Christian Workers Meeting Largest Seminar In Nation Three-Day Event Expected To Draw 6,500 Participants
The annual Christian Workers Conference, opening in Spokane on Thursday, is known to some as the Bloomsday of church seminars.
“Spokane is not a place where we should have the largest of anything,” said Daryl Bursch, chairman of the committee that organizes the conference. “But, like Bloomsday, this is a phenomenon that has just grown because of the dedication and vision of the people behind it.”
The three-day event shares several parallels with the largest timed road race in the world. It’s inexpensive, is organized by volunteers and includes a huge trade show on the side.
This year, at least 6,500 people are expected at the Spokane Convention Center.
There are varying sizes of Christian Workers Conferences all over the country. Some are designed exclusively for ministers and church leaders. Others, such as Spokane’s version, are intended for all Christians - a facet that adds to its popularity.
“Every kind of Christian needs training to do God’s work,” Bursch said. “Even children.”
Although keynote speakers and sponsoring churches generally are conservative or evangelical, the conference is for everyone, he said.
“We would like to see all the denominations get involved,” Bursch said. “We have tried our best to market it to them.”
Behind Spokane, the secondlargest Christian Workers Conference is held in Washington, D.C. Other cities with notable gatherings include Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Spokane has reigned as the largest for the past five years. Organizers from other conferences come to Spokane to pick up tips, Bursch said.
For those who register through their churches, the price of admission is $15 per person. More than 1,400 churches are represented this year.
Since 1983, when the event was moved from Fourth Memorial Church to the Convention Center, there has been a 30 percent increase in attendance each year.
The conference first engulfed the Ag Trade Center, then flowed into the Opera House and this year is expanding to the nearby SheratonSpokane Hotel.
As the conference has grown, the committee overseeing speakers and workshop leaders has had to make some hard decisions.
Bursch said speakers who don’t meet expectations are not invited back.
“Some people would say I’m hardhearted for doing that. But just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we can’t attain a level of quality and excellence,” he said.
Only 20 percent of the 150 speakers and workshop leaders are from the Northwest. The rest are recruited from across the country.
The four keynote speakers are in demand among Christian organizations worldwide:
Leighton Ford is a former vice president of the Billy Graham Association. He has his own ministry association and has written nine books.
Ron DiCianni is an artist who has worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee and businesses such as McDonald’s, United Airlines, Keebler and Ford Motor Co. He will talk about how churches can reinforce their message visually.
Max Anders is a minister, writer, professor and editor of a forthcoming New Testament Commentary Series which targets baby boomers.
Tim Kimmel is a counselor and seminarian who specializes in strengthening families.
The main attraction for most of the attendees is the workshops. There will be about 175 sessions during the conference.
Topics will range from raising children to running the church office. There are workshops geared toward women, children, pastors and people with disabilities.
Organizing the workshops is as complicated as compiling the finish times for Bloomsday, Bursch said. It takes a 100-foot-long flow chart with a space for each room available.
Armed with thousands of Post-it notes, volunteers plan for weeks so everything meshes.