The Experience Conference: A Pastor’s Wife’s Honest Opinion
If your pastor husband is anything like my pastor husband, he doesn’t actually like to be out of the pulpit on Sundays.
As a person who was always quick to use up ALL of my vacation and sick days, this concept was really weird to me.
But now, after doing ministry together for sixteen years, I sort of get it.
He truly loves his job.
He loves preaching and feels energized after preaching most Sundays.
He loves interacting with most of the people at church on Sunday mornings.
Now don’t get me wrong.
There are plenty of things about his job that he doesn’t find energizing or life-giving, but that’s true with every job.
So I’ve found a way to work around his desire to be at work all the time.
See my husband is quick to get training.
He loves learning and recognizes that there are people much smarter than him who can help him to do a better job at the job he loves.
So he is more than willing to go to a conference to get training.
I just help him find conferences that teach him what he needs to know and are in a place that the kids and I can tag along for a mini-vacation.
If this is something you think your family could benefit from, read on to find out more about one of our favorite conferences for ministers – the Experience Conference.
What is it?
The Experience Conference is a conference designed for church leaders.
Here’s what their website says: “This conference was created knowing the challenges and struggles facing those in worship ministry on a daily basis. Through Experience Conference, you will be inspired, refreshed, equipped and encouraged to take your ministry to the next level. Our goal is to rekindle the passion for the ministry God has called you to, introduce you and your team to new and fresh worship music, learn about writing and publishing worship songs, equip you with techniques for working with your worship team, and much more.”
Now my husband is a senior pastor (not a worship leader), and he loves the Experience Conference. As the senior pastor, he feels like he needs to know at least a little about every aspect of church ministry, and this conference keeps him up to date on the musical side of things.
They also have a lot of breakout sessions relevant for pastors, so he always leaves full of fresh ideas.
The Experience Conference also has some of the best artists and speakers.
Every year I’m blown away by their line up.
At the 2018 conference, they had Tauren Wells, Elevation Worship, MercyMe, Bethel Music, Zach Williams, Ryan Stevenson, Phil Wickham, and Big Daddy Weave just to name a few.
Their lineup isn’t finalized until closer to September because they’re constantly adding new people.
So far for 2019 Experience Conference, they have Hillsong United, Tauren Wells, Meredith Andrews, Matt Maher, Jason Ingram, Thrive Worship, Leeland, Gateway Worship, and LU Praise.
Where is it?
The Experience Conference is held annually in Orlando, FL at Disney World.
And this is why we use this for a conference/family vacation.
Conference attendees get discounts on rooms and park tickets!!
And while Disney does offer room discounts often, getting park ticket discounts is pretty tough, so this conference is a great chance for your husband to get some fantastic training and your family to have a really affordable trip to Disney.
Because of the Experience Conference, my family is hooked on Disney.
My husband loves the relevant training he receives. He comes back every year full of ideas and excited to get back to ministering after a week of being poured into.
We love the clean, relaxed, family-friendly environment of Disney.
We’ve even been at Disney during a hurricane, and we still had fun!
When is it?
The conference is usually the first week of September Tuesday through Friday.
In 2019, it’s September 3rd – 6th.
Who is it for?
The Experience Conference is for worship leaders, pastors, praise teams, musicians, and tech teams.
So don’t discount it just because your husband isn’t a worship leader. They seriously have something for everyone in ministry.
How much does it cost?
The short answer is anywhere from $0 – $3000.
I know. That’s a crazy range.
But how much it costs your family to go is going to vary widely depending on what you do while at the conference and how early you buy your ticket.
The conference tickets range in price from $199 (if you buy the first day they’re for sale) to $449 (the walk-in price).
But unless you live in Orlando, there’s more cost to this conference than just the ticket price, so let’s look at two different scenarios.
None of these scenarios cover food or travel expenses because those vary too widely for each family, but they do assume your church provides a conference budget. If your church doesn’t provide a conference budget and you’d like to go to some conferences, you should look at having a portion of your husband’s salary designated as a (tax-exempt) conference budget. I am not a CPA, so please discuss any tax decisions with someone better at taxes than me before making any decisions. This is simply an informational post based on my own experiences.
Scenario 1: Experience Conference & No Days at Disney Theme Parks
4 Nights at Disney
This is a great option for adults.
If you’d like a little get away with your husband, Disney is an awesome place to do it.
Their resorts are all top notch, and you get a huge discount on rooms if you book through the Experience Conference.
This year the Experience Conference is being held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. To stay there (using the discounted conference rate) for 4 nights is about $640 (plus tax).
As a point of reference, Coronado Springs Resort is normally about $211 per night during the Experience Conference. This would be about $844 for 4 nights.
Experience Conference tickets are between $199-$449 depending on when you buy them.
So let’s say you bought them mid-year and they cost $300.
That means your lodging and conference tickets would cost about $1,000 (without tax).
Total out of pocket cost: $0
If your husband designates his salary to have a tax free conference budget or if your church has a conference budget, this trip would be free except for food.
Travel, lodging, and conference tickets are all covered by a conference budget. A lot of churches will even cover food for one person as well. (Hint: Split meals if this is you!)
And if you think you’ll be bored if you don’t go to the theme parks, you are wrong.
Disney has so much free stuff to do!
Disney Springs alone could take two full days to explore all the shops. There’s also the Disney Boardwalk and every Disney resort has a ton of fun (free) stuff to do.
Last year, my husband and I went without kids, and we wished we hadn’t even bought park tickets because there was so much to do without going to the parks.
Don’t get me wrong.
We had fun at the parks, but it would have been just as fun (and much more relaxing) if we hadn’t gone to the parks.
Scenario 2: Experience Conference and 3 Days at Disney Theme Parks
7 Nights at Disney
This is a great option for families.
In fact, this is what my family is doing this fall.
Instead of booking through the Experience Conference, we’re using David’s Vacation Club Rentals to rent points so that we can stay at a Disney Deluxe Resort for cheaper than a Value Resort!
Interested in how that works?
The way it works is like this – people buy Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Memberships and each year they get a certain number of points to spend on lodging in Disney Vacation Club properties. If they choose to not use their points that year, they can rent them out to other people.
So when we go to Disney, we’ll stay at a DVC Resort even though we aren’t members. It’s a huge savings for us and enables us to stay in the nicest resorts on Disney property for less than it costs to stay a Disney Value Resort.
You can rent points directly from a Disney Vacation Club member, but I don’t know any members personally. David’s Vacation Club Rentals has been in business for over 14 years and is incredibly reputable. You can read more about how the process works on David’s website.
I am an affiliate for David’s Vacation Club Rentals. This means that if you use my link to reserve a room, David’s Vacation Club Rentals will pay me a percentage of their profit at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure policy here.
For my family to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for 7 nights is about $884 using David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
As a point of reference: to stay at the Coronado Springs using the Experience Conference discount is about $1120 for 7 nights and to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge by booking with Disney is about $3563 ($509 per night).
So staying at a luxury resort using David’s Vacation Club Rentals will be $235 cheaper than staying at a moderate resort using the Experience Conference discount and $2,679 cheaper than staying at the same luxury resort and booking through Disney.
I could talk about saving money at Disney all day long because I love saving money and I love Disney.
But I’ll quit for now.
However, if you have any questions about David’s Vacation Club Rentals or want more information about how it works, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s, but they really are legit. 🙂
Experience Conference tickets are between $199 – $449.
We bought my husband’s ticket last September for $199.
(Discounted) Disney Theme Park tickets: 2 full days for 2 kids and 2 adults: $779 (before taxes).
Not only do you get discounted theme park tickets by booking your park tickets through the conference website, but Disney also gives you an awesome freebie!
You can choose to play a free round of golf at one of Disney’s beautiful courses, get free access to the ESPN Wide World of Sports, or get free tickets to Disney’s Blizzard Beach or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.
I can only speak for the latter choice because we’ve never played golf or gone to the Wide World of Sports, but the Disney water parks (Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach) are both awesome.
We don’t go to the theme parks on the days that my husband is at the conference.
We typically hang out at the resort and relax and do all of the fun resort stuff while he’s at the conference. We plan our trip to have a little time at the beginning of the trip and a few days at the end of the conference to be able to spend time at the parks together.
Having done Disney trips in the past where we tried to do it all and ended up completely exhausted, we plan differently now.
We know that we cannot possibly do all the Disney things so we pick a few to focus on. That gives us the freedom to work in plenty of relaxing, restful days so that we can enjoy each other and have a good time on our trip.
Total out of pocket cost: about $1200
$379 for 3 nights lodging (the other 4 nights are covered by his conference budget)
$779 for park tickets
So our family of four (we’re only taking half our kids) will spend about $1200 for a week at Disney (not including food or travel).
We’ll stay in a luxury resort for about the same as a Value Resort thanks to David’s Vacation Club Rentals, we’ll get to spend 3 days at the Disney Parks, and a whole week on Disney property.
Do spouses have to buy a ticket?
If you want to attend the Experience Conference during the day, you do need to have a ticket to get in.
However, they have a concert each night that is free for spouses and $20 for anyone else in your family over the age of 16.
So if you’re just wanting to go to hear the awesome music, I recommend enjoying the beautiful pools located on every Disney property during the day and attending the evening concert.
The only drawback is that if you bring your kids on this trip and they’re under 16, they can’t go with you to the concert. Which for my family, means none of us go to the concert because we spend the evenings together eating dinner and enjoying the resort’s (free) nightly entertainment.
It’s definitely something I wish they’d change because my kids would love to see some of their favorite artists perform.
What is included in the ticket price?
The conference includes 4 days of teaching and worship sessions.
There are over 70 different workshops to choose from, 6 general sessions, & 3 nights of worship.
You don’t have to pre-register for your sessions which is good and bad.
It’s good because you don’t have the hassle of registering before you get there.
It’s bad because the sessions are first come, first serve. So once a session fills up, you have to stand at the back or sit on the floor. If your husband is the type of person that’s on time or early, this will be of no consequence to him.
That price also includes lunch on Wednesday and Thursday, and Disney food is always GOOD.
Song Writer Intensive Pre-Conference
The Experience Conference also offers a Song Writer Intensive Pre-Conference on September 2nd & 3rd.
In this intensive workshop, top performing Christian artists will review participants original song, help participants write songs, and provide a time for participants to perform their original songs for the group.
There will also be several worship sessions and publishers will be available to chat.
The Song Writer Intensive Pre-Conference is only open to the first 50 people who register for it. Registration costs an additional $129, but if your husband (or you!) has dreams of getting his original song published, this is a great way to get started.
In conclusion, the Experience Conference is a great conference for anyone in ministry.
Since it’s at Disney World, there’s tons of stuff for families to do while dad is in training. And with some planning, it can be a great way to get that Disney vacation you’ve always dreamed of at a price you wouldn’t have thought possible.
Have you ever been to the Experience Conference? What did you think? Is there another family-friendly ministry conference that you prefer? Tell us in the comments!
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