Next Big Idea Conference At Baylor Hosts National Leaders in Community Transformation Ministries

January 26, 2009
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- Feb. 9-11 conference bridges worlds of academic research and congregational community ministries -

Contact: Vicki Kabat, Baylor University School of Social Work, (254) 710-4417

With President Barack Obama's charge to Americans to "pick themselves up, dust themselves off" and get to work still echoing in many minds, the Next Big Idea Conference at Baylor University Feb. 9-11 will show church and community leaders how to lead out in that initiative.

Some of the biggest names in national and global community action and transformation will gather with leading scholars and practitioners for Next Big Idea Conference, which will be held Feb. 9-11 on the Baylor campus. The inaugural event is being jointly sponsored by the Baylor School of Social Work, Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the Leadership Network.

Featured guests include:

  • ' Kay Warren, renowned HIV/AIDS activist and author and co-founder with husband, Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church;
    ' Lynne Hybels, social activist and best-selling author and co-founder with husband, Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek Community Church;
    ' Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw, co-authors of The Externally Focused Church and Living a Life on Loan; and
    ' Rick McKinley, founder of Imago Dei Community Church in Portland, Ore.

Diana 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, says that missions as Americans once understood them is not the approach that works best in today's post-postmodern church.

"Our research shows that what engages families and nurtures their spiritual maturity - for children, youth and the elderly - is opportunities to live their faith through service together in meaningful community ministries. That's where the new focus should be," Garland said.

Swanson, a leader in the Leadership Network and in helping churches move into community engagement, agrees.

"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," Swanson said. "I told her, 'We in the church desperately need this information.'"

The conference is being offered to members of churches in McLennan County and to social work practitioners for a discounted price of $15 per person. Up to nine LPC and social work CEU credits are available for an additional $10 process fee.

"Our planning team agreed we really wanted our local churches, with whom Baylor has had such a long-term and meaningful relationship, to benefit from this conference," Garland said. "This is a rare opportunity for those who labor hard in the field to gather and hear some of the biggest and newest ideas in how community ministry can impact individuals, families, churches and communities."

The event will feature more than a dozen workshops on topics such as:

  • ' community renewal,
    ' care for vulnerable children,
    ' human trafficking,
    ' mentoring youth,
    ' the missional church,
    ' homelessness,
    ' environmental concerns,
    ' economic development, and much more.

Worship celebrations will be held in conjunction with main session speakers. 

Registration deadline is Feb. 4. To register, visit or contact Kimberly Schlesinger at or at (254) 710-3854.

General public cost is $149 (individual) and $99 per person , if there are three or more from same group. In addition to the discount rates for McLennan churches and social work practitioners, there are discounted rates available to Baylor students ($15) and to Baylor faculty and staff ($75 individual and $50 per for three or more).