DULUTH — Between the 1,923 individuals and 173 host sites currently signed up for Spark, Scott Sullivan expects 4,000-5,000 individuals to be part of the training event.
The majority of them, however, won’t be joining in this Friday, Aug. 28. Gatherings such as the annual training event formerly known as Go Georgia are tougher to host within social distancing protocols. In making Spark a completely online event, though, participants not only can determine where they participate, but when. Many will choose to watch the breakout sessions and keynote speakers Friday. Others will access them at a later date that better suits their church or association.
“Individuals, mainly, will probably watch as the videos become available Friday,” said Sullivan, Spark director and Georgia Baptist Discipleship catalyst. “But we won’t have a clear idea on just how many people in total take part until next spring, when some churches use the videos to train their leaders.”
The scope of Spark has continued to grow since being announced in June. As of Aug. 24, attendees hailed from 44 states, 11 countries, and 1 territory (Puerto Rico). After registering at TheSparkConference.com, participants will receive a login code to access the schedule. Those videos will become available at allotted times Friday. The keynote sessions and some breakouts at Spark will also be offered in Spanish.
The first video will drop at 9:30 a.m. (all times EST), as Sullivan and Scott Smith, Georgia Baptist online training strategist, will welcome viewers. Mark Hall of Casting Crowns will follow with special music.
The first of three keynote addresses will start at 10 a.m. with Tyrone Barnette, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur. The only live aspect of Spark will immediately follow those keynotes, as Barnette will join Sullivan and Smith for a live Q&A.
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood will deliver his keynote address at 2:30 p.m. while Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., will begin his at 4:30 p.m. Chitwood and Gallaty will also join Sullivan and Smith for a live Q&A after their respective messages.
In between those keynotes, Spark attendees will get the opportunity to virtually attend a number of breakout sessions. Those span, but are not limited to, areas such as Sunday School, discipleship, Next Gen ministry, technology, worship and music, pastor wellness, facilities management, and outreach and assimilation. Sessions will also cover topics like evangelism, Hispanic ministry, women’s ministry, public affairs, and missions.
Beginning today, attendees can post their comments on social media with the #Sparkcon2020 hashtag. At the end of the day Friday, one commenter will be chosen to receive a free dinner for four of $150 value.
The importance of leadership training can’t be dismissed or glossed over, said Sullivan. Furthermore, its impact carries further than can be comprehended.
“It’s not too late to sign up, even to the day of the event,” he stated. “We’re seeing participants excited about the grass-roots training Spark offers. At an on-site conference, it can be difficult for people more than an hour away to work their schedule to attend. All of the materials through Spark are available for anyone or any group according to what works best for them. The flexibility of this event makes it accessible for so many more.”
Although the videos and even keynote Q&As will be available at later times, the online chat discussions on Aug. 28 won’t be archived, he added. It’s one reason Sullivan recommended host site leaders take part in Friday’s online gathering.
“They’ll get a better idea on the breakout sessions available to their people,” he noted.
All Spark materials are available for free through Sept. 22. Beyond that, an individual can receive one year of access for $10. Cost for churches goes to $29 while a year’s worth of access for associations will be $99.