Church conferences highlight ministry to under-reached peoples
by Laureen F. Guenther
This October and November, Calgary’s Centre Street Church is hosting two conferences that target ministry for under-represented people groups in the local church. Both conferences will be held at Centre Street’s central campus.
People with special needs – Umbrella Conference
October 25 and 26, Centre Street Church’s (CSC’s) Special Needs Ministry is hosting the 2019 Umbrella Conference: National Disability Ministry Equipping Conference, for ministry leaders, professionals and support workers, and families and individuals whose lives are affected by disability.
The Umbrella Conference, under the theme Choose Joy, has daytime sessions both days.
November 1 and 2, CSC’s Single Adult Ministries will host their first SEE Conference, Singles Engaged and Empowered, for single adults, pastors, church leaders, and others who want to foster understanding and inclusion of singles in the local church.
There’s also a free Family Fun event, the evening of October 25, featuring performances by Hope’s Creed, Break the Barriers, and Rick Alonzo. The public is welcome.
“Life with special needs can be challenging,” says Corinne Thomas, Centre Street’s Pastor of Special Needs Ministry. “There is also joy. … Sometimes we experience unbridled joy. But oftentimes, our reality is more of an ‘aching joy’. At Umbrella 2019, we will hear about both.” Speakers and worship leaders will share how disability ministry can bring incredible joy to faith communities.
The conference includes international speakers – Emily Colson, Jason Hague and Barbara Newman – and many local speakers.
A father of a child with special needs will share strategies for overcoming challenges. Two leaders will speak about how a child with special needs affects marriage and parenting. A pastor will teach about identity in Christ in light of disabilities.
This conference is about more than helping churches build their own special needs ministries, Thomas says. “My hope, dream and prayer is that we can connect as churches and be resources for each other.”
Typically, she says, families who include children with special needs just don’t attend church anymore, because it’s so difficult to make church work. At best, they’ll sit outside the worship centre looking in. Some have even been asked to leave their churches, because they have a child with special needs.
But when there’s a ministry for people with special needs, children and adults with special needs – and their family members – can learn about Jesus’ love, be nurtured spiritually and build a community of friends. Each family member can be ministered to, right where they already belong.
Singles – SEE Conference
The SEE conference will address five key areas, says Dr. Barry Danylak, Community Pastor of CSC Single Adult Ministries, and Melanie Nelson, CSC’s Centred Singles Community Leader. These areas of Theology will address where singles fit into God’s larger plan for humanity. Community will include strategies to integrate singles into the Body of Christ. Discipleship will teach about singles’ unique opportunities to make disciples. Mission will cast a vision for singles to serve.
Special guest Dr. Christopher Yuan will discuss Opportunities, giving fresh thinking on addressing the challenges when engaging different types of single adults, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.
The conference also includes a spoken word performance by Val Lieske, Artistic Director of Fire Exit Theatre, on Friday evening. There’ll also be break-out sessions, worship sessions, and an exhibitors’ fair. The Bible affirms single adults as “complete in Christ”, Danylak and Nelson say. “When they’re encouraged and empowered to live out their calling … they are a powerful force for the kingdom of God.”
Singles aren’t the only ones who benefit when they’re part of a Christian community. “The whole church benefits when single adults are involved in the church,” Danylak and Nelson say. Many single adults are uniquely positioned to serve, because they’re free of family commitments. Singles make up the majority of the population, yet, “studies show that singles are underrepresented in every area of church life,” say Danylak and Nelson. So it’s crucial for the next generation that the Church learn how to actively engage single adults.
The SEE Conference is “a ground-breaking conference for Calgary, Alberta and Canada,” they say, bringing together theological and practical experts on singleness in the church.
The Umbrella Conference is “the only conference (of its kind) that I am aware of in western Canada and possibly all of Canada,” Thomas says. “I believe that families impacted by special needs is the largest unreached mission field in Canada.”