When Bayside was just a couple of years old, Pastor Ray took a group of 90 Baysiders to Chicago to the Willow Creek Leadership Conference in order inspire these young Bayside leaders to get a bigger vision to reach the community. At Willow Creek the group not only saw a different way to approach church but was inspired to come back with an idea for a conference to inspire leaders on the west coast.
The first leadership conference was held in the Spring of 2000 at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks. About 600 leaders gathered to listen to Pastor Ray, Leith Anderson, and John Maxwell. The conference was a great success, but it wasn’t until four years later that we launched the Thriving Churches Conference (which later was shortened to Thrive) for pastors and leaders in our brand-new building on Sierra College in Granite Bay.
Our first line up included Ray, John Maxwell and comedian Bob Stromberg who was an instant hit with his shadow puppets and funny songs. The idea behind Thrive was to take a leadership conference, a spiritual growth conference, and a comedy show and cram them all together. Our goal was people would come encouraged and motivated to go back to their churches, families, workplace and schools and go to the next level. Seven hundred leaders joined us in that first official thrive.
This year we just hosted our fifteenth conference. Not only have we learned, worshipped, and laughed, we’ve done some serious giving. Some of the memorable moments over the years have been the $3,000 offering for a pizza delivery woman in need of assistance for her husband to go to school, an offering to provide a new car to a lady from Saint John’s Program for Real Change who lived out of her car before the program, and sponsoring thousands of children for Compassion International. Our speaker line up has included John Maxwell, LaCrae, Francis Chan, Kenneth, Ulmer, Chris Brown, Switchfoot, Danielle Strickland, Levi Lusko, Miles McPhearson, For King and Country, Luis Palau, Margaret Fineberg, and our very own Ray Johnston.
In 2015 we launched the Thrive Unleashed Conference for students and sold out every year since with over 2,500 students this year.
In 2017 we launched the Southwest Conference in Palm Desert and has sold out now for three straight years.
We’ve also hosted the Thrive Women’s conference and Apologetics Conference and a number of one-day conferences in cities like Seattle and New York City.
This last year over 11,000 people bought a ticket to one of our conferences. In total over 40,000 people have attended one of our events. And we’re just getting started. We are anticipating great things for our conferences and praying for them to continue to reach leaders all over this nation and this world.
– John Volinsky
21 years at Bayside