Fairfield, California – Claybon Lea, senior pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, is preparing to host upwards of 1,000 church, community and corporate leaders for the first dfree® Financial Freedom Movement regional conference March 3 & 4, 2017. After witnessing many of his own congregants become debt free by going through the dfree® program, Lea said he is honored to host the Say Yes to the Next Level conference.

“This is so critical,” Lea said. “Those in my church who have completed dfree® have, in a short period of time, realized over $100,000 of savings. We challenge people to really reassess their lifestyles. Sometimes we say we’re broke and we’re not really broke. God has blessed us. We’re just making bad choices and the bad choices are resulting in our indebtedness and our enslavement.”

Lea, who met dfree® Founder DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. back in the 90s when both pastored churches in New Jersey, praised Soaries for continuing “to make a phenomenal impact on the lives of our churches.” Recently, during the National Baptist Convention of America International Inc. mid-winter board meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, Lea noted that one of the appeals to the program is the “train-the-trainer” model that allows churches and others to use minimal resources to incorporate dfree® into existing programming.

“In our communities, we’ve got to be more diligent about teaching our young people about generational wealth so that we teach our young people about finance, about management,” Lea said. “We teach against materialism. We let them know it’s okay to have nice things but we don’t want nice things to have you.”

The Say Yes to the Next Level conference series challenges participants to take existing dfree® tools and strategies to the next level of financial freedom and wellness. This informative, uplifting and celebratory financial freedom conference will encourage attendees to re-evaluate personal values, habits, attitudes and relationships in order to prepare themselves to move toward financial wholeness. The regional conferences also are intended to bring new audiences to the dfree® movement including entrepreneurs, millennials and women.

“We live in a culture where debt is not perceived as a problem,” Soaries said. “The first thing we have to do is admit there is a problem. We have to address the mess. We have to change our attitudes.”

America’s consumer debt is $3.4 trillion and the average American household balance-carries $16,048 in debt.[1] Perhaps more shocking, the wealth gap between black and white Americans is so extreme that it would take 228 years for black people to obtain on average what white families have today.[2] Americans also aren’t passing on good financial habits to younger generations. Millennials are “financially fragile,” with 53 percent carrying over a credit card balance in the last 12 months and 50 percent believing they couldn’t come up with $2,000 for an unexpected need within the next month.3

Say Yes to the Next Level launches 4 p.m. Friday, March 3 with an Empowerment, Employment & Financial Resource Fair, followed by a 7 p.m. dfree® Live Concert featuring Multi-Award Winning Gospel Artist/Producer Fred Hammond. Concert tickets are $10 and can be obtained through the registration site or via mydfree.org. Soaries will host a special Pastors Mentoring Day, which starts 9 a.m. Friday, and the dfree® team will provide dfree® Launch Training 5 p.m. that day.

Expert advice, panel discussions, workshops and training will dominate dfree® activity Saturday, March 4, starting 10 a.m. when Lea, Soaries and The Money Coach® Lynnette Khalfani-Cox offer keynote addresses. Khalfani-Cox, author of New York Times bestseller Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom, teaches about credit scores and debt reduction as easily as a preschool instructor teaches about ABCs.

The Say Yes to the Next Level dfree® conference is hosted by the dfree® Global Foundation, Inc., Mount Calvary Baptist Church and Prudential (the dfree® Title Sponsor). Conference tickets that include lunch are $15, and special large-group and need-based discounts may be available by contacting kadams@mydfree.org.

About Lea:

Claybon Lea, Jr. is the senior pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Fairfield and Suisun City, California. Under Lea’s leadership, Mount Calvary has experienced phenomenal holistic growth. In 2015, Lea led the church in the acquisition of 60 acres for the future construction of a mixed-use campus to facilitate the nonprofit and for-profit vision of the church. He currently serves as a Vice-President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. In addition, he is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi, Inc., and a life member of the NAACP. Lea is also a gospel artist and writer. He and his wife, Janel W. Lea, have four wonderful children.

About dfree®:

Founded in 2005, the dfree® financial freedom movement is a transformational, lifestyle movement that promotes financial freedom through values-based principles and practical approaches to financial management. dfree® addresses the cultural, psychological and spiritual influences on financial wellness. In the tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., dfree® also is a movement to help achieve economic justice in America. Rev. Dr. King once said, “We must never let it be said that we spend more for the evanescent and ephemeral than for the eternal values of freedom and justice.” dfree® emphasizes controlling money matters so that individuals have the freedom to focus on more purposeful pursuits. Let’s Move Forward Together.

dfree® was featured by CNN in a 90-­minute documentary, Almighty Debt, an installment of the Black in America series, hosted by Soledad O’Brien. The dfree® strategy is being used by hundreds of churches, organizations and individuals worldwide. For more information about dfree® visit mydfree.org, text “dfree” to 22828 to join the mailing list or follow any of the following: #dfree #mydfree #dfreeNextLevel #LMFTdfree.

About Soaries:

dfree® Founder Rev. Dr. DeForest B. “Buster” Soaries Jr., is known as an active agent for change and is a widely-requested speaker. He is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey and former New Jersey Secretary of State. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development. Soaries, author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, has issued a Billion Dollar Challenge as a national initiative and free resource to help individuals and families collectively pay down $1 billion in consumer debt.

[1] ValuePenguin Average Credit Card Debt report, May 2016

2The Ever–Growing Gap study, August 2016

3Millennials & Financial Literacy GFLEC/PwC survey, January 2016