On Sunday, Sept. 29, Harding will commence its 96th annual Bible Lectureship beginning with a performance by the Harding University Chorus at 6:30 p.m. For many students, the four-day event entails nothing more than a few lectures, slightly longer lines in the cafeteria, and perhaps a deviation in their regularly scheduled Bible classes. However, Harding’s Lectureship is an event that takes over 12 months to plan and brings several thousand visitors to campus. With over 100 speakers and hundreds of work hours, the event is anything but simple to execute.
Vice President of Church Relations Dr. Dan Williams began serving as Lectureship director in 2013, and he said that a lot of thought must be poured into every stage of development, beginning with the theme conception 13 or 14 months in advance.
“[The program] has grown every year, and every year we try to add something to meet the needs of our constituents, the people who come to Lectureship and look to this as a spiritual boost,” Williams said. “We go back, and we do an analysis of the previous year’s program. We begin every year by saying, ‘What worked, what didn’t work, what was strong, what are the needs?’”
Those identified needs are then met by dozens of people throughout the year as Lectureship is planned and during the event itself. Below is a sample of some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into Lectureship.
According to Williams, the Lectureship committee plans programming year-round, overseen by himself. After the theme has been decided, the committee chooses the seven topics for keynote speakers and considers who will be invited to deliver those messages.
He said there are also multiple subgroups in charge of planning specific programs contained within Lectureship. Individualized tracks allow attendees to focus on specific areas, such as youth and family ministry, congregational ministries, and even a new Young Ministers’ Network.
Associate Professor of Bible Dr. Anessa Westbrook oversaw the committee to plan Lectureship’s women’s program. She said there are multiple tracks specifically for women throughout the entirety of Lectureship, and different people serve different roles to make these programs happen.
“I try to find people to help with different pieces [of the women’s program],” Wesbrook said. “We call the meetings, try to keep up, do all the little things to keep things going.”
Williams said the Lectureship committee is particularly excited to introduce the Community of Mission Faculty Lectures to Lectureship this year. He said that the goal of this program was to integrate Lectureship into other areas of the University.
“We invited all of the different colleges to submit proposals for speakers and lectures to demonstrate how their discipline contributes to the kingdom of God,” Williams said. “There’s a class on working with children who have dyslexia; there’s a class on grief; there’s a class on teacher training. I’m really excited to see how that goes.”
With over 100 lectures taking place during Lectureship, in addition to special receptions and program tracks, many moving parts must be reconciled to allow the event to run smoothly.