Sladek, Tim Huff, Laurie Hoium, Kara Clark, Debbie Clipson, Desta Goehner, Tom Hoegel, Paul Clark, Paul Schmidt, Nicole Fielder, Scott Fielder, Chris Larson, Andy “Mo” Moscinski, and a ton of other volunteers who took on different tasks during the event. You are all absolutely amazing people
My hope? You are all, E-team, E-volunteers, participants, etc., basking in the afterglow. We experienced Christ’s church together.
Soli deo Gloria!