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ACU’s Summit shifts format to better serve church leaders

Beginning in October 2021, Abilene Christian University’s traditional gathering for church leaders will take a new shape with two events each year, both focused on specific small-group communities with an emphasis on fellowship and dialogue.

The 115th annual ACU Summit will take place Oct. 14-15 with a theme of “Seeking Hope, Finding Joy.” The new two-day format will center around specific leadership groups – such as children’s ministers, preaching ministers or small-church ministers – and these communities will engage with God, with one another and with material designed to equip them for effective service. 

“Today’s ministers can find a wealth of information at their fingertips – from podcasts to books to videos,” said Leah Andrews, Summit director. “But is there a place where they can gather with others who serve in similar capacities to share best practices, to workshop ministry challenges, to learn from people with differing cultures and genders, to encourage one another and to forge relationships that extend beyond the bounds of a conference schedule? We believe Summit is that place.”

These communities will spend a full afternoon together in focused dialogue followed by a dinner, a plenary session and then combined worship with all Summit participants. The next morning, each community will reconvene for breakfast and a morning of learning before Summit concludes by joining the larger ACU community for Homecoming Praise Day Chapel. 

Participants can look forward to gathering again in Spring 2021 as the event transitions to meeting twice each year. Each fall, Summit will coincide with ACU’s Homecoming weekend, and in the spring, it will lead into Sing Song weekend, offering additional opportunities to reconnect with college friends, mentors and others in the university community.

Attendees who are not ministers will also be welcome, as the event will include a community group more broadly focused on spiritual renewal and fellowship, rather than a specific ministry context. 

Summit, one of the longest-running events on the Hill, began early in Abilene Christian’s history as a way of highlighting Christ’s centrality at the core of the university. For the last several decades, it has provided opportunities for congregational leaders to gather on campus for fellowship, instruction and spiritual renewal. Throughout the years, church leaders’ needs have changed, and ACU has continually adapted to these changing needs through Summit, Bible Lectureship, Preachers’ Meeting and other names that have identified this gathering.

“Even before the pandemic ushered in changes to countless areas of life, the Siburt Institute has been engaged in intentional listening and strategic planning to grasp what church leaders need today and to discern the ways Summit is uniquely gifted to respond to those needs,” said Andrews. “We hope this all-new experience will build upon this event’s rich heritage and meet the ever-shifting needs of leaders today.”

Another change to Summit’s format is an attendance limit of 400 and a required registration. For the fall session of Summit, early registration ($30) will take place July 15 – Sept. 15, with late registration ($50) available through Sept. 30. The fee will include:

  • All sessions with your Summit community plus any related materials, if applicable.
  • A dinner event featuring a full barbecue meal catered by The Shed Market, a session with noted author and blogger Dr. Richard Beck, focused conversation at tables to build on Beck’s session, and communal worship.
  • Breakfast with your Summit community.
  • A copy of Beck’s latest book, Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age. He is professor and chair of psychology at ACU.

Learn more at

— Wendy Kilmer

July 8, 2021

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