By Marcy Levering
The words North American Christian Convention
conjure up many different emotions in the hearts of people who hear them. Some may think it’s a time for spiritual refreshment and magnificent praise services. Others may think reunion or road trip. Workshops, exhibits, networking, Bible Bowl, college receptions, shopping for church resources, and top-name speakers are other things that may come to mind.
Whatever words you think of, take a fresh look and decide whether the NACC is the right fit for you.
We had been ministering just a few years in Cincinnati, Ohio, when the NACC was held in our city’s downtown convention center. Our church was asked to join another local church in supplying volunteers to take up offering at the evening worship sessions. We happily went down to the convention center and did our small part. I don’t remember what I expected to find when I got there, but I did not expect a convention hall filled with so many people who were all praising God as one voice. Nor did I expect to see so many long-ago friends. Spending three or four evenings out of a hot July summer going to an air-conditioned convention hall and enjoying great singing, hearing great preaching, and getting to see friends was a really good thing for me!
The next time the NACC was held in Cincinnati, I volunteered in the children’s area during their large-group times. I was busy each evening, chasing kids and taking them to the bathroom. It was noisy, and to me, it looked like utter chaos. But the leaders felt the evening was successful. And I was a part of that success. It felt good. By watching their children, I helped parents enjoy being spiritually refreshed the way I had been several years earlier.
In the 1990s our church started a Bible Bowl team consisting of our three teenage sons and their friend, who was one of the elder’s sons. The national Bible Bowl tournament is often held in conjunction with the NACC, either in the same convention hall or a nearby hotel. Our Bible Bowlers were a good team—not perfect—but they did well at their local level and at the state level, so we decided to take them to nationals in Denver, Colorado.
If you’ve never experienced an NACC and Bible Bowl tournament together, you have missed something really wild and wonderful. Taking four independent, fun-loving high school boys anywhere is a challenge, but they were ready to test themselves and show what they could do. When they only made it to the third round in a double-elimination tournament, they were not discouraged. They realized they needed to study a whole lot harder, because they wanted to be on the podium receiving awards. But that first attempt at nationals left us with several days to enjoy the convention.
The team wanted to stay and follow the Bible Bowl teams through the competition, but they also found time to wander through the NACC exhibit hall. At the end of the week they came home with plastic bags full of trinkets and materials that were being given away, plus new friends and lots of literature from Bible college recruiters. What better place for them to meet and greet new people than at a convention filled with kids with similar backgrounds as theirs?
That trip started a tradition for our church’s Bible Bowl teams that still continues to this day. As our Bible Bowl teams grew, we were able to enlist some of our church members to go along with us to help us chaperone the kids. The relationships between the kids and the chaperones strengthened our Bible Bowl program, and in turn, strengthened the whole youth program of our church.
Other members of our church now sponsor our Bible Bowl teams and faithfully take them to local, state, and national tournaments. I am thankful that we took the time and energy to start this tradition for our young people and expose them to two strong features of our church brotherhood.
While keeping one eye on our Bible Bowl teams, my husband and I attended NACC workshops when we could. Some of them gave us fresh ideas to implement in our church. It was interesting to see how the two of us could sit in a workshop and hear the same words being spoken and come out of the room with two totally different opinions. “Well that certainly would not work in our church,” one of us would say. While all along, the other one was thinking, It would be so cool to try that with our small groups!
Certainly our experiences with the workshops at the NACC were interesting, and inevitably we both came home with ideas for our small church. We had to digest all that we had heard and ruminate on it. Sometimes ideas still come to me from those workshops. I think we both grew from those sessions.
When I began working full time for Standard Publishing, I was one of the lucky ones who got to go to the NACC and work in the exhibit booth for many years. That gave me a whole different perspective of the NACC.
We were there sweating, putting up tables, and lifting and unloading boxes in the exhibit hall long before the air-conditioning was turned on. When the convention started we would work long, hard days keeping displays looking nice, answering customers’ questions, networking, and showing off the wonderful products we had. There was little time to enjoy the workshops or even find a bite to eat sometimes. But those were precious hours spent in a building full of thousands of people with one thing in common—Christianity. In the evenings, we could attend the sessions, or at least listen to the singing and speaking coming from the main assembly area and have our final blessing of the day.
About 10 to 12 years ago, as my husband wandered around the exhibits, he stopped and talked to an exhibitor about worship media programs and projection systems. Our church had never tried anything like that, but we knew it would be a great addition to our services. We were (and still are) a “traditional” group of worshippers, but we enjoy the newer songs and worship styles, yet did not have the talented people to teach us or show us what to do.
The exhibitor gave my husband a sample disk to bring home and play around with to see if it might be something we could use. We played with it for a few months at home and then gave it to the man who was setting up a projection system given to our church. Now, all these years later, we are actively using that system, and we have several trained volunteers to operate it. What a blessing that has been for our church—just because my husband saw an exhibit and stopped to talk with the man behind the table.
There are lots of other activities at the North American Christian Convention to see and do. Even if you don’t go to the convention as a participant, there are ways to volunteer your time there. You will gain from it. It may not always be to your taste or liking. You may not be able to physically do everything you want. But if you attend the convention for even one day or evening, you will come away from the experience blessed by being there.
Take in the experience and then go home and think about how it can help your church grow. There’s something for every size and style of church. You just need to be open to embracing it when you find it!
Marcy Levering and her husband minister in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What’s the NACC?
The North American Christian Convention is an annual gathering of Christians for worship, preaching, teaching, fellowship, and networking. It exists to provide ideas, inspiration, and identity to Restoration Movement Churches, ministries, and their leaders.
The NACC began in 1927 as a convention for vocational Christian leaders. Since the 1960s the NACC has been an annual, four-day summer convention, attracting many vocational and non-vocational Christian leaders and their families.
Today the NACC brings together church members and leaders from across generations and ethnic backgrounds to encourage, equip, and empower them for greater impact in the kingdom of God.
The Women’s Conference
This year’s NACC features sessions and speakers designed to encourage women from all walks of life. Find the details here.
• Liz Curtis Higgs, award-winning author, will be speaking at one of the main sessions, as well as leading a women’s workshop.
• Nicole Krajewski will speak at the Ladies Luncheon. Nicole is the clothing designer for byTavi, a faith-based microenterprise initiative that provides fair wages to at-risk and impoverished Cambodian women.
• Author Joanna Weaver will speak about the importance of Christian disciplines in your walk of faith.
• Hear a seminar by Lisa Harper, former director of Focus on the Family’s national women’s ministry and current Women of Faith speaker.
• At the Ministers’ Wives’ Breakfast, four ministers’ wives will speak on joys and challenges from the vantage points of small, medium, large, and mega churches.