Behind the scenes at Fresh Streams
Andy Glover explains how the three-day online event came together
“So much to take away, stuff I was not expecting it to have really impacted me in the way it has…..
“Well organised and presented, really inspiring worship and a great complement of contributors – thank you again for a great few days”
“Just wanted to say a massive thanks to you and your team for your fantastic leading of the fresh streams conference. So impressive at every level. I really don't under-estimate how much time it must have taken to put all this together.”
These are just three quotes from delegates of the Fresh Streams Online National Conference 2021 – Back to the Future. Back in June 2020, the Fresh Streams Leadership Team met on zoom, and on our agenda was the 2021 National Conference.
In the second week of January Fresh Streams hosts its National Conference at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick. For the past three years we had been full with nearly 400 delegates coming together to be inspired, refreshed, and equipped for the year ahead. We knew back then that we would not be able to plan an “in person” conference - but could we offer something online?
This was a question we talked and prayed about for a few weeks before we reached the decision that yes, we should attempt our very first online conference. So, we set the date, that same second week in 2021, 11 to 13 January, we chose the theme “Back to the Future”, we decided to offer it for free, we highlighted some possible contributors and we prayed - help!
We realised that there were many online conferences now available, so we considered what would makes this one unique. Fresh Streams is primarily a relational network of church leaders, with a shared vision, so our goal was for this to be as much about encountering God and conversation with one another as about great teaching content online.
We began to shape the programme that way, finding ways to build connection and facilitate meeting with God. We started to look at ways for regional and local connections to be built and for opportunities for administrators, youth/children/family workers, leadership teams and others to build their connections. It was our hope that teams from would attend together and it would be a catalyst for team building and empowering individuals too.
By September we realised that we couldn’t do this on our own, we just didn’t have the time or expertise. Our Conference Administrator, Hazel, plus my own time, and the limited time of the Team was not going to be enough: all the Fresh Streams Team Leadership Team lead local churches so no one had any spare capacity right now. Even though we had all grown in our knowledge and delivery of “online church”, pulling together a three-day online conference was something else. (Hazel, who is also my PA, here at HBC Chester and myself are released to both work one day a week for Fresh Streams: Fresh Streams gives a financial gift to the church to cover this time)
It was at this stage three things happened. First we were introduced to Essential Event Management, (EEM) after a few initial conversations, we decided to make the decision to “employ them”.
Secondly, we approached the Baptist Insurance Company and asked them if they would consider sponsoring the conference and investing financially up front to help us plan and pay for things. They said Yes!
Thirdly, we approached 30 churches within the Fresh Streams Network who were at the core of who we are and what we do and we asked then each to invest into the conference by giving a finical gift.
Working with EEM was a game changer, and with their help and experience we began to build an online platform, including a studio set, that would help us deliver the conference experience for delegates we were hoping for. I cannot recommend highly enough how helpful and good they were. Their involvement added so much and enabled us to do some much more than we could have ever imagined....
During October and November, we confirmed all our contributors, we put together some home recording guidelines and began to receive back all the pre-recorded content. Here one of the advantages of being online meant we could ask two speakers from Australia to be involved, with no cost for flights!
In the end we had recordings of three Morning Devotionals by Ruth Rice; three Bible Teaching talks by Bev Murrill; three evening celebration talks - Alan Hirsch, Monday; Amie Buhari, Tuesday and Andy Glover, Wednesday. Added to these we also had 15 Digging Deeper Seminar talks and 16 Partner Conversations. We also set up Regional Networking Zoom calls, one for each day, so over the three days we had a total of 39 different zoom calls, all of which could be accessed directly from the online platform!
December was spent confirming the addition of BSL interpreters to all the main pre-recordings as well as the six live-streaming sessions. Each talk was edited, transition slides and intro music added and then uploaded ready to watch when the platform went live. We also received the pre recorded worship sets and some individual songs, produced by Pete James and Cathy Burton. Again, editing and addition of lyrics took place. By January 9 we were pretty much all ready. However, would anyone be registering?
EEM provided for us a process for people to register all online and we opened registrations from the beginning of November. As we begin on Monday 11 January, we had 770 registered. This totally exceeded our hopes and expectations, even though we hoped that being online would broaden the reach and accessibility to Fresh Streams. By the end of the three days, we had welcomed 835 delegates. In addition our three evening celebrations all streamed to the wider church via our YouTube channel had between them more than 4,000 views!
So was it all worth it? Most definitely! The mix of live streams, from our building, Hoole Lighthouse Centre, here in Chester, where we built a studio set with the help of EEM, bringing in Chris Duffett via zoom for some prophetic art, together with the pre-recorded content and the conversations via zoom offered multiple opportunities for encountering God, holding conversations with one another, and receiving some great teaching content exploring the theme of Back to the Future!
The platform will remain open until the end of March where you can access on demand all the teaching content and quite a lot of the zoom conversations as well. With all that we’ve learnt and the wider engagement with us at conference, I suspect that the 2022 National Conference will be a “hybrid” event with a mix of in person and online content and gathering.
The Revd Andy Glover, Team Leader of Fresh Streams and HBC Chester