Children's ministry leaders representing 1,000 churches of varying styles, sizes, and locations are gathering this week with one common goal – to see every child that God sends their way launched into a lifetime devotion to Jesus Christ.
Starting Wednesday, more than 3,000 children's ministry workers will be participating in the "Conspire" conference, hosted by the Willow Creek Association.
Amid the Mar. 18-20 event will be five main sessions led by speakers – including Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer – on topics ranging from how culture influences children to how to bring out the strengths of children. Also included are 60 breakout sessions on a variety of practical topics such as event planning, effective budgeting, and rewiring ministry for digital learners.
"Those of us on the Conspire team believe very strongly in the power of community and relating with those who serve in ministry," the conference organizers say. "Ministry is just too hard to do alone – without encouragement and empowerment none of us would survive."
This year's conference comes just a week after a study released by The Barna Group revealed that less than one percent of the youngest adult generation in America, those between ages 18 and 23, has a biblical worldview.
Furthermore, a study last month by LifeWay Research found that the majority of parents (60 percent) heavily rely on their own experiences growing up for parenting guidance but only one-fifth say they receive a lot of guidance from sacred text such as the Bible or Koran.
"We believe that when the church and home are working together in partnership, a child will be spiritually formed for a lifetime," organizers of "Conspire" say.
For this year's conference, organizers are trying to get people who are not able to attend to get connected to the conversations through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, CM Connect, and You Tube.
There is also a blog for the conference on the event's website, willowcreek.com/conspireconference, which will update parents and children's ministry workers wanting to join.
The conference's name, "Conspire," is the combination of the words "connect" and "inspire."
"Through our resources, events and communities we are encouraging connections between ministry leaders, churches and families, and children to the love of Christ," conference organizers explain. "We are inspiring new ideas and many models with one vision–seeing children choose Christ for a lifetime."
Since 2003, the Willow Creek Association has been hosting its annual children's ministry conference in South Barrington, Ill. The association was founded in 1992 by megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, who currently serves as chairman of the board and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.