Photo by Matt Yerke '06, Media Ministry Assistant at Nappanee Missionary Church

An overview of the ReFuel Conference. Photo by Matt Yerke ’06, Media Ministry Assistant at Nappanee Missionary Church.

On Jan. 16, more than 800 people packed the Everest-Rohrer Auditorium for the third annual ReFuel Conference. It’s a day for worship teams and their leaders to be together, be refreshed and be equipped to continue their effective leadership in the church and the world (

The teams represented more than 100 area churches from varying denominations. Several of these had a part in coordinating the event, including: First Baptist Church of Elkhart, Grace Community Church, Nappanee Missionary Church, New Life Fellowship, St. Mark Missionary Church and Wakarusa Missionary Church.

The conference has grown exponentially since it began in 2013 with just 100 in attendance.

This growth is due to several factors, one of which is the affordable cost that allows worship leaders to bring their whole team to the event. Conference Director David Cummings, worship leader at Nappanee Missionary Church, highlighted ReFuel’s emphasis on teams.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a day where worship teams and leaders can come and we can pour out to them in the same way that they pour out to their local church on a weekly basis,” he says.

Dove award-winning artist and songwriter Paul Baloche speaks during the ReFuel Conference.

Dove award-winning artist and songwriter Paul Baloche speaks during the ReFuel Conference.

Keynote speaker Paul Baloche, a Dove award-winning singer and songwriter, focused on inspiring leaders to refresh their relationship with Christ while embracing their pastoral role in their churches. Baloche spent 26 years as a worship pastor in Texas and has written multiple popular worship songs including: “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Above All” and “Hosanna.” But at the conference, he spent his time encouraging worship leaders in their work.

Throughout the day, Baloche spoke three times and gave each session a unique tone. In the midst of his energy and humor were profound statements of wisdom and insight.

“Music is just a tool we can use to help people connect with Jesus,” Baloche said as he encouraged the worship leaders to embrace their “priestly roles,” pray the Psalms and break down the “performer to audience” barrier that occasionally emerges in leaders’ minds.

This kind of encouragement is something that Cummings hopes participants will take with them from the event.

“We pray that through being together, [worship teams] were encouraged and equipped to continue to lead their local churches in worship. We pray that they were reminded that they carry the responsibility and honor of leading people to the feet of Jesus – and that happens most naturally as they individually spend time at the feet of Jesus,” Cummings says. “He is our source.”

The conference also included times of worship led by 13 local pastors and private devotions referred to as “TAWG,” or Time Alone With God.

In the midst of the hundreds of people in attendance were some of Bethel’s own students and alumni, who were willing to share their thoughts on the event.

“Getting to hear speaker Paul Baloche’s wisdom and encouragement poured out over us was incredibly refreshing for my heart as I continue to lead worship, on Bethel’s campus and at my church back home,” says Christian “Mikey” McClain, a freshman.

“The ReFuel conference was really valuable to me personally, but I think it was even more valuable to us [the Bethel Chapel Band] as a team. One thing that Paul Baloche really emphasized was that leading worship has to start with personal intimacy with God; we can’t lead people to a place we haven’t been yet,” says Megan Elbin, a junior.

“Refuel Conference was an incredible day of being with just over 100 churches from different denominations. It was a blessing to be able to lead others in worship. There is something special about leading worship for a group of believers who are there and prepared to lead others in worship,” says Calvin Whetstone ‘14, who led worship at the conference as part of the ReFuel band.

View photos from the 2016 conference here. Look for the return of ReFuel in January 2017, and check out for updates on the coming conference.

Chelsea Anglin is a writing intern for Bethel’s Marketing and Communication Office. She attended the ReFuel conference as a member of Nappanee Missionary Church’s Connection and Unplugged worship teams.