Jointly sponsored by the Baylor School of Social Work, Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the Leadership Network, which fosters church innovation and growth through a series of partnerships, a national conference will bridge the worlds of academic research and congregational community ministries.
"The Next Big Idea" will be held Feb. 9-11, 2009, at Baylor University.
"When I read a report on the research that Diana Garland had done of the impact of volunteerism on faith development, I thought I had discovered gold," said Eric Swanson of the Leadership Network and co-author with Rick Rusaw of The Externally Focused Church and Living a Life on Loan. "I told her, 'We in the church desperately need this information.'"
"Missions as we once understood it is not the approach that works in today's post-
postmodern church," said Garland, dean of the Baylor School of Social Work and a leading social scientist in the study of faith and its impact on families and communities. "What engages families and nurtures their spiritual maturity--for children, youth and the elderly? The answer is opportunities to live their faith through service together in meaningful community ministries. That's where the new focus should be."
The conference will include two worship services and 18 workshops on topics such as addressing poverty, caring for vulnerable children, reading the Bible with an external focus and community transformation.
Plenary speakers for the conference include:
Kay Warren, author and international activist for the global HIV/AIDS crisis;
Lynne Hybels, co-founder (with husband Bill) of Willow Creek Community Church;
Darrell Guder, dean of academic affairs at Princeton Theological Seminary; and
Rick McKinley, founding pastor of Imago Dei Community Church in Portland, Ore.
Helping congregations transform their communities as part of their Christian witness has been a long-term passion for Paul and Shirley Piper and the Piper family, who founded the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation. A $50,000 donation from the organization will help underwrite the conference costs.
"We are grateful to the Pipers," said Dr. David E. Garland, the University's interim president and dean of Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary. "They understand that we must be preparing a new generation of leaders to 'do church' in the ways that can be most effective in transforming lives and communities."
For more information or to register for the event, visit www.baylor.edu/bigidea.