How to Organize an Apologetics Conference
by Mikel Del Rosario
In this guest post, I’ll explain how I partnered with a large church, an apologetics organization and Biola University to bring the first-ever apologetics conference to Rocklin, California. I’ll also share the results, what I learned, and the advice I’d give to anyone who’s interested in doing something like this at their church.[MP3 | RSS | iTunes | Index]
In the summer of 2010, I spoke at a conference being held on the campus of Biola University in La Mirada, down in southern California. While I was there, I had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Craig Hazen–the founder and director of the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics.
When he found out about the work I do, promoting accessible apologetics training around the Sacramento area, he became very interested in collaborating on events in this area. Why? Because there isn’t a lot of this sort of thing in Nor Cal. The program has a great history of supporting the work of their graduates.
But even with the help of the department, we couldn’t do this alone. The next step for me was to find a local church that shared the vision for the conference, to provide a venue and back the event financially.
A month later, I approached Bridgeway Christian Church where I had been attending services since 2006. I’d already been doing some teaching and training for them as a volunteer and the Associate Pastor was excited about the idea. It seemed to fit right into his long-term strategy of providing classes and further training for people at the church.
Here’s how we put the event together:
Through a series of talks, e-mails, phone conversation, and working closely with the assistant director in the Apologetics department at Biola, we put together a budget and a proposal for the church.
Here’s what the plenary presentations looked like:
- Kickoff with J.P. Moreland and Craig Hazen
- Clay Jones: “Why God Allows Evil”
- Craig Hazen: “Evidence for the Resurrection”
- Mikel Del Rosario: “Using Stories, Objects & Illustrations to Explain your Faith”
- J.P. Moreland: “Christianity and the Nature of Science”
We nailed all of this down in January. Additionally, I’m also affiliated with a group called Apologetics.com based in So Cal. They have a radio show on KKLA, an L.A. radio station dubbed, “The Intersection of Faith and Reason.” It seemed like a great fit, and we invited three of their staff to lead a few breakout sessions for the conference as well. The associate Pastor at Bridgeway got the event approved by the rest of the leadership and we were all ready to go.
As far as logistics go, Biola University took care of online ticket sales. I tapped my network in Northern Cal to get promotions going at area churches, Christian schools, online, Nor Cal apologetics networks, homeschooling networks, etc… I ended up doing all the design work and created fliers, posters, and other conference graphics.
One of the cool things was my connection with William Jessup University. The former Vice President at WJU just took a position as the Provost at Biola. He’s also been a regular guest speaker at Bridgeway for many years. We asked him to do a special promo video for the event, and I used that video along side our other marketing materials in connection with the event. Check out this video for the promo that was used.
We needed 600 people to attend in order to break even. At the end of the day, we basically did.
Here are the results:
About 600 were equipped with basic apologetics training in a few key areas: The Problem of Evil, the Resurrection, Science and Christianity. Believers were also trained to use this information in practical, everyday conversations through the use of stories and illustrations.
Here’s what people said after the event:
- I was SO blessed, encouraged, and intrigued by the Apologetics Conference.
- We were all stretched spiritually and intellectually, and this is what we need to grow in Him and to be better ambassadors.
- I brought my daughters and son and they were all encouraged in their walk.
- The conference was well worth the investment of time and money. Thanks for providing access to such excellent teachers.
- We learned more about our faith, in those days than we have learned in a few years.
- We learned that Christianity isn’t at odds with science. Our kids got exposed to wonderful teachers!
- I was so encouraged by Mikel’s talk and his calm approach. I was encouraged by his prompting to be good listeners!
Here’s what we learned.
Most people don’t register for conferences early. I’m sure that’s no surprise to you, and it’s probably the same in almost every church. What this means, logistically, is that you’ve got to be prepared for a huge line out the door an hour before the event. How fast can you process registration?
I also learned that it takes a lot of coordination, networking and collaboration to pull off a successful event. I partnered with three major stakeholders to get this thing off the ground. I reached out to my local network and my friends online to help with promotions. The more groups you can get tapping their networks for you, the better.
If you’re looking at doing this in your own church, my advice it to plan early. Get a hold of a pastor and your church calendar and get a date nailed down a year in advance. That’s what I did for the very next event: Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World 2012. Start talking to people early. Find key leaders who are excited about apologetics and ask for help promoting the conference.
If you’re working with Biola, let them handle ticket sales and online registration. It will save you a lot of headaches and it’s just one less thing to worry about.
The audio recording of the conference is also available on www.ApologeticsGuy.com