Great to have lots of comments on the posts about the Assembly. I'm happy to be a conduit of comment into the planning process (and I shall be bundling up the comments I've had and sending them to the project team). Even better, however, would be if those commenting here would also email their thoughts to Baptist House (probably to Mike Quantick, the ever excellent Assembly administrator).
Apart from the good things said about Prism (for which I'm grateful as I am really pleased that in four years it seems to have become an essential part of some people's Assembly), it does seem that one of the key reasons why people go to the Assembly is to catch up with mates. This means that the organised programme is only a part of the reason why people attend.
Now, of course, except by planning less of a programme or scheduling far more free-time within the programme, this attraction of the Assembly is beyond the remit of the project team that puts the programme together. But I think it is a common observation that the programme is too full. And a shorter Assembly will certainly not help with this.
As to the comments on deliberation sessions and AGMs, I suspect that it's here that it is hardest to square the Assembly circle. Some avoid these sessions, preferring to drink coffee and chat with mates while they are on; others come to the Assembly precisely to attend these sessions - everything else being a bonus.
Then, of course, there are those who go to the Assembly to receive a major injection of challenge and teaching. For them the evening celebrations (whether in Prism or the other place) and the Bible studies are the key part of the event. The seminars and special interest groups might also help.
All this suggests to me that the assembly is actually too short at the moment. There is not enough time to catch up with friends, to deliberate properly (after all, we'd need a number of sessions for a debate to lead to a resolution that might then be applied locally to our practice in churches of various styles and hues), to learn about new things happening in the family across the nation - as well as being challenged to live up to our calling as followers of Jesus in the context of celebrations that facilitate encounter and learning.
And while some would say that it's not feasible to think about extending the run of the event - to a week, say - the alternative might be to watch it whither on the weekend vine as we try to cram in too much and leave people increasingly dissatisfied.
So, how about merging the Assembly and Leading Edge and holding the event somewhere in the centre of the country, accessible to a majority of Baptists, where there was both good camping and caravaning (for those inclined) and access to hotels and guest houses? Does such a place exist? Would anyone come? I'm not sure of the answer to either of those questions but it seems to me to be somcthing worth considering if we think the Assembly is worth developing.
And is it worth asking why more Baptists currently go to Spring Harvest and New Wine than the Assembly? Is there anything we can learn from why they choose those events that will help us to plan an Assembly that will attract more people?