As children’s ministry leaders, you’ve been called to child discipleship. Every week you fill the critical need for a loving, caring adult to pass on a legacy of faith to the incoming generation of children. Hundreds of thousands of leaders around the world commit themselves to this high calling. Time only reveals more clearly that, now more than ever, we must come together for a strategic conversation about child discipleship to shape the future of the Church and commitment to the Gospel!
Awana is thrilled to invite you to The Child Discipleship Forum! The Child Discipleship Forum is a gathering of local pastors and children’s ministry leaders who want to collaborate, learn and dialogue about the most critical factors that shape long-term discipleship in children. Join more than 15 visionary speakers as we cover topics spanning cultural analysis, child advocacy and local ministry practice that will equip you — a loving, caring adult — to pass on a legacy of faith to the children you disciple.
Join the conversation this September 16 and 17 in Nashville or online to prepare today’s kids to know God and His Word, find their identities in Jesus, navigate a changing culture and lead the Church of 2050. Sign up today for the summer discount, ending Aug. 26 — that’s one month away!
Child Advocacy Speakers
Valerie Bell, Awana
Awana CEO Valerie Bell is a global leader in child discipleship. From a young age, she felt called to be an advocate for children and families, and has lived that out as an award-winning author, global children’s activist and sought-after speaker on topics such
as the legitimacy of children’s spirituality, how a child’s faith is shaped and the need for foundational trust between children and parents. Her books include Faith-Shaped Kids: Helping Your Child Grow Spiritually and Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church.
Leah Broach, Christian & Missionary Alliance
As national director of Alliance Kids for the Christian & Missionary Alliance, Leah Broach works with leaders across the United States to equip local churches in child discipleship. She believes healthy, thriving children’s ministries are mission-critical for reaching the world for Christ. She began her work in international ministry, followed by more than 12 years in Christian education.
Cynthia Dixson, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church
Cynthia Dixson has advocated for the lives of children and youth and discipled them for more than 20 years. She founded Cynthia Y Dixson Ministries to provide a platform to boldly minister, and provide solutions and motivational tactics to children’s ministries, youth ministries, and parents of children with disabilities.
Matt Markins, Awana, President
Matt Markins, Awana President and Chief Strategy Officer, is passionate about equipping church leaders to disciple the most fruitful mission field on the planet — children and youth. Prior to joining the Awana executive leadership team, Matt served in leadership roles with Randall House Publishers and Thomas Nelson Publishers, and was the co-founder of the D6 Conference, a discipleship and family ministry community. He is coauthor of several books including Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church.
Yancy Richmond, Yancy Ministries
Yancy Richmond is a worship leader and songwriter who combines audio and visual elements to make “music that makes Jesus loud.” Her popular titles Kidmin Worship series, the Little Praise Party series and Jesus Music Box and Stars are enjoyed around the world. She created Heartbeat, a five-lesson curriculum adults can use to teach children the heart of worship.
Wess Stafford, Compassion International
Wess Stafford is the president emeritus of Compassion International, which serves nearly 2 million children in 26 countries. As the son of missionaries to the Ivory Coast, Wess grew up as one of the village children, watched over by a wise and loving African “extended family.” He is the author of Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These
Matters Most and Just a Minute: In the Heart of a Child, One Moment Can Last Forever.
Cultural Changes Speakers
Eli Bonilla, OneHope
Eli Bonilla Jr. is an emerging leader in the Next Gen space. He serves several national networks in varied roles. He is the Next Gen regional co-chair for North America with Empowered21, and he also fills the position of national millennial director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). His full-time responsibilities are with OneHope as a masters fellow.
David Kinnaman, Barna Group
David Kinnaman is the coauthor of the bestselling books Faith for Exiles: Five Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, Good Faith: Being a Christian
When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith and unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … And Why It Matters. As the president of Barna Group, David has directed interviews with more than two million individuals and overseen thousands of U.S. and global research studies.
Gabe Lyons, Q Ideas
Gabe Lyons is the founder of Q, which educates and mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society. He is the author of The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America and coauthor of Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme and unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … And Why It Matters.
Mark Matlock, WisdomWorks
Mark Matlock is a facilitator of innovation and impact, helping organizations adapt to changing times through turning research-based insights into action. He is founder of WisdomWorks LLC, a consultancy that helps churches and faith-based organizations leverage their collective wisdom and insight to innovate and adapt in changing times. Mark is the author of more than 20 books for teens and parents, and coauthor of Faith for Exiles: Five Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon.
Dr. Christopher Yuan, Moody Bible Institute
Christopher Yuan is a minister, teacher and speaker with a heart for those working through issues of faith and sexuality. Through the narrative of his transformation from an agnostic gay man to born-again believer and professor at Moody Bible Institute, he has shared his message of redemption across five continents. He is the coauthor of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.
Local Church Ministry Speakers
Dr. Denise Muir Kjesbo, Bethel Seminary
Dr. Denise Muir Kjesbo serves as professor and program director at Bethel Seminary in the Master of Arts in Children’s and Family Ministry. Denise is passionate about equipping leaders for their vital calling to serve children and families in church and community. Denise is also the director of The Cory Center for Children’s Ministry, an endowment affiliated with Bethel Seminary, that seeks to provide education for leaders who have not yet attended Bethel Seminary.
Sam Luce, Redeemer Church
Sam Luce has a passion for preaching the Gospel and building and strengthening the local church through the multiplication of disciples. For the past 23 years he has served in multiple roles at Redeemer Church, a multisite church in upstate New York, including
16 years in children’s ministry. He currently serves as the global pastor of families, overseeing the kids and youth team.
Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College
As an author, speaker, researcher, pastor and church planter, Ed Stetzer helps Christians learn how to share Christ. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for Bible study; and currently works at Wheaton College as executive director of the Billy Graham Center there, and as the dean of the School of Mission, Ministry and Leadership.
Darren Whitehead, Church of the City
Darren Whitehead is the lead and founding pastor of Church of the City. In 2013, he and a small team had a vision to plant a family of churches that live in the way of Jesus for the renewal of global cities. Every weekend thousands of people join in person and online at six regional church congregations across Nashville and New York City.
Jim Wideman, The Belonging
Jim Wideman has served the local church for more than 45 years, including 17 years leading one of the largest children’s ministries in the United States. Although called one of the Fathers of the Modern Children’s and Family Ministry Movements, Jim remains actively engaged in helping ministries and ministers move beyond what they are accustomed to doing and discover the best methods to disciple kids and parents today.
We’ve been praying and will continue to pray over what our Father will teach us through this year’s forum. We’ve also been praying for the kids who will be impacted through your investment in child discipleship.
We can’t wait to partner, collaborate, pray, learn and dialogue with you to address why many kids leave the Church after high school and how we can change that, starting in children’s ministry. We’d be honored for you to join us and invest in child discipleship and the future of the Church by signing up today. We hope to see you there!
If you have any questions, we’d love to help! Please contact the Awana Partner Care team at firstname.lastname@example.org.