As I wrap up my look at the 2010 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference promotional disgrace (see my two previous posts here and here), I want to contrast the FBC Jax method of attracting and charging vendors and advertisors and "sponsors" to their conference, with how the Southern Baptist Convention charges vendors at their annual convention.
I wanted to first address the anons who posted in the last few days that there is nothing inherently wrong with FBC Jax charging for "sponsorships", and selling for thousands of dollars the rights to display organizational names on image screens, or putting a price tag on mentioning the names of ministries from the pulpit. Their logic is because that is standard fare for other "conferences" and therefore not to be criticized when done by a church.
I would draw a huge contrast between a Christian event held in a church sanctuary, like FBC Jax, and one that is held in a public, rented venue such as a convention center or even municipal arena. The points of difference:
- a municipal venue will costs tens of thousands of dollars to rent, whereas there is no rental fee whatsoever for the use of a church santuary that has been paid for cash by the gifts of the church members. If a convention or Christian event is held in a public venue, it may make perfect sense for the costs of the facility rental to be shared by the ministries using the rented facilities (this is what the SBC does as I will show below).
- There are obvious operational expenses that FBC Jax must bear in hosting the Pastor's Conference: security, housekeeping, utilities, etc. These costs have been covered by the church or by the registration fees or special offerings from attendees in years past. But there is no extra cost in providing square footage for vendors, the space is in the foyer area already. There is no extra cost in allowing a PowerPoint slide for a Christian organization to be displayed on an image screen, or in having a minister mention the name of a worthwhile ministry through the sound system - these systems are not rented - they are in place for the sole purpose of the gospel, not to be used as a means to charge Christian ministries to raise revenue. Yet market-based prices, nickel-nose prices are charged to ministries for those privileges.
Why should these ministries bail out the FBC Jax bunch who is managing the conference? Attendance is WAY down over years past - so obviously there is a problem with the product being offered, or the pricing is out of whack...let them figure out the proper pricing structure and conference attributes to raise the required revenue - without the embarrasing selling of advertising in the church.
Another argument for selling advertising at the conference is that helps keep the registration costs low. Its not apparent that the registration fees for the FBC Jax conference are significantly lower than for other similar conferences. The cost now for a husband and wife to sign up and attend the 2010 Pastor's Conference is $299. Compare this to the Shepherd's Conference held by John McArthur, which charges $300. I won't go into comparing the goodies and meals given at each conference that or may not be included in the respective pricing, but my point is: FBC Jax is charging comparable fees to other conferences. And by the way, if all the promotional packages are sold, its adds up to just about $100,000. Assuming they sell 20 vendor booth spaces at $750 a pop, that is an addtional $15,000.
These marketing plans also serve to feed the "good ole boy" network that exists in the SBC. The leaders of some of the organizations that will pay these fees are also speakers at the conference and will be paid handsome speaking fees by FBC Jax! And who can forget the embarrassing moment in 2007, right in front of David Jeremiah who was about to preach, when Mac Brunson brought his son, Trey, up to the platform and congratulated him for "raising over $100,000" to help defray the expenses of the conference, and declared that this was more than twice Trey's salary - I'm not kidding, he actually said that. As I have said on this blog before, although Mac didn't explain HOW Trey raised this money, Mac was likely giving Trey credit for monies raised by Conexus and The A-Group through these very same promotions that we see being pushed in 2010. Poor David Jeremiah, who was probably a little embarrassed having to follow that raw display of arrogance and nepotism, declared something along the lines (I'm paraphrasing): "Gee, if the money raised is tied to his salary, let's give that boy a raise!"
At least one poster yesterday gave some options: cancel the P.C., raise the registration fees, or find other "creative" ways to "finance it. Well, the registration fees have risen in the past five years, and these promotional gimmicks could certainly be called "creative". But I can tell you, Homer Lindsay would sooner cancel the Pastor's Conference than allow his church to be selling the rights to display ads in the Main Auditorium, labels on bottled water, and logos on bags. Homer would be embarassed by it all. Homer believed that the church should pay for its ministries - including the Pastor's Conference; and it was a ministry to pastors - to let them hear solid preaching that they were not getting at that time at the Pastor's Conference of the SBC Annual Meeting - and it was a time for them to see just what was going on at FBC Jax.
And lastly, I want to commend the SBC for how they deal with vendors at their Annual Meeting each year. Since this meeting is held at municipal stadiums or convention centers which must be rented, the SBC has a policy on how vendors are charged for the space. You can read their entire policy here, but here are the excerpts dealing with vendors:
"Other groups [besides those directly affiliated with the SBC] may obtain space if they are sponsored by an SBC entity or Woman’s Missionary Union, or if that SBC entity has Convention responsibility for the area of work represented by the group (i.e., Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists sponsored by the North American Mission Board)."
"1. The exhibits are to operate on a cost-recovery basis. Exhibitors will be billed by the Executive Committee on a cost-per-square-foot basis. The cost per square foot should be sufficient to recover the cost of the rental of the exhibit hall, security services, general decorating services (i.e., basic drapes and signs), and janitorial services. All exhibitors will pay the same rate per square foot of exhibit space."
So that is how the SBC operates...they divide the total costs of providing the space, by the square footage and charge all vendors the same per square foot fee. No gimmicks. No selling of bottled water ads or logos on canvas bags. Definitely no hiring of promotions firms to see how to use the assembly of pastors and lay people to raise revenue.
Oh, and one other minor detail that allows the SBC to operate their convention like this: they aren't paying huge speaking fees to the people on the platform.
FBC Jax, if you want to follow the anon's advice and do something REALLY creative: try cutting the speaking fees you are paying by 95%, and see who still will come to speak. Sure, pay their travel and their lodging and meals (and a free ticket to the conference!), but try paying them just a $250 dollar stipend. Try reserving hotel space at the Holiday Inn instead of the Omni. Try trimming (eliminating) the consulting fees paid to church marketers and promotions firms. There are ways to be creative, but they would require the big name speakers to pocket less money, and the consultants would have to find their own revenue.
As I said yesterday, I truly hope no Christian ministries will give in and puchase these promotional packages. I understand they will have to fork over the $750 for the display table - there is nothing they can do about that. But to pay for bottled water, canvas bag logs, cheesy promotional pen ads, and "banners at the snack areas" and displays on the TVs and image screens...I hope they save their ministry money for other more worthwhile investments.