"How can we bring hope to the people that need it?"
That was the question Pastor Steven Granger and his staff from Hixson First Baptist Church asked themselves last year during a prayer and brainstorming meeting.
Initial discussions were focused on bringing speakers to the church for an ongoing preaching conference, but subsequent conversations with local nonprofits told Granger the church had stumbled onto an even bigger need.
The new question became, why stop at just Hixson, and why focus on Scripture only?
The resultant Hope Conference won't just bring together spiritual leaders, though that is one facet. Granger said he wants the conference to focus on both the spiritual and the practical, which is why organizations such as the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, Teen Challenge, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Pathway Counseling and more will all have booths set up during the three-day event, to provide guidance and assistance to community members who need it.
In addition, a children's rally and free child care will be offered during the event, ensuring families and single parents have the same opportunity to attend as anyone else.
"We're trying to meet practical needs, which is why we're enlisting all the nonprofit organizations doing the exhibits," Granger said. "We're trying to expose people to these tremendous services that they might not even know are there for them. We're trying to cover as many bases as we possibly can."
Event speakers include pastors from New Orleans, Knoxville and Nashville who will focus on three main topics: "Hope for the Broken," "Hope for the Home" and "Hope for the World."
Granger said there wasn't a particular event that led to that burning question last year and the birth of the conference; only that a major goal of the event is to show why people have much to be hopeful for from a scriptural, biblical point of view.
"One of the biggest things is not to hem the church up within our four walls," he added. "We have to find practical ways to connect with and engage with folks in our community. We want to throw the doors wide open."
Anyone in the region can attend the conference, free of charge, from April 29 through May 1. Granger said both religious and non-religious people are welcome.
If all goes well, the church will look into making this an annual event.
For more information, contact Hixson First Baptist at 877-2467 or visit hixsonfirstbaptist.org.