Last modified: Aug 8, 2016

End of Life

There’s a concept in business that’s called the “end-of-life” of a product.

The most successful brands not only develop products, but they also map out the products’ end-of-life.

They do the research to find out when they’ll have to take the product off the shelf, how long to extend product support, and when to get the newest product iteration out to the masses.

The best companies know what they’re good at and when to evolve.

So that iPhone 5s already has a 6 and 6s on the drawing boards.

That 2014 Audi A3 already has the next year’s model sketched out somewhere.

Why?

Because stagnation is terrible.

Because if your product stops being relevant, there’s probably a better iteration you’re not thinking of.

And so I ask this question. Not with bias. I’m not trying to project my beliefs on you.

I genuinely want to stir the pot here and ask because it’s worth talking about.

Are PCNAK and other similar ethnic-specific conferences relevant anymore?


Generic

The running joke about PCNAK is that people attend because it’s like a real-life matchmaker website. You go there, meet people, and leave with wedding plans on the horizon.

The running joke is that we get to don the current year’s latest fashion accessories and blast social media with our hippest new photos with all our conference buddies. And all of Instagram rejoices. (#skinnytieconference, anybody?)

And, on some level, that’s great.

Fellowship is cool. Blasting social media is cool.

But I feel like—on some level— we’ve kinda forgotten about the true purpose of these conferences.

We all know about the politically correct stuff we can spew out about the conferences.

Stuff like:

Oh, it touched one person, so it was successful.

And stuff like:

God moved, so it was successful.

Well, the truth is, God absolutely can move whether the event is poorly mapped out or not. So we’re just avoiding the actual important question(s) with those generic responses.

The question I’m asking has more to do with whether things are mapped out… at all.


Years Past

There are plenty of things we could be doing better.

Leadership conferences.

Songwriter conferences.

Writer conferences.

Mission training.

Are PCNAK and all of the similar conferences necessary anymore?

And if they are, what are the goals that are trying to be reached?

If the goal is just to get a bunch of people that look alike to come together for a weekend, then great. Mission accomplished.

But, with Facebook and Twitter and social networks ruling the world in 2014, it may not be as necessary to have an annual come-see-everybody-and-how-everybody-is-doing Conference.

PCNAK has launched some phenomenal talent and birthed some amazing leaders. That’s for sure.

But… what are the goals here NOW?

And, even more pressingly, are these the same goals that have been recycled for the last several decades?

It’s important to ask because the conferences are met with more eye rolls than genuine excitement nowadays. And, let’s face it. Your product—and these conferences are absolutely products whether you want to admit that or not—is generating… little in terms of general enthusiasm.

That’s what got me curious.

In years past, there was a buzz about PCNAK.

An almost visceral buzz that made attending any year so critical.

But in the last few years? Less and less people seem to care about going.

And that’s a problem.

At least, it should be.

So, why aren’t things changing?


Why Settle

Times change.

When you produce the same 4-day event with the same arbitrary, ho-hum goals every year, you run the risk of not evolving with the times.

So what worked in 1994 may not work in 2014.

The hot button issues of 1994 aren’t the same as the ones of 2014.

The social climate in 1994 isn’t the same as the one in 2014.

Floppy drives were big in 1994. In 2014? Yeah. You get the point.

So why are we churning out the same product?

What makes us think that God wouldn’t still show up if we aimed to raise the bar with our conferences? Why should we settle? Every single year, guys. Every single year.

So having 3 nights of meetings without specific goals in mind and a 2-hour long communion on a Sunday afternoon for a congregation that already knows about the incredibly intimate sacrament? May be a little dated.

That’s just how life works sometimes.

We’ve got major churches in our backyards. We’ve got incredible conferences every month that are tailored to fit our skills and interests. We’ve got every opportunity to enjoy each other’s company because of social media and texting.

The world has changed. And what was indispensable 20 years ago may now just be facing the inevitable: evolve or die.

So is there a problem with PCNAK?

Can’t we do a better job with these culture-centric conferences? Maybe tailor them to train up the next generation of leaders, songwriters, writers, thinkers, creatives?

Why settle for impacting 2 leaders per conference… when we could impact 150?

Why settle for having 50 positive testimonies afterwards… when we could have 500?

Wouldn’t focusing the conferences to reach subsets of our youth be more impactful?

Or is it okay to keep running with the same old come-see-everybody-and-how-everybody-is-doing conferences every year?

We’ve got Story Conference, Misfit Conference, Hillsong Conference, Passion… and a bunch of others that people rave about from every corner of the world. Sure, a lot of it could just be the hype surrounding the event and the speakers. But maybe they’re doing something inherently more creative with their resources.

There’s no problem asking questions. The hard part is coming to grip with answers.

New York’s PYFA deals with the same kinds of issues. The organization doesn’t revolve around a conference per se, but nobody would bat an eye if you missed one of their meetings over the course of the year. That wasn’t the case in years past! Sure, meeting up for fellowship every month was important before social networks and text messaging took over our lives, but there hasn’t been an evolution in the way they do things.

The productive conversation is rarely about dismantling everything and ceasing to exist. Rather, the productive conversation is usually about refocusing their mission statement on what they’re really good at. Missions. PYFA is incredible with their handling of missions and training of missions-oriented leaders. Wouldn’t they be better off combating the complete social apathy that meets their ancient bi-monthly meeting philosophy with a refocused, sharper mission statement?

Maybe I’m the first one to put it out there verbally or publicly. But c’mon. We’ve heard the chatter. We’ve heard the rumblings behinds backs. We might as well talk about this.

End-of life.

What’s the end-of-life to our culture-centric conferences?

And what does the evolution look like?

More importantly… why haven’t we been pressuring our leaders with these questions?

Better late than never.

So I want to know what you think.

And let’s avoid the politically correct stuff. I’m not asking about political correctness and emotional attachment to the conferences.

Trust me. You know as well as I do that these culture-centric conferences give platforms for the 500 leaders that want their shot to pray or get the microphone or get their names in lavish songbooks.

We know this.

But that’s not a good reason to keep conferences going.

And treading water.

And not being as good as we can be.

I’m asking about what’s not working, what should work, and why we aren’t evolving.

What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below. ■