a college ministry conference worth considering

If you’re unfamiliar with Mike Gaffney, the Ascent Network, or the Ascent Conference…

…I urge you to read today and tomorrow’s posts. This is one of the premier and most reputable entities in the world of college ministry. But like many of the great groups in our underdeveloped field, it’s far less known than it should be!

Tomorrow, I’ll highlight Gaffney and his network [here’s that post], but the urgent comes first.

the ascent conference – for ministers and student leaders

I’m generally quite hesitant about promoting things I haven’t personally experienced, but I wanted to highlight this spring’s Ascent Conference for a few reasons:

  • the immense respect I have for the ministries and people involved
  • the leader of the Ascent Network, Mike Gaffney, is one of the “deans” of the field of college ministry as a whole, and perhaps the most-respected in church-based college ministry
  • church college ministers have so few solid resources for training or support

Even if you’re not in a church, this conference could be a great chance to gain further insight for your work. (I heard one denominational leader is bringing several college ministers from his region!)

But if you are a church-based college minister, this is for you especially. While the conference generally draws those from within the informal “Ascent Network,” they’re very open to others from outside that circle (like me!). And since that network includes some extremely strong college ministries, outsiders get introduced to some of the very best!

After chatting with Janie Stuart, coordinator of the Ascent Network and Conference, here’s what I know:

  • This year’s conference will be held in Boulder, CO – closer for many of us than Seattle, where it has been held in the past. It’s being hosted by First Pres Boulder and its famous Annex college ministry, one of the largest college ministries (of any kind) in the U.S..
  • The dates are Friday, April 16th, and Saturday, April 17th.
  • Gordon MacDonald (yes, the famous author and former president of InterVarsity) is the main speaker, but of course there are plenty of others!
  • The focus of this year’s conference is leadership, so invitees include college ministry staff, student leaders, and potential student leaders. This isn’t a general “college student conference” but instead focuses on having a bigger impact with this specialized audience.
  • The organizers feel one of the biggest benefits is what happens between sessions, as people connect with others and iron sharpens iron. So they do some things (including keeping attendance limited) to maximize that experience. If you attend, you will likely walk away with new relationships that will bear fruit not just in a weekend, but long beyond.
  • The cost is only $35, which even includes a meal. That’s crazy-cheap!
  • Southwest Airlines flies to Denver…
  • Here’s the main page for the Ascent Network and the conference

And a tip from your friendly college ministry explorer: that whole Boulder / Denver / Colorado Springs area has other collegiate things to investigate – like the aforementioned Annex college ministry, the Mill (the large college and young adult worship gathering at New Life Church), the gorgeous headquarters of the Navigators, Focus on the Family, the University of Colorado, Air Force Academy, Colorado State, other schools, and other college ministries. (I don’t know about you, but I love maximizing trips!)

As for me… I am hoping to attend the conference – not only because I would LOVE learning and connecting there, but also so I can share about it more knowledgeably in the future. As always, budget is the concern for me (not the $35, but the getting-there budget). But at this point, I’m hopeful that I’ll end up going.

While I’m on the subject, tomorrow I’ll be posting about the leader and network behind the Ascent Conference. As always, this stuff is for your information as a fellow college ministry learner – in hopes that we can all know and make use of the very best stuff available to us!

For more or to sign up, check out the the Ascent Network site! Or to learn about the Network and the church behind it, see tomorrow’s post.

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