Friday, 18 June 2021
More than “another conference” Pixabay/Pexels

More than “another conference”

It’s rarer today than it used to be. But it still happens.

I’ll be talking to a friend in the pregnancy help community about an upcoming Heartbeat International Conference and I’ll hear, “Well, I don’t get too much out of conferences. I usually know most of the stuff, anyway.”

Or more often, someone might say, “We just don’t have the money to send me or other staff members off for a week. We won’t make it this year.”

Hmmm. Perhaps there are people who know so much more than me, they do know “most of it.” But after 30 years in this work, I always find there is more to learn. Always.

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Walden presents at Heartbeat International's
 Annual Pregnancy Help Conference In-Depth Day/Lisa Bourne


At Heartbeat International’s 50th Anniversary Conference last week, other responsibilities kept me from being able to go to workshops and stay.

Yet, I had opportunity to poke my head in for a few moments of three workshops. Just three. Max time? Twenty minutes in all. And in each of the three, I learned something. I got better. Grew. Gained insight. Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake but I’m still learning.

I understand the “we don’t have the money” concerns. But as I look at last week’s Conference I have to say, “We can’t afford not to go.” I’ve got proof, too.

My case in point is a Midwest executive director who has been in this work for many years. She is a good’n, for sure. On Wednesday evening, Darren Mulligan and Kyle Williams of We Are Messengers were with us. Mulligan told stories, making attendees both laugh and cry. The two sang some hits, including Image of God, nominated for K-Love’s song of the year.

Darren Mulligan at Heartbeat's Annual
 Pregnancy Help Conference/Lisa Bourne


Before he took the stage Darren asked, “What do these people need most right now?” 

Our answer? “Encouragement.”

Throughout the evening this was Darren’s over-arching theme. As he told his own stories of brokenness and healing, he reminded himself and all of us that all God needed was people to say “Yes” to His calling. That’s it.

After Darren and Kyle wrapped up, they hung out for anyone who wanted a photo. They listened, they chatted, they smiled, and they served. This is when my Midwest director buddy walked up. Before she approached Darren and Kyle, she told me, “When I came here, I was ready to resign. I was done. But now . . .” 

She didn’t have to finish. By the gleam in her eye—and through our interactions later in the week—I could tell she found a renewed sense of purpose. A reason to continue. After all, at some point in her past she had said “Yes.” Now, she has a reason to continue to say yes again.

Yes, conferences are a place to learn and grow in our ministries. With sessions on abortion pill reversal to ultrasound training, executive roundtable discussions, insights into new trends in development, client care and so much more, anyone with a heart to learn had opportunities to gain.

But you know what I heard more than anything? That God was in the house, both in Columbus, OH, and across the world through Heartbeat’s Virtual Conference, held simultaneously (quite a feat in itself). 

Tweet This: Conferences are a place 2learn & grow in ministry- But God was in the house both in Columbus & worldwide via Heartbeat’s virtual Conference.

From a “flash mob” in the atrium of the Hyatt conference facility to watching how attendees from all denominations and backgrounds are so united in purpose, this was perhaps the most spiritually uplifting conference event I’ve ever attended.

Praise and worship at Heartbeat International's
 Annual Pregnancy Help Conference/Lisa Bourne


Yes, there were excellent trainings regarding practices and procedures. Important stuff. But more important were the many conversations about the one person we have in common: Jesus Christ. 

The theme of this 50th anniversary edition of Heartbeat’s Conference was “Essential.” Of course, this was perfect in a year when this word was used more often in the news than we can imagine.

But throughout this week, many of us realized that the most essential element of our ministries is our reliance on the leadership and the hope of one Jesus Christ. 

           Heartbeat's 50th anniversary
           was celebrated 
at its Annual Conference/
           Lisa Bourne

People ask me, “Is the Heartbeat Conference worth it?” I can’t answer that one with a “Yes” or “No,” as I’m biased.

But I think of the old Amish man who was asked, “Are you a Christian?” His answer: “Ask my neighbor.”

So, is Heartbeat’s Conference worth the investment? 

Ask my friend from the Midwest who walked in ready to give up and go home. She walked out renewed, refreshed and ready for what’s ahead. Hundreds (thousands?) of women and men will benefit from her visit to Columbus. Sounds like it was a good investment for her. 

See you next year in Jacksonville, FL. Let’s launch the next 50 years together. 

Kirk Walden

Kirk Walden is a senior writer with Pregnancy Help News, an Advancement Specialist with Heartbeat International and author of The Wall. For banquet speaking engagements, contact Gloria Leyda at Ambassador Speakers Bureau. His new Faith Revolution Podcast is online at

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