Thousands Flocking to Woodland’s Bible College Conferences

Photo by Cindy Valade

Charis Impact Growing for Local Business Community

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Charis Bible College Colorado and Wommack Ministries has hit the jackpot in Woodland Park, with a slew of international and national conferences and growth pursuits.

And local business leaders see this trend as raising the community’s image and producing big dollars in visitation, with many out-of-town and world-wide attendees at Charis events.

“The impacts (from these conferences) are huge,” said Debbie Miller, president of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce.  Although a dollar figure can’t be placed on the continual surge in signature conferences at Charis, Miller see sees a big financial uptick. “These people are not just coming here to go to these conferences, they are visiting the entire region and staying here and spending money in our community.”

She also believes it will help put Woodland Park on the national visitor map. “Woodland Park is not just a small mountain town. It is known internationally,” added Miller, who has been a big proponent of Charis at local forums.

Some residents, though, aren’t quite as enthusiastic. They argue that this surge in big religious-oriented conferences may be too much for the area to handle, and worry about the long-term impacts for housing and emergency services.

Even with a variety of opinions regarding this growth issue, event activity and expansion fever is bustling along the Charis Bible College front in the west section of Woodland Park, both from a conference and college/educational level, and from the forthcoming pursuits of their $100 million-plus development.

Recently, Charis concluded its third annual “Ignite Your Vision” Business Summit, a two-day conference that attracted more than 400 attendees from a diverse assortment of countries across the globe and states outside of Colorado. “The feedback we got was outstanding,” said Eileen Quinn, a spokesperson for Andrew Wommack Ministries, who along with other Charis representatives descried the event as a definite success.

She cited the business expertise and networking as an added value, and noted that many participants viewed this year’s summit as an improvement from the previous two years.   

The conference offered seven sessions, 16 workshops and six speakers, and featured nationally recognized business and marketing experts, and was peppered with a variety of Christian-based motivational talks.

“The conference was very good,” said Sue Greene, owner of the UPS store in Woodland Park. “We got a lot of good information. I just wish more people from the business community would have participated.”

She and Miller were part of a handful of local representatives who attended the conference. According to Miller, if a conference with this level of top-notch business and financial experts was hosted at a different location in a larger city, people would have paid considerably more money. “We were very fortunate to have that ability to participate in something like this.”   

Many regular Charis Business Summit participants from outside Colorado described the event as a regular stop they make every year. One couple from New Jersey, Jeff and Theresa Holewski, who are starting a new business, lauded the business information and motivation they receive from the conference, and have made this into an annual trip.  Similar sentiments were voiced by Richard Anthony, a high-profile attorney from Washington D.C, who described the conference as a highlight event of the year for him.    

The business summit definitely was not lacking in inspirational and technical advice. “You will change the world. You are world changers,” said Karen Conrad, director of marketing for Wommack Ministries, during a talk on “bringing your vision into reality.” She was one of six main speakers, who offered a variety of detailed knowledge on marketing, business, real estate, finance, government and fund-raising, with faith-oriented themes.    

Throughout the conference, summit proponents weren’t shy about showcasing state-of-the-art technology, capped by towering cameras and even an Internet television station, to emphasize their points. But more than anything, the conference highlighted many personal anecdotes from the speakers. Conrad described how her work with one local couple resulted in the formation of an orphanage in Belize.     

The business summit is just one of nearly 15 annual conferences hosted by Charis Bible College Colorado in Woodland Park, which is Charis’ main campus.  

Conference Hub of Woodland Park

This week, Charis will present its Summer Bible Summit from July 3 to July 7 in Woodland Park, which has become a popular event.  And in August, Charis will feature its Healing Is Here conference, which typically attracts more than 1,500 people, according to Miller.  “That one is huge,” said the chamber president, who often provides details on the impacts on Charis’ various conferences before the Woodland Park City Council.

For the next year, Quinn said the Wommack Ministries is trying to involve the local community more in its conferences. Currently, about 800 students attend the Charis Bible College in Woodland Park, with a variety of ages. The average age for students is slightly over 40-years-of age. Students attend the college for a variety of reasons, stemming from a desire for religious or personal growth, an interest in ministry work and Christian media, along with other communications mediums and business/government endeavors.        

 Growth is definitely on the horizon for Charis and Wommack’s Woodland Park headquarters. Charis, which opened for business in January 2014, is moving ahead well with the second phase of its development. This phase is capped by the construction of a 3,000-seat auditorium.

Plus, plans are proceeding for the Wommack Minnistries to move their offices from Colorado Springs to Woodland Park in an adjoining 360-acre area, in a site occupied by Sturman Industries. This could result in approximately 200 employees working at the Woodland Park location. This will become the ministries’ prime headquarter in the region.

The Charis and Wommack Ministries is still a big subject of debate in the community due to the fact that no property taxes are generated from the development. Some also worry about a growing housing crunch.

But even critics are amazed at the accelerated level of building activity at the Charis and Wommack Ministries facilities. No project in recent memory in Woodland Park has advanced as quickly in meeting deadlines and doing key infrastructure.  

Unlike most developments, Wommack Ministries, which is a world-wide organization, tries to do its projects in a debt-free manner.

According to Miller, Charis students are getting accepted more throughout the community due to their involvement with many local non-profits and events.  

She also disagrees with skeptics who blame the Charis impact for the housing crunch. “I think more people are just moving to this area,” concluded Miller, who cites such factors as the economy and the weather as much bigger factors for a growing interest in the Pikes Peak region.