“It’s like a big family Christmas dinner or a reunion of long-lost brothers!” That was how one minister described the recent fall district conferences, as an estimated 4,000 people gathered for times of connection and training in 14 venues from New York to Hawaii.
Although each district conference was unique in scope and theme, leaders who attended the conferences appreciated the emphasis on Foursquare basic values, evidence of a renewed emphasis on leadership diversity, and the importance of equipping, releasing and caring for our leaders. Above all, most left the conferences appreciating the feeling of family and oneness within The Foursquare Church, living out the long-held Foursquare value of “diversity within unity.”
In some districts, pastors had the opportunity to meet, for the first time, some of their fellow ministers from the same state. Relationships were birthed as they talked with one another and shared communion.
“This sense of unity is not something that can be programmed in to an event,” said Tammy Dunahoo, interim general supervisor. “Opportunity must be given for it to organically occur, and our supervisors and teams did a wonderful job of creatively developing conferences that fostered community as well as clarity of focus on mission.”
Across the board, the conferences seemed to focus on a return to the basic values and the missional strength of The Foursquare Church. At the same time, the importance of individual input from within the districts was emphasized, through numerous discussion forums featured at many of the conferences.
Speakers and worship leaders in each conference reflected inclusion and diversity of age, gender and ethnicity, Foursquare values that are beginning to gain renewed traction nationwide. Each of our district supervisors expressed a missional passion for releasing healthy leaders from among groups of people often overlooked for leadership in the past. One district extended its conference schedule, hosting a multi-ethnic summit that further opened the dialogue among leaders of diverse cultures.
Linda Westmorland, administrator of the Heartland District, was encouraged by the contribution of Life Pacific College students from the district who served as interns for the conference. As the conference opened, the students “hit the ground running,” greeting the earliest arrivers as district staff attended to other duties. But the highlight for Linda was when the students served communion together with district leaders. “It was awesome to watch them ministering,” she said.
“It’s refreshing to watch God shine His light on future leaders—right now!” exclaimed Glenn Burris Jr., interim Foursquare president. “Events like our district conferences are significant as we prepare emerging leaders for fruitful ministry.”
Another common thread linking the conferences was a renewed commitment to the personal care of pastors and leaders. One district provided a marriage retreat, free of charge, for leadership couples. Many districts provided concurrent kids’ programs, some featuring field trips and other special activities, making it possible for leaders with young families to enjoy the conference without childcare worries.
Across the U.S., conference attendees expressed appreciation for the sense of shared purpose and mutual support. One man said this year’s conference was different from events in the past, which had often left him overwhelmed and exhausted. In contrast, he returned home feeling completely refreshed and encouraged.
Perhaps the theme of the conferences could be summed up by one district’s decision to take a group picture of all its conference attendees. The photo will be framed and hung in the district office.
“The photo will be a visible reminder,” said one conference attendee. “In this district, and the others as well, we are ‘many members, one body.’ Together, we make up the growing, spreading branches of the Foursquare family tree.”
By: Rod Light, National Church Office, Los Angeles