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Behind-the-Scenes Details of the One Project


Next weekend, the One Project gathers in San Diego, California. Organizer Japhet De Oliveira talks about the nitty-gritty logistics, as well as the bigger picture.

Question: The One Project is heading to San Diego for a gathering on February 8 and 9, 2015. How many people will be there?

Answer: We like the gatherings in North America to be 700-750 people. This year, we sold out before the end of December, but we had so many requests, that we decided to open it up for more attendees. We have capped it at just over 1,000. 

Question: How many gatherings has the One Project had so far?

Answer: If you include our first “gathering,” (which was just the five of us in Room 602 at the Holiday Inn near the Denver Airport) San Diego will mark our 17th gathering. People from all over have attended Gatherings in Denver, Atlanta, Helsinki, Sydney, Seattle, Copenhagen, Chicago, Mjøndalen, Newcastle, Binfield, Berrien Springs, Utrecht, Perth, Auckland — and now San Diego. 

Question: How much will attendees pay to attend the San Diego gathering?

Answer: Registration varied from $130 for the early birds to $230 for the late rate. People also have to pay for food, hotel, and travel expenses.

Question: How many meals will be provided overall? Is it difficult to feed everyone vegetarian food? Are you even sticking to a vegetarian menu?

Answer: Food is really important. So we don’t offer any. We provided breakfast one year (provided by the hotel) and the post-gathering survey revealed the general dissatisfaction. It was the only area we scored really low scores. So we removed it. People are much happier when they choose their food themselves. 

Question: What else do you have to organize? Goody bags? Water bottles? Name tags?

Answer: I am really particular about every element in the gathering. I do care about the shape, weight, color, design and feel of the ID tags. We want registration to be really simple and clean. 

Much like Apple pays attention to the packaging of its products, we care about the details. We will get samples of envelopes to check for feel in our hands, the ease of opening, the look of them stacked, etc. Our gatherings vary depending on budget but we have offered in the past: journals, pens, mint boxes, note pads, blessing cards, free/saved cards, and books. 

Question: What will the average age of the attendees be?

Answer: 42

Question: Do people tend to come to just once, or are they repeat visitors?

Answer: We have a core group that returns — some have been with us since Atlanta 2011.  We used to preach the entire series and repeat it at all the gatherings. For 2015, we are going to offer a new theme and message for each gathering. 

Question: How many minutes will attendees spend listening to presentations in the big group, and how many talking in small groups?

Answer: The recalibration (that is the around-the-tables-talking) times varies from from gathering to gathering, depending on what we need to create. We have asked all those who offer reflections to stay to 18 minutes per message. If you go online, you will see that most presenters have been able to stick to that, although some were carried away. . .! 

Question: How important is media/AV in the One Project presentations?

Answer: There is a lot of complexity in the AV that we like to present with absolute simplicity. Clean slides. Clean images. Clean identity. 

Question: What makes the One Project different than any of the other big Adventist gatherings, or other Christian conferences?

Answer: We are not a summit, or symposium, or convention, or a conference, we are simply a gathering. I have lost count of how many “conferences” I have attended. 

While most were quite excellent, the most memorable moments were late at night in a hotel lobby, or sitting on the floor in a hotel corridor and engaging in honest conversation. To that end, we created the gatherings with lots of space for those moments. Two-hour lunch breaks. Thirty-minute refreshment breaks. Everyone seated in tables of 8 to10 people. No one seated in rows. Table facilitators. Nothing planned for the evening. Lots of great restaurants near our location. We have too many smart people who we can learn from. So the space to connect and hear is really important to our gatherings. 

Question: What is the most effective way you have found to advertise One Project Gatherings? How important is social media to the One Project?

Answer: Personal invitation. We create a list and call people. It is really hard work. But every phone call or email turns into a story. I have wept many a time after a call/text/email. Over and over I hear stories of people who found the gatherings provided the space to re-charge and stay faithful to God and their tribe. 

We have just over 4,000 people who receive our daily email devotionals leading up to the gatherings. We have not pushed hard on social media. One day we will have staff and that will be a priority. We do have a pretty great iPhone app and our website has a really good read-and-stay rate. 

Question: How long will you remain so actively involved in organizing and running the One Project? Will you “retire” from this huge undertaking, or do you intend to keep working to make it grow?

Answer: There are moments when I thought about closing the One project down or stepping away from it. Not because it is a lot of work. Not because we have a shoe-string budget. Not because we need staff. 

Yes, in part because the malicious negativity is relentless.  

But — and this is huge — I have seen too many people find Jesus again to stop. I have heard of too many people who return to their local churches renewed and committed to stop. I have see Jesus change my life, so that I can’t stop. I have seen too many wonderful people who inspire me, so that stopping is impossible. Just meet Rod and Zan Long from Australia and see the innovation of the Gospel that they have generated and you too would say: None of us can stop. So we take the high road and we press on. 

I think we will grow the One project with continued focus on the future of Adventism at the local church. For San Diego, I have 36 of the leaders from my church in Boulder, Colorado attending. Monday night — after spending two days pouring over the Sermon on the Mount, and closing with communion and a blessing — we are going to meet and dream about the future of our local church. 

Twelve days later the church and board elders will meet to envision our church’s future. Jesus has called us to preach the Good News. That news is scandalous and foolishness to some (1 Cor 1:23) but it is the news that we need to hear. 

Can you tell that I have missed being at a local church? For me there is nothing quite like it. 

Jesus. All.

Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor of the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado. Originally from England, he most recently served as university chaplain at Andrews University, and director of the Center for Youth Evangelism before that.

Find previous Spectrum coverage of the One Project here.

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