Both MinistryTECH  and the Roundtable  were, again (for the Roundtable), well worth the trip in more ways than I can express, but since this is a blog I’m sure you expect me to try anyway (I won’t disappoint). There’s always something new and different going on (this time it was some video experimentation and the heavy use of Twitter throughout). This is only the second Church IT Roundtable I’ve been to (the first was last October), and this was only the fourth National Roundtable since Jason Powell kicked it off shortly before I discovered his blog and shortly thereafter started blogging (but missed the second Roundtable in Houston last Spring).
The Roundtable, Now and Again
Each Roundtable ends with a discussion regarding the future direction of the Roundtable. Do we want to continue as-is, or do we want to become more of an official group? Do we want to stay the same size, or try and grow? Do we have a problem at all, and if so, what is it? The general consensus I think, was that we will continue as-is until we discover a problem to solve. We’ll keep inviting people, but it doesn’t matter if they come or not. That’s their problem. I think almost everyone who has been to a Roundtable has had an amazing enough time that they are excited about it and want to share such an amazing experience with others in a similar position who haven’t heard of it, and that’s where the desire to grow comes from. At the same time, the group works well with approximately the number we have (25-75), so why change it?
I agree with both perspectives, how’s that for being on the fence? Until we have a problem, we keep it small but work to make it bigger. We have local Roundtables in our area if we can drum up enough interest among the locals Church IT folks. We work on centralizing and updating the main CITRT website more often to provide some cohesiveness and a single-source-of-information without becoming too structured. We keep hanging out in the #citrt  chat room on IRC (connecting online with people we’ve met in person is a tremendous boon, at least to me, and the two complement each other very well), and we keep blogging. It’s worked pretty well so far. A couple of vendors suggested creating more structure, and I think they could end up being very helpful in this area when we get to the point that we want or need to do that! Until then, we’ll stay on what looks like auto-pilot (can you tell I’m writing this in an airport?) but with the usual careful planning and assistance that the “founding partners” have provided behind the scenes with everyone else helping out where willing and able. I think that was the consensus as I heard it, feel free to correct me or provide an alternate view.
One issue that was raised in the final discussion was, “Why keep having a discussion about the group at the end of each Roundtable, does that mean we need to change or people want change?” I think that group introspection and evaluation is a good idea to see what did and didn’t work each time, since each Roundtable is different. We are very “un-group” still, and rather than a core group getting together to review and plan after the event, I think it’s beneficial to have everyone contribute to the process as a part of the meeting. I would call the discussion useful and beneficial, which is why I feel posting the details for anyone to see here is just continuing the same transparency and discussion already started in person. Of course, this is all my understanding mixed with my opinion, so feel free to disagree (comments are welcome although if you care that much, it’s likely you have a blog of your own!).
All in all, I had at least as good a time at this Roundtable as the last, if not better. I love the people and the friendships and the discussions and the shared enjoyment of technology with fellow Christians. Sure, I can read Wired  or Network World  magazines and see a lot of cool gadgets, but there’s no shared worldview or mission to really connect with, it’s just technology (and often, in the case of Wired, a very atheistic worldview comes through very strongly). With the Roundtable, it’s not just a meeting and it’s not just about technology. It’s an excuse for friendships and relationships (shhh, don’t tell my boss–oh wait, developing relationships is higher on Lakeview’s radar than technology, and getting both at once is quite a nice combination :-)
So what about the new MinistryTECH  conference? Overall, I think it was a success. In addition to the CITRT group, many of whom were present, MinistryTECH managed to reach a wider audience due to their existing MinistryCOM  foot-in-the-door history and an actual marketing budget (apparently there are some benefits to charging $325 instead of $15 to attend, and hosting a vendor exposition hall!). They also were able to attract some well-known people in the Church IT world (such as Terry Storch  and Tony Morgan  and others) that provided some great information and ideas to re-energize us and provide food for introspection, in addition to the great church tours we were able to take (even though I missed about half while traveling). A side benefit to the conference and the many attendees was the opportunity to mention the Roundtable to people that hadn’t heard of it. We are at least getting seeds planted and the more we can get people involved in the national (and global) Church IT community rather than hanging out by themselves, I think there will be more of a reach for both MinistryTECH and the CITRT in the future.
In Which The Babbling Stops
That just about does it for my thoughts right now. I have a lot of pictures to sort through and upload (in the range of 600-700 raw), and I’ll post them or links to them when I do that. I left my laptop off and did more Twittering  than blogging or note-taking this time, but Jason Lee  and several others have done an excellent job of posting outlines and summaries of many of the talks and topics, and in many cases speakers have posted their slides for download as well. In addition, a couple of talks were streamed and recorded  using the uStream.tv  video service thanks to Ian Beyer .
Also, this post was written primary on Sunday, April 6th (the day after the Roundtable) while I was in the Cincinnati airport on my way home, with links added later. So it’s a fresher perspective than I have now, not that I’ve had time to think about it since! Being gone for a while from work means a bit extra waiting when I return :-) Since it’s taken me a while to get this posted, Tony Dye (at least) has already managed to beat me to a lot of this. Check out his posts, and as usual they are very logical and well-considered (he also re-caps each session he attended and all of the Roundtable in posts just prior, check them out too!):
- Spring 2008 CITRT: What’s Next? 
- MinistryTECH, CITRT After-Thoughts 
- Roundtable Reflections, part 1 
- And, for an funny hotel story: My Interesting OKC Hotel Room 
I know others have posted as well, I just haven’t had time to find them all yet!