New batch of 'Real Ideas' brewing for March

Rev. Matthew Hartsfield at 2013 Real Ideas Conference
Rev. Matthew Hartsfield addresses a crowd of about 300 at the 2013 Real Ideas Conference at Van Dyke Church, Lutz. File FLUMC photo.

LUTZ – Registration for the 2014 Real Ideas Conference at Van Dyke Church has been open only a short time, but signups are coming in fast, said Karen Peel, conference director.

Scheduled for March 20-21 at the church campus a little north of Tampa, this year’s event will add nationally known motivational speakers Bill Hybels and Ken Davis to its traditional roster of homegrown keynote speakers, Revs. Matthew Hartsfield and Jorge Acevedo.

Hartsfield, lead pastor of Van Dyke, and Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, Cape Coral, shepherd two of the fastest-growing United Methodist congregations in the U.S.  About eight years ago, they teamed up to develop the Real Ideas Conference, an annual gathering aimed at sharing fruitful ideas for discipleship-building with clergy and lay leaders.

“Every year we want to improve and offer more and more ideas that will help churches,” Peel said. “Our whole goal is to help churches, especially the United Methodist churches.”

Peel said organizers are excited to welcome guest speakers of the caliber of Davis and Hybels. Davis, a radio personality who makes appearances across the country, is known for his humorous take on communications in business and ministry. In addition to his feature presentation, Real Ideas will offer a preconference workshop with Davis and an afternoon breakout session for questions and answers during the conference. 

Jorge Acevedo of Grace Church, Cape Coral, at Real Ideas 2013
Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, Cape Coral, speaks at the 2013 Real Ideas Conference. Photo from Van Dyke Church.

Hybels is a pastor, author and board chairman of the Illinois-based Willow Creek Association, which organizes The Global Leadership Summit each year with a focus on Christ-centered leadership for local churches.

The appearance by Davis comes courtesy of a new partnership with the Florida Conference Institute of Preaching. Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, director of Clergy Excellence at the Florida United Methodist Center, said the institute has been impressed with the Real Ideas event and wanted to be a part of it.

“It is probably one of the best examples of best practices in ministry being taught and laid out,” Wiatt said, adding that clergy and lay members alike have described leaving the conference with practical ideas that can be put to use immediately in their congregations.

Not only do the staff members of two growing churches share what’s worked for them, but they bring in successful ministers from other churches to talk about fruitful strategies, Wiatt said.

Clergy who attend will be eligible for continuing education credits, he said.

Workshop leaders include ministry experts from Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee, as well as Florida, and Florida Bishop Ken Carter is scheduled to conduct a question-and-answer workshop about local churches and The United Methodist Church during the breakout sessions.

Clergy, lay leaders and ministry volunteers from all denominations across the Southeast are welcome, Peel said. Past years have brought attendees from nondenominational churches, as well as Presbyterian, Lutheran, Assembly of God and Baptist congregations.

This year’s theme is simple: “Fun.”  

Bill Hybels Ken Davis
Bill Hybels Ken Davis

“On our brochure, we say, ‘When was the last time you had fun in church?’” Peel said, adding that the website invites submissions of funny stories related to ministry.

The registration fee is $99 for those who sign up by Feb. 7. After that, the rate is $130. There is an additional fee for the morning preconference program on March 20.

“We try to keep it [the registration fee] low because we know how tough it is for small churches in this economy,” Peel said.

Besides the keynote presentations, attendees can choose from a varied list of breakout sessions, ranging from practical topics like audio mixing and lighting for worship services to relationship-building ideas for being a welcoming and caring congregation.

For information, click here, email or call (813) 968-3983, ext. 145.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

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