By Kay Harms

The fifth annual Tucson Worship Conference grew in size this year by almost 50 percent, ministering to more than 350 attendees from 35 churches, including 10 Arizona Southern Baptist churches.

“In the past, 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tucson, has hosted the conference,” said Aaron Petre, one of the conference founders and coordinators, and the worship and youth pastor at 22nd Street. “But we had maximized the space last year with around 250 participants. We would not have been able to offer the programming we had this year if we had not changed venues.”

Pantano Christian Church in Tucson hosted the Friday evening and Saturday morning conference, but funds provided by Arizona Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program helped make the event possible.

“The team for Tucson Worship Conference is really indebted to Arizona Southern Baptists for making this conference a reality,” said conference coordinator and keynote speaker Austin Ryan, a church planter in Las Vegas.

The focal mission of the conference, according to Petre and Ryan, is developing the heart of a worship leader in anyone and everyone who is instrumental to worship in the local church.

“Everyone — musicians, vocalists, technologists — they’re all worship leaders,” said Ryan, emphasizing the word leaders. “So we invest in them that way. We believe it is important that they all develop a heart for worship so they can genuinely lead others to worship the Lord.”

Ryan continued to emphasize that everything taught at the conference affirms each team member as a leader and seeks to build leadership skills and mindset. So, breakout sessions for each of these three groups were offered throughout the conference, covering such topics as Worship Flow: Crafting a Seamless Set, Leveraging Technology in Worship, The Profile of a Worshiping Musician and Easy Ways to Prepare for Rehearsal. Additionally the schedule included three general sessions and one team discussion session.

“When we began this event, we had a real heart for the small church because, while many larger churches have ample resources for development, smaller churches struggle to find the kind of training we could provide,” Petre said. “But it’s been interesting that, as we’ve expanded, teams from some of the larger churches have started coming as well. That’s how much the caliber of programing has improved with the years.”

The Tucson Worship Conference is produced by Worship Catalyst, a ministry that focuses largely on assisting new church plants but has also partnered with Arizona Southern Baptists for Zona Youth Camp, pastors and wives retreats and other equipping ministries. For information on next year’s worship conference, keep an eye on their website at www.tucsonworshipconference.com.