That post I wrote about attending Jubilee got a little bit (okay, a lot) more attention than I expected. I published that thing and my Twitter account starting pinging me, my Facebook page started blinking at me, my voxer app kept buzzing my phone across the kitchen counter, and my email inbox started to overflow.
Clearly, I’m not the only one looking for more diversity in our choice of Christian conferences. So, I asked my social media friends to point me in the direction of Christian conferences whose planning team, speaker line-up, and web site images reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural diversity of the Body of Christ. It was a slow start, but, eventually, I ended up with a pretty good list. I thought I’d share the results here with you, and invite you, in the comments, to add any conferences we may have missed.
But first, let me say the fact that I’m listing these conferences here, is not an endorsement. I’ve put an asterisk next to the ones where I’ll be speaking or have attended. However, I have not attended all of these conferences, so I cannot speak to their theology, their stewardship of funds, their view of women in ministry, their stand on issues of social justice, etc. I’m trusting you to do your research before you part with any of your hard-earned cash or commit to spending three days in a conference center and two nights in a hotel room.
I used sociologists’ definition of diversity to compile this list. This definition is far from perfect, that’s for sure, but it gets everyone on the same page and identifies a starting point:
“Sociologists define a multi-ethnic church as being one in which no one ethnicity makes up more than 80% of the whole—the 80/20 rule. So if a church has one hundred people and eighty-five of them are black it is not multi-ethnic. However, if a church of a hundred has eighty white people, and the rest are other ethnicities it qualifies to be multi-ethnic. Using the 80/20 rule, only 2.5% of all churches in the United States qualify as being multi-ethnic.” [Source]
If you just read that definition and thought, “Seriously? Where do these people come up with this?”, I highly recommend this post, by Austin Channing Brown. She says what I would have said, but she says it much better. And, if you’re wondering why any of this matters, consider this post, by Grace Biskie. If you’re planning a conference, and wonder how to create an experience that reflects racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural diversity, I recommend this article, although I disagree (as you’ll see in the comments) with the author’s suggestion that the planning team does not need to be diverse. I think it does.
One more thing: Using that definition, it was still a stretch to find Christian conferences that fit the bill (and, I did stretch on a few of these). Some of the suggested conferences may look diverse, but—it turns out—twenty percent is hard to find and, when you do find it, sometimes all of the speakers are male and, well.
Take a peek at this list of conferences that might be making strides when it comes to reflecting the diversity we find in the Body of Christ, and then, in the comments, feel free to add any I may have missed:
3. Refresh My Heart*