SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP — If you drive up Venard Road in June and see hundreds of women flocking to Clarks Summit University, you may have happened upon the LYFE Women’s Conference. Women arrive annually from as far away as Florida, California and even foreign countries.
In 1983, the LYFE Women’s Conference was started by two women, Linda Strain and Shirley Franklin, who saw a need for women of all ages and walks of life to have sound biblical teaching that would strengthen their faith.
Linda Strain was the dean of women at Baptist Bible College, now Clarks Summit University. The school has trained men and women for ministry since 1932.
“I had a burden that not every woman was going to be a pastor’s wife or a missionary,” she said. “I believed God wanted to use women no matter what their role was.”
Shirley Franklin shared Strain’s burden and they began to plan a conference. 250 women arrived that first year and the LYFE Women’s Conference was born. The name of the conference, LYFE, stands for its motto, which is to “Live Your Faith Everyday”.
Strain and Franklin recruited armies of women to help. Before the age of computers and social media, all the promotion and registration was done by hand. The women also cleaned and scrubbed dorm rooms to prepare for conference attendees.
“It was an amazing feat,” Strain shared. “It just goes to show how the women of that college were really excited about the conference and got behind it. They were willing to do anything.”
By the time Strain left the school in 1993, the conference had grown from one weekend to two with over 1000 in attendance.
“We tried purposely to offer a conference for women of all ages, status and walks of life, and have something for each of them,” Strain said.
Without the help and support of the administration, faculty and staff at Clarks Summit University, Strain said the conference would have never grown. Individuals like Dr. Jim Lytle, who was dean of men at the time, came alongside and supported it. Not knowing that years later, he would be president of the school and his wife Diane, would become the director of the conference.
Diane Lytle has served as director of the LYFE Women’s Conference since 2008.
“Every year we hear testimonies from women who come to LYFE discouraged and leave encouraged, who come with a spirit of defeat and leave full of hope, who battle with real life issues and leave equipped to conquer, and who struggle with guilt and leave with a commitment to genuinely follow Christ,” she said.
Diane shared some things remain true of the conference, even after 35 years.
“Our emphasis has always been on relevant biblical teaching, practical interactive workshops, God-honoring music, and caring fellowship among the women who attend. We emphasize transparency and accessibility with all of our staff and speakers.”
The LYFE Women’s conference was held last weekend and will welcome new attendees today through June 9. This year’s theme is ‘LYFE is good!’ featuring key note speaker, Sharon Jaynes, singer Kezia Curry and comedian Martha Bolton. A line up of workshop speakers and a candlelight banquet is planned. A speaker from the first conference in 1983, Joanna Arp, who has taught almost every year since, will return for a special LYFE session on Friday.
To celebrate 35 years, LYFE included a time to honor previous directors and the conference founders, Linda Strain and Shirley Franklin. Two women who had the vision and faith to build something that promotes vision and faith in others.
To learn more about the LYFE Women’s conference, visit bit.ly/2Jfnson.