By Kay Moll
Every North American Christian Convention has a unique theme. The 2006 convention was unique in its emphasis on unity. The 2007 convention will be unique for its emphasis on church planting. Those who preach and those who share testimonies in the main sessions have been chosen because of their involvement in church planting.
But each convention is also broader than its specific theme. Program planners recognize that those who attend the convention have tremendously diverse interests and needs. They come looking for practical help for their ministries and their life situations.
The 2007 convention will not disappoint in any area, but two especially strong focus areas are women and families. The church-planting theme will be developed through a workshop called “Things They Didn’t Tell Us in Church Planting 101: The Joys and Challenges of Being a Church Planter’s Wife.” Five wives will share the challenges, joys, and rewards of the ministries in which they are involved.
But from there the topics for women will broaden so that there hopefully is something for everyone. A highlight of the convention is the luncheon for women on Thursday. This year’s speaker is Lisa Whelchel, perhaps best known for her role as Blair Warner on NBC’s sitcom The Facts of Life. Lisa’s faith in the Lord is central to her life, and she will share her personal testimony (including the amazing and touching [and humorous!] story of how the Lord led her to marry a man involved in full-time ministry).
One of the two workshops Lisa will present Thursday afternoon is called “Creative Correction” (based on her best-selling book of the same title) and will be geared specifically to provide help for moms. Lisa’s second workshop, titled “I’m Out of Control,” will deal with some of the control issues she has faced and which she senses many other women struggle with as well: weight, marriage, and children.
Other speakers in the workshop track for women include Julie Gariss (Joplin, Missouri) and Jackina Stark (Ozark Christian College). When Julie dons the clothes and persona of her alter ego, Gladys Frump, the transformation is remarkable (and often hysterical!). There is no doubt that “Gladys” will make those who attend the session laugh . . . but she also no doubt will touch hearts and challenge listeners to step out in faith and take a risk.
Jackina is a gifted communicator with a deep understanding of the Word and a deep love for the Lord. Her topic is “It’s Time to Trust.” She recognizes most people will not know whether they really trust the Lord until they face difficult circumstances. When such times come, God will show them glorious things about himself so they can not only endure hard times, but rejoice in the midst of them.
Another workshop will offer practical ideas for developing a vibrant women’s ministry. Lisa Jernigan (Mesa, Arizona) will share how a ministry called Girlfriends Unlimited is being used to reach women outside the church walls while encouraging women inside the walls to get excited about their faith. Betty Alexander (Cincinnati, Ohio) will give a brief testimony of how one church has effectively used the program and seen the attendance at her women’s events grow from 150 to nearly 400!
The workshop track for families is equally strong. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, best-selling author and speaker, will be at the convention on Wednesday and present a two-part workshop called “Love and Respect.” These workshops will be a “must-attend” for husbands and wives and will answer questions such as: What do you want for your marriage? Peace? Closeness? A sense of being valued? Do you want to experience marriage the way God intended?
He will then develop the ideas that a wife has one driving need—to feel loved. When that need is met, she is happy. A husband has one driving need—to feel respected. When that need is met, he is happy. When either of these needs is not met, things get crazy. “Love and Respect” reveals why spouses react negatively to each other, and how they can deal with such conflict quickly, easily, and biblically.
There will also be help for those who are searching for ways to strengthen their families. Phil and Bev Haas (Burlington, Kentucky) will present “Six Steps to Building a Strong Family.” The workshop looks at six proven and biblical steps to building a strong, healthy family and offers practical ways for those who attend to apply the information to their own situations.
Another not-to-be missed workshop will be Sally Morgenthaler’s “Before the Crisis: Naming the Darkness and Letting in the Light.” Sally was invited to the convention to present a workshop in the worship track but agreed also to share what happened in her own family due to a family member’s addiction to pornography.
She is anxious that other families be spared the hurt she experienced. She believes with intention and courage, pastors and their families can move from dysfunction to health; from addictions to freedom; from accidents waiting to happen to fulfilling, honest, and grace-filled lives. Although she will be speaking from the perspective of what happened in a ministry family, the workshop will be helpful to nonclergy families as well because the relationship and addiction information will apply to other situations.
Another workshop will deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, while another looks at the sexual crisis changing the face of families in the States. Those who attend will learn how ministries like LifeChoices (Joplin, Missouri) find themselves daily “living the church” to people who come for help, and also be challenged to see how the church in every community needs to be involved in reaching out in gentle confrontation, presenting the truth while extending God’s mercy and love.
The question confronting those who attend the 2007 convention will not be, “What is there for me if I am not involved in church planting?” Instead participants will find themselves wondering how they can possibly fit all the workshops and special sessions they want to attend into their schedules!
Kay Moll serves on staff with Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio).