People have often asked, “How do you decide where to hold a regional conference?” Let me shed some light on our reasoning process.
There are four basic criteria.
First, invitations. Was there an invitation to hold a regional at a given city or area? Those make a big difference in our planning, especially if the invite comes from a pastor. It tells us there are people willing to help. That gets us excited.
Second, readers. We try to find an area with at least eight hundred Grace in Focus readers in a 200 miles radius.
Third, pastors. We look to see if there are any Free Grace pastors in the area to use as speakers.
Fourth, an auditorium. We look to see if there’s a seminary where we can rent a room cheaply. We used to rent hotel conference rooms, but those ended up being very expensive—in the $1000-2500 range. Audio and visual equipment was usually another $200/day. By contrast, an auditorium-style classroom at a seminary or Bible college can usually be rented for $400-500 and has audio/visual built-in.
So those are four basic principles. If a city checks off all four criteria, it becomes a very good candidate for a regional.
Here are some other considerations that come into play.
We want to get at least fifty people to attend. We consider seventy a good turnout. If less than forty show up, we try a different city.
So far, the regionals have been free because we want as many people to attend as possible. We make a soft “ask” for donations to cover our costs, but I don’t think we’ve ever raised enough to do that. That isn’t a deal-breaker for us, however, because even if someone doesn’t give that weekend, he or she may still give later in the year as a result of the conference. On the other hand, donations made at the conference give us an idea of the level of enthusiasm for that city or area.
We were concerned the regionals might lower national conference attendance. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. In fact, our 2018 national conference had the highest attendance in years. That was thanks, in part, to the fact that people so enjoyed the regionals they also attended the national.
So long as people are enthusiastic, and so long as we have the money, we’ll keep on doing regionals in the future. We want to serve the Lord’s people as best as we can. And we’re thankful to the Lord for these chances to refresh, and to be refreshed by, God’s people.