Jennie Allen of If: Gathering discusses her inspirational career path and her journey to connect women throughout the world.
By Lauren Jones, Photo courtesy of Lily & Sparrow Photo Co.
Author, entrepreneur and mother of four, Jennie Allen has always searched for the answers to life’s deepest questions. Whether it’s questioning her own God-given purpose, yearning to empower those around her or offering a space for honest conversation, Allen was never one to settle for surface-level revelations. On the contrary, she says she thrives from gathering “deep kindred souls.”
Today, Allen is the proud founder of If: Gathering, an annual two-day conference offering an opportunity for women to connect, feel encouraged and be reminded of their own power.
From a young age, it was clear Allen was destined for a position of leadership.
“I was always a pretty deep soul,” Allen recalls. “I had the biggest questions of any 7-year-old about purpose and about God. Anyone who knew me as a kid isn’t surprised about what I do now. I wanted to understand what I couldn’t see.”
It was that innate curiosity and faith that led Allen to attend the Dallas Theological Seminary. Although she left with more questions than answers, she uncovered universal truths that continue to influence her career today.
“I believe that so many women are hungry to connect with each other, feel part of a team, understand why we are here, why this life matters and how to live it well,” Allen says.
With those ideals held close to her heart, Allen pursued a flourishing writing career, through which she was further able to connect women, but she still desired more. That’s when she first conceptualized the blueprint for the If: Gathering conference.
“At that point, I had released a book and saw this growing hunger in women to connect,” Allen says, reflecting. “I wanted to see women come together and not feel isolated and alone.”
The first If: Gathering, hosted in Austin in early 2014, sold out in a matter of minutes. Four years later, more than 2,000 people continue to gather annually at Austin’s Moody Theater to discuss topics such as building bridges, uncovering one’s own ability to lead and how to take initiative in communities nationwide. For those not living in Austin, the two-day conference is also simulcast online. Allen also encourages those at home to host their own gatherings locally.
“[If: Local] is my favorite part,” Allen says, referring to an offshoot of If: Gathering. “If I was not leading from Austin, I’d be in my pajamas with my friends at home. To me, it is the best way to experience If: Gathering. For a day and a half, you come together and hear incredible speakers. All you have to do is invite friends, and we do the rest.”
In 2017, approximately 600,000 people from more than 125 countries gathered at home, in churches and at community centers to hear Allen’s message.
“With the world so divided on every issue, it’s refreshing to come together on simple truths and come together for what we believe in,” Allen says. “I really still can’t believe it. It’s beyond anything that [my team and I]ever dreamed.”
This year’s If: Gathering sessions focus on themes of perseverance, helping refugees, building bridges and hope for the future.
For Allen and her staff at If: Gathering, 2017 marked a momentous year. Allen completed a national tour for her new book, Nothing to Prove, and she and her team raised $1 million for the International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that works to combat sex trafficking, police abuse of power and child sexual assault.
“It’s beautiful to see the work that women can do together,” Allen says of the rewards reaped from If: Gathering.
Feb. 9 and 10, Jennie Allen and her team will gather in downtown Austin for the fifth annual If: Gathering conference, where they will gather for words of love, inspiration and unwavering hope. To join in, visit ifgathering.com/thegathering2018.